First off, for those who haven't seen or plan on seeing the film, Precious, this post may be a spoiler for you. With that said, if you want to see a film about a morbidly obese 16 year old black girl, who is already a mother of a down syndrome child, with another on the way, with both fathered by her own father, and is beaten and verbally abused by her welfare cheating mother, and ultimately finds out that she and her newborn child have AIDS, please go see Precious.
I stated this to frame the disgust and anger that I felt after I viewed this film. I did not come out of the movie theater feeling "Hopeful" as many critics have written in their reviews. I saw this film, not as a film critic, but as a person of African decent who is tired of seeing Black people as a segment of society to be pitied and perpetually looked down upon. Don't get me wrong, the acting was tremendous by the primary and supporting cast, and the story was well put together. But for me, I see this film as a reiteration of the vile images that have been glorified within our mainstream music, television, and films that continue to degrade American society.
The triumph of this film comes when the lead character, Precious fights back against her abusive mother and pushes to gain control over her life and her children. Sadly to say, that is the highest the film goes in terms of a positive outlook on the life of Precious. She still remains a morbidly obese 16 year old black girl, who still must attain her GED, while taking care of a child with down syndrome and one with AIDS, along with having AIDS herself. Where is the bright spot in this equation? What does this girl have to look forward to in her life? And how is she going to make it?
I know that some people reading this may be angry at my pessimistic view. But since I have lived and worked in and around New York City for over 9 years, I've seen far too many Precious Jones. I've seen the morbidly obese teenagers walking around with strollers without the ability to speak with good diction. I know that in New York City, you are lucky to have 50% of the African Americans and Latinos graduate high school within 4 years. These numbers aren't much better in other cities and metropolitan areas around the US either.
African Americans are considered the poorest people in the richest nation of the world. African Americans are considered the most illiterate in the wealthiest country of the world. African Americans are the most unemployed in the United States. And there are more African Americans in prison, than any other race or ethnicity in this country. African Americans are viewed, stereotypically as being on welfare, lazy, and criminal. Images of African Americans as drug dealers, gang bangers, and having a multitude of children with different parents out of wedlock, are the normal representation within mainstream media.
Why aren't the majority of the images portrayed of Whites or Asians, of the most violent and derelict of them? Why are Whites automatically viewed as the leaders or heroes? Why are Asians automatically viewed as the most intelligent or hard working? Such stereotypes make it easier for Whites or Asians to navigate within society, whether it be through the job market, education, or simply walking down the street. When most media perceptions of a people are positive, many individuals have a positive perception that particular group of people. This can also be said for the self-perceptions of that ethnic or racial group. Seeing positive images of your own people allow you to to also feel good about yourself.
In the late 1980's and early 90's, the Cosby Show, and the spin off, A different World were a part of a pervasive and influential part of mainstream media that promoted African American life in a positive direction. Having been a teenager during this time period, I can say from experience that these images had a progressively positive effect on my personal outlook on life. To see Black man as a doctor and Black woman as a lawyer, together as husband and wife on television, changed perceptions of what Black people were supposed to be. And to have a show showing Black people successfully matriculating through college was another milestone for advancement. These, along with the hip hop of the time promoting education, self reliance, and pride in being of African decent pushed the expectation of being great.
I want to see optimism and true hope represented again within mainstream entertainment. I don't want to see the glorification of poverty, obesity, violence, and lack of responsibility. I want to see the successes emulated on TV and in the films that have surrounded me throughout my adulthood. I want to see the stories of my African American high school friends, who have become doctors and lawyers. The stories of my African American college friends who are business owners, executives, professors, architects, doctors, artists and so much more. To know African Americans who have come out of poverty, defied racism, and succeeded without becoming today's stereotypes. These are the stories of HOPE that need to be seen and felt! We all must take the responsibility to demand and create works that uplift and progress the existence of a people that have been portrayed at the bottom for far too long! We cannot bear anymore stories about Precious. Our society cannot survive anymore degradation.