Whose adornment is Precious?
I saw Precious, the movie based on the novel Push, by Sapphire. I wish I hadn't. It felt like a set-up from the beginning – all the media hype and controversy before it was widely released in theatres across the country. I cringed when I watched the trailer on the home computer: Sociopathic darkness. Hopelessness. Oozing stereotypes. But it wasn't until I sat in the packed theatre with a paler demographic and the Glenn Beck trailer came on that I knew it was a fo' sure set-up. Marketers and demographers know Black folks ain't hardly trying to see a Glenn Beck feature.
As I took a mental deep breath, waiting for the final trailer to end and the movie to begin, I thought of a passage I'd recently read in a book titled Peace of Mind, by Rabbi Joshua Loth Liebman:
"We can change and prune and shape the hedges of our being, but we must rebel against the sharp shears being wielded by other hands, cutting off the living branches of our spirits in order to make our personalities adornments for their dwellings."
I watched, disturbed by the unfolding screenplay and the snickering commentary from the three African American teenage girls seated in the same row as me. I waited for an insight, some hopeful take away, especially for young people who might relate to the daily horrors Precious waded through. I was looking for a note of redemption for the abominably challenged teen mother, but found none. In the end, her fate felt like yet another cinematic set-up.
Without waiting for the credits to roll, something I normally do, I bolted from my seat and made my way to the nearest exit amid the crush of mostly silent movie goers. A middle-aged white woman to my left turned to her friend and asked, "Do you think the movie is based on a true story?" Her friend responded, "Oh, I'm sure it is. It must be." I instinctively started to remind them of the film's title, instead I kept my mouth closed and eyes focused on the exit. Again, I thought of Liebman's passage and couldn't help but wonder – whose adornment is Precious?
As a former adoption agency and women's college administrator, and friend to several women and men who have suffered sexual, physical and emotional abuse as children, I was initially, extremely reluctant to see the movie. At the urging of three female friends, I watched it. I am grateful that the topic of child abuse in its many manifestations is being addressed and that the cast and director are being acknowledged for their work in bringing this subject to light.