I am my mother’s daughter and my mother is the daughter of my grandmother. And both their stories and silences speak through me.
I begin with this mantra because spiritually and mentally I desperately need to understand why tears stained and wrinkled my cheeks as I watched the movie Precious. Yes, I am a Cancer and have been known to wear my heart on my sleeve, but there was something so violent and painful about how Lee Daniels portrayed Precious’ mother that tears could only convey my ill ease and anger. Mind you, there are many critiques I could write about the movie. However, I think summer’s Lost in Translation: A Response to Precious gets at the root of why so many people like myself wanted to storm out of the theater babbling among many things, “I can’t stand Tyler Perry’s @s$ who makes millions off of black women being damaged.” So, if you want to read a good critique, please read summer’s Lost in Translation. I guess I should also say that I have not read Push by Sapphire and all my comments are in response to the movie, Precious.
So, I begin by asking the question, what if the movie Precious was not told from the point of view of Precious, but told from the point of view of Mary. I know many of you are scratching your heads asking, “Who’s Mary?” Well, Mary is Precious’ mother. I think it is important that we know the name of the woman who is “solely” responsible for making her daughter overweight, infecting her daughter with HIV, allowing her father to rape her, and forcing her to quit school to get welfare. Given all of this, I think it is important to know the name of Precious’ mother, Mary.
Yes, I know that the purpose of the movie was to tell the daughter’s story. But, as I watched Mary silence, physically abuse, and sexually sodomize her daughter, all I could think about as tears flowed was Mary’s story and how she became who she was. What were the political, social, cultural, and economic forces “intersecting” to shape how she saw her daughter and how she saw herself? Mary is not one dimensional in the sense of simply being organically evil. But, Lee Daniels—as he also did in Monster’s Ball—did a good, downright extraordinary job of painting her as such, ignoring the many structural and cultural forces at play during the 70s and 80s that made the image of the black welfare queen palatable and punitive.