Running scared of ‘Precious’?

I don’t know why I’m writing this now, having seen this movie yonks ago… but I was recently thinking about it so I might as well post my thoughts.

The trailer for Precious hides little, and I find that more than a few people have been put off seeing it at all, possibly because of:

1) fear of finding themselves embarassed (yet again) for black people everywhere and
2) fear of witnessing the ‘sanctity of motherhood‘ myth smashed to smithereens. (By a tv set, no less).

As for (1), any kind of exposure to any kind of media should have boosted the average immune response toward unfortunate/unhelpful portrayals of black people in general – so to those people I say, don’t be such a wuss. Buy yourself some popcorn, kick back and watch. You’ll live. You might even laugh; there are more than enough comedic elements to get you through the whole sordid mess. The ‘italian cinema’ scene for example, is hilarious.

As for (2), where have you been? Mothers are nothing more than female adults (one would hope – though as the film points out, not necessarily) who have recently found themselves in the care of another human being – which human being, right after hacking her internal ecosystem for its own benefit for anywhere up to 9 months, is now finally here in the flesh, and mewling for love, comfort, nurturing, guidance, advice, and positive role-modelling. That these same female adults are often able to be completely smitten with their children, and that they can raise them accordingly, is not a god-given, mythical right given to the child. Or the mother, for that matter.

Sometimes the child fails to highjack the right internal nets. Sometimes the relevant internal nets are fried to begin with…

There’s no guarantee

In short, there is no guarantee. Your mother isn’t necessarily here for you specifically. Unless she has been dreaming about motherhood since she was a little girl – which some females actually do – you have to admit some less cheery alternatives: such as the fact that several mothers must necessarily adapt, not just physiologically, but psychologically, emotionally and energetically, to become mother to the persons placed in their long-yet-temporary care by acts of biological law. And some females aren’t going to adapt successfully, period.

It follows then that mothers are just as capable of hosing up your life as fathers are; and like fathers, they can even do so while being present… leading to the kind of complex, inclusive definitions of abandonment / abuse that make psychologists get into semantic fistycuffs.

As to appeals like ‘well, why did these people become mothers in the first place?’… this is also answered in part by the same film. But it’s a stupid appeal to make anyway – it’s like asking why hair grows in ones armpits. (It does so because it was always going to do so – duh).

Precious on nature and nurture

I don’t know if the whole point of the film was to disabuse people of the sanctity-of-motherhood myth, but it might as well have been. Except that – and if you blink, you’ll miss it – that the story provides a glimpse of that last bastion of hope:  that sometimes, even where nurture has been and gone and trashed everything in its wake – there is still nature.  That a person’s own, unique character… that specific coincidence of 2 genetic heritages; that greater coincidence of the meeting of that heritage and the functions and dysfunctions of nurture that become it’s first environment… can ultimately swing the balance, and amount to something that functions better than we have any right to expect.

This may be the final (unintended?) message of the film. That the character ‘Precious’ was still interested in imagining a better life for herself and her children is the sort of thing often referred to as ‘the grace of God’… y’know, it’s like that last window of opportunity that’s left ajar when life gives you an ass-kicking and throws you into a hell-hole. Sidibe’s laid-back acting portrays a believable opportunism; you believe that her character (Precious) would want to go to a better school, for example, and remains interested in a normal life.  Equally effectively, Mo’Nique’s acting portrays a core nature that is honestly/believably incapable of imagining greater and better outcomes for itself.

And these two types of people are everywhere: the progressive nature and the immutable nature both.

I wonder if someone will one day make a movie to explain what separates them. Is it really just brain chemistry? If so, nature wins. Again.

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