Thursday, November 5, 2009
Why I Won’t Go See Precious
Tomorrow, the movie Precious will be released in certain cities across America. It is based on the 1996 novel “Push” by Sapphire (the title was changed due to another movie called “Push” released earlier this year). It is the story of a sixteen-year-old girl in Harlem who is the victim of horrific abuse from both her mother and her father. Eventually, she learns to read and write at a special school, and finally learns to use her (figurative) voice. It may be the best movie of 2009 that many people are not going to see. Including me.
As a writer and an artist, I am very nearly a First Amendment absolutist when it comes to content. Nothing should be off-limits when it comes to telling a story. Violence, rape, mental illness and degradation are all legitimate (and sometimes necessary) subjects. But a writer/artist’s right to expression is not mirrored with an audience’s obligation to read or view.
What good will it do me – or anyone else – to watch a girl being abused on an 80-x-30-foot screen? Yes, I know there’s uplift at the end, but it’s like walking on a path of nails, all points up, to get to a bowl of ice cream. The suffering/reward ratio is overloaded on the wrong end.
I would go so far to say that instead of going to see the movie, you can better help girls like Precious by donating to inner-city tutoring programs and rape education programs (which must speak to potential perpetrators as well as victims), being watchful for signs of abuse in your neighborhood, and raising the level of dignity and culture in your world (starting with you as a good example). Illiteracy is not a permanent condition, poverty does not excuse degeneracy, and even when we live in an ugly world we do not have to become one with it.
As I wrote before in an earlier post (“Why I Don’t Volunteer”, August 31), I absorb negative energy way too easily. Avoiding movies like Precious, while remaining aware of the issues behind them, is part of the self-defense I must do in order to be at my best. Don’t feel like you’re shallow or insensitive if you would rather see, say, The Men Who Stare at Goats this weekend. Only you can decide what you can take.