Precious and Perry

Precious is the story of a young girls struggle to escape slavery, except in this modern day saga the white slave masters have been replaced by black slave masters who commit the same dehumanizing acts. Mary, played by Mo’Nique, is as lazy as any white woman during the eighteen hundreds, not having to do anything she doesn’t want to do. And she doesn’t want to do anything. She saves all the housework for her slave child, Precious, who she cracks the whip at daily with beatings and insults. Precious is raped, not by the white master, but by her black father. And in real slave fashion, Precious cannot read (though she daydreams in a foreign language) and she is breeding babies while she struggles to complete chores to stave off beatings and please her master/mother.

This film has extremely high doses of self-hatred from beginning to end. Clarice “Precious” Jones abhors her dark chocolate skin more than she hates her obese body. Her mother, Mary, hates everything; herself, her life, her daughter and her grandchild. The women in this film are so oppressed by the men in their lives and each other it is often daunting and painful to watch.

But I’m sure that’s what attracted Tyler Perry to this project. He’s a repeat offender of creating oppressed roles in which black women are physically and mentally abused, molested, raped, and robbed of their self-esteem by black men. Every now and then he switches lanes and creates a strong female. For instance, his trademark character Madea is independent, courageous, full of self-esteem and takes no mess from nobody. And as a friend pointed out; Perry’s strongest female character is not even played by a woman. Ha! She is played by Perry himself. In addition, of the few decent men in Perry’s films, it is he who usually plays one of these roles. We’ve seen him as the straight-laced lawyer, raising his kids alone because his wife is on drugs and the do-right doctor who wants more quality time with his workaholic wife. His own casting reflects his clear understanding of the enormous power of imagery in film. Yet, he does…what he does with female characters.

Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary is the author of “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.” Her theory is that black people still suffer from the affects of slavery and we still wear the scars. Precious looks like a classic case of that to me. Perhaps Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey and Lee Daniels could all use some counseling to heal themselves of self-hatred and their abusive childhoods. Maybe then these three brilliant people will make powerful, uplifting, life altering films that reflect healthier human beings and relationships.

Go see Precious! …but be prepared for the hate.

P.S. There’s a lot of buzz about Mo’Nique getting an Oscar nod for her performance in the film. She indeed delivers a fiercely powerful portrayal of Mary, but what a pity it would be for another black actor to get a nod for such a negative role. Where is our Erin Brokovich?

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