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Precious, Complicated | Manolo for the Big Girl

Precious, Complicated

Still from upcoming film "Precious"

Still from upcoming film "Precious"

This Sunday’s New York Times Magazine is running a profile of Lee Daniels, the producer and director of the film “Precious,” which will appear in theaters November 6.

For those who haven’t heard about it from, say, Oprah Winfrey, the film is about a black, obese, illiterate teenage girl who is pregnant (for the second time) by her father and has a verbally and physically abusive mother.  The book on which the film is based is entirely bleak, but word has it that the film gives the main character, Precious, an emotional window by the end, from which to escape the unrelenting horrors of her life.

Francesca has been involved for so long in the Fatosphere, where women of largesse are supported, that she was startled – yes startled- to be reminded by the New York Times article that many, if not most, viewers will automatically feel disgust for Precious because of her size. (Francesca knows, she is living in dreamland.)

Francesca does not have space here to parse out the interlaced issues of race, class, and size raised by the film and (in the case of class and size) glossed over by the article.

But she wants to know your opinion: Does the article embrace or reject the fat-as-stupid or fat-as-disgusting stereotype? Do you plan to see the film? What are your thoughts?

Consider this an open thread about the film, the article,  the nexus between size, class, and color – and public perception of any/all of those things.

PS We must keep an eye on the new actress, Gabourey Sidibe, who plays the title character (pictured below) and the ballsy Mo’nique, who puts in an amazing performance as the evil, evil mother.

Gabourey Sidibe!

Gabourey Sidibe!

16 Responses to “Precious, Complicated”

  1. class factotum October 22, 2009 at 1:51 pm #

    After reading the article, I am very interested in seeing the movie. I also put the book on reserve at the library.

    I was struck by his difficulty in getting financing. I thought Hollywood was full of liberal, tolerant folks. They don’t want to put their money where their mouth is?

  2. Mrs. Hendricks October 22, 2009 at 2:46 pm #

    I’m planning on seeing this movie, though I’m already dreading the emotional havoc it will cause me. Actually, one of the most disturbing features of the NYT article was writing that “supposedly” the abuse that Mo’Nique suffered at the hands of her brother started when she was seven. “Supposedly”? Unless there’s a trial pending, and I don’t think there is, the better choice would have been “allegedly.” Even so, I found it offensive.

  3. Lauren October 22, 2009 at 2:55 pm #

    I noticed the bit where Andre Leon Talley refused to be involved with a fashion-themed dream sequence after viewing a tape of the actress – sad, but unsurprising.

    Part of me really wants to see this film, but I’m not sure I could deal with the sadness!

  4. class factotum October 22, 2009 at 3:29 pm #

    Mrs Hendriks, the Times does pick and choose (Jayson Blair) their times to be skeptical, don’t they?

  5. class factotum October 22, 2009 at 3:30 pm #

    Ooops. Hendricks. Sorry.

  6. Diana October 22, 2009 at 4:18 pm #

    “When Daniels wanted a fantasy sequence to be a Vogue photo shoot starring Precious and the magazine’s editor at large, André Leon Talley, Talley looked at a clip of Sidibe from the movie and declined.”

    For this, if no other reason, I want this movie to succeed. I want it to succeed wildly, beyond all reasonable expectations. And I want it mentioned over and over that Vogue could not bring itself to challenge their own viewpoints for the sake of real art.

    I think the article itself is thorough and fair, and I think that the questions raised about the reinforcement of stereotypes are really important to consider.

  7. Lisa October 22, 2009 at 7:18 pm #

    I’ve already seen the movie as a member of the preview audience, and it’s absolutely stunning, absolutely brilliant, and absolutely shattering. Bravo to Tyler Perry for having the stones to go along with Oprah–who has cahones to rival anybody’s–you go girl–for putting up the resources. The abuse this child faced is just vicious. I don’t think this it reinforces the fat-as-stupid stereotype at all–and I’m sensitive–just about every part of this child’s personality makes sense to you once you see what happens to somebody treated so inhumanely. Every system we have fails this child from her family to the social worker to her neighborhood. I literally cried for days.

  8. Lisa October 22, 2009 at 7:21 pm #

    Oh, and by the way, I think Sidibe is gorgeous and if Talley isn’t smart enough to help her pick out her Oscar outfit, I totally will. Tell her to call me!

  9. politigeek October 22, 2009 at 9:35 pm #

    Push is one of the best novels I have ever read, and without a doubt it is the only piece of literature that came close to capturing my experience as a fat adolescent who had been sexually abused. In particular, I was so moved by the early chapters of the novel, when Precious seems to fall in and out of a fugue state, loses track of time, and generally dissociates from the world. Everyone just assumes that Precious is stupid, if they notice her at all. And the most profound feeling I’ve had as a fat person is the sense that I’m invisible to so much of the world…or if I’m noticed at all, it’s usually by people who turn away in disgust.

    I love that this film has been made and just pray that it captures the essence of the book. I didn’t find the book entirely bleak, BTW — rather hopeful. Precious doesn’t get a Hollywood happy ending: get skinny, get rich, get a man — but she does get the most important thing, herself. She comes to full consciousness, and she becomes a fully realized person, with ambitions, hopes, humor, fears, pain, and determination to push.

  10. ruby_soho October 23, 2009 at 12:05 am #

    I would love to go see this movie. I think Gabourey Sidibe looks beautiful in the picture here. Not “fat girl would look pretty if she lost weight,” but beautiful just the way she is. Perhaps the movie will cause people to open their eyes to the world around them and stop being narcissistic brats.

  11. Leah October 23, 2009 at 1:13 am #

    By far the best story on Ms. Sidibe is the NY Mag story, and it’s entirely because of the following quote:

    “They try to paint the picture that I was this downtrodden, ugly girl who was unpopular in school and in life, and then I got this role and now I’m awesome,” says the actress. “But the truth is that I’ve been awesome, and then I got this role.”

    Loooooooove.

  12. Tioedong October 23, 2009 at 8:44 pm #

    I don’t see the issues as “Fat”. Lots of black women are glamourous and size 16.

    My problem is the pseudo reality of the story.

    As a doc, I’ve treated lots of women who were abused, but I wonder who is delivering/aborting the kids of an underaged girl without checking about abuse as the cause. We did it routinely at our clinics.

    I also wonder at all those people eager to rush out another cliche ridden “how horrible black men are” and “look at the dysfunctional Black family” films. Who needs the KKK when Hollywood will do it for you…

  13. Lisa October 24, 2009 at 1:05 pm #

    Are these comments on?

  14. Lisa October 24, 2009 at 1:37 pm #

    Ok, so forgive me for the previous comment, but I tried responding before and those comments got eaten.

    Tyler Perry worried about the issues that Tioedong raises–the portrayal of black family as messed up, deviant, etc. That is a legitimate concern. But it’s pretty clear watching this movie that this is not the standard of behavior in black families. Furthermore, I walked out with way more understanding for the abusers than I thought possible. Mo’Nique is fantastic–her character is way more than the bad things she does and poor choices she has. Yes, people fail to stop the abuse, but that happens in white communities as well–nobody reported my abuse either and it was basically all-white community.

    My previous comments were really long because I am not sitting still for Tioedong’s logic that as a doctor she doesn’t think that repeated incest occurs because doctors and nurses report that kind of thing. That’s a very privileged and unrealistic view of what happens to abused kids, and as a kid who grew up in foster care, let me say loud and clear: not all professionals follow the rules about reporting abuse and even when people follow the rules, plenty of abused kids return to abuser again and again because there is nowhere else to put them and nowhere else to go.

    You can think badly of me for “being eager” to see black family smeared onscreen, that’s fine– but what I was eager to see was a frank rendering of MY story–the story of abuse that you hide and that makes you invisible because you just –and that’s what I saw when I saw the film. You can pretend this stuff doesn’t happen if that makes you feel better, but it does happen, in many types of families. I freely allow that the foster care system is discriminatory; I fared way better than lots of my fellow foster kids because I was white and pretty–I got more breaks from judges, I think I got my attention from social workers, etc. But it’s not like this stuff is “pseudo-reality.”

  15. Cambiata October 24, 2009 at 11:50 pm #

    class factotum wrote: “I was struck by his difficulty in getting financing. I thought Hollywood was full of liberal, tolerant folks. They don’t want to put their money where their mouth is?”

    Oh, lord. Ha ha. Is there any group less tolerant and more racist, classist, size-ist and ageist than a Hollywood liberal? I sincerely doubt it.

  16. Mrs. Hendricks October 25, 2009 at 12:15 pm #

    Class factotum: agreed. Diana: would love to see Vogue smeared for not participating in the film. However, having just seen “The September Issue,” I’m not surprised. And Lisa: thanks for your comments. Just because abuse is reported is absolutely no guarantee that things change. I think that’s one of the issues raised by the film, isn’t it? I was a health care provider and know that many girls don’t tell the truth because they have been terrorized not to.