Precious: A Grandiose Tribute to the Grotesque
I recently completed reading the much celebrated new book that is the base for the movie “Precious”. This book is a fictional story of a woman-child who suffered all measure of depraved treatment, primarily at the hands of her parents. In my view, the book was a miserable failure. Precious is a failure in terms of both enlightenment and entertainment value. Even so, it was also a shocking vision into the vast dark corners of the mind and the callousness of the American Entertainment Industry.
Perhaps in the sequel, (God forbid there should be one) Precious will be struck down by lightening or perhaps ground up and spewed out of a wood chipper! Those are about the only things that did not befall this character in the book. Everything about this lead character including the story itself, was meticulously crafted to strip away any symbol or suggestion of humanity or compassion, social order or social acceptance. Perhaps the point was to suggest that there are those among us who are both hopeless and helpless. If that is the case, then the author completely missed the point. If there was any measure of triumph that was achieved by the lead character, it was lost on me.
I understand that there are many in this country who suffer unspeakable tragedy within their families. Clearly they need a voice and the resources to find some measure of relief as do any who may have difficulties or challenges which require social assistance or the help of professionals. It makes sense to me that talking and reading about these problems which are embedded in our society, even other societies, should be discussed in the public square. The hope would be that awareness might be heightened along with a basis for understanding. Such discussions may be sparked by presenting books, movies or various materials which address social issues in a way that frames such chilling yet realistic problems in a way that solicits thoughtful dialog and provides directions to corrective resources. To knowingly or create a fictional vision of severe social problems to be presented as a pop-culture appetizer is the height of irreverence and ignorance. This is clearly another in a long string of films that seeks to create a stain on the psyche of many readers or movie goers.
I read a good bit, probably a book a month. I try to consume a wide variety of material that may on some level be entertaining, enlightening and perhaps even uplifting. I must stress that there was nothing (absolutely nothing) about this book that was any of these things. The book was a heaping portion of despair: disgusting visions that made my skin crawl. Not only was the lead character downtrodden in every imaginable way, she also failed to locate any real road map to normalcy. She was stripped not only of her dignity but also of a future. No significant personal or social goals were achieved which might suggest real triumph. The implication that a person learning to read and write on a basic academic level is something to be celebrated. This book cultivates a mood which distinguishes mediocrity as an eminent achievement. This book is not a story about triumph or achievement. Although the lead character escapes the cruel grips of her mentally unstable mother, she wanders into a world of social bondage that her educational ignorance and personal burdens will never allow her to escape.
I understand that “Precious” exists in America. She is one of the many who are shut out, lost and ignored by much of our society. People in such desperate circumstances can be found in families of numerous varieties. But I believe that we must be very careful. We must be very thoughtful. Why? When we set the bar of expectation too low, or when we present “fictional” accounts of real tragedy in a way that misses the mark, we run the risk of trivializing issues or removing the sensitivities which are crucial to understanding and appreciating the severity of the social problem that we seek to address.
The author of the book, followed by the movie “Precious” and those who are impressed by it, are obviously focused on a frightening aspect of our new social order. There are those among us who are drawn to entertainment that contains concentrated levels of negativity. It is as if this has become the American shock factor fan club. It seems unimportant who is humiliated, victimized or destroyed. It seems unimportant that impressionable people will be forever affected. The calculation has been made that feeding the insensitive masses mediocre material and even immoral entertainment trash is a formula for grand profits!
The entertainment industry is victimizing you. You are their “Precious”! Are you so desperate, manipulated, trapped and without options as to accept the insulting treatment that is being served to you? You accept this pap even though it is unrealistic and unimaginative? If so, it is only because you let them.
Regardless of what Oprah, Tyler Perry or anyone else says, “Precious” or the book that is the foundation of the movie is not art, nor is it entertainment. It is the latest and perhaps greatest twisted tale of American capitalism at your expense.
I’m just say ‘in . . .
L. A. Walker