Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog


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Precious

I’m always iffy about film adaptations of books.  In fact, the only film adaption of a book (off the top of my head) that I actually like as much as the book is Fight Club (if not more so).  That being said, I find the the film adaptation of PushPrecious– to be interesting to say the least.  Given the graphic nature of the book Push, I was curious to know how they would depict the scenes of rape and incest.  Since the movie adaptation of The Color Purple cut out Celie and Shug’s relationship, I thought that maybe the movie Precious would try to skim over the details of Precious’ pregnancy.  For instance, I thought that maybe they would change her rapist/the father of her children to someone else within the community.  And if they didn’t do that, then I thought they would at least skim over the fact that her mother sexually abuses her.  But, the film adaptation doesn’t do that.  While it doesn’t graphically depict the extent of the abuse, the film does suggest the extent of the abuse through a series of fade-outs, which in my opinion, is a powerful film narrative device.  The fade-outs also work well in the movie, as they help emphasize the passage of time.  I also enjoy seeing a glimpse of what Precious’ fantasy world looks like – you see hints of it in the book, but I feel like I never saw the whole picture beyond her wishing that she was white.  It was extremely powerful to see her see herself as a White girl in her mirror, while at the same time seeing her actual appearance.  Furthermore, the grandiosity of her fantasies during scenes of abuse intensify the feeling of escapism that Precious is trying to obtain throughout the course of the movie.

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Celie vs Precious..

At the age of 14, Celie begans to experience rape by her father: “He never had a kine word to say to me. Just say You gonna do what your mammy wouldn’t. First he put his thing up gainst my hip and sort of wiggle it around. Then he grab hold my titties. Then he push his thing inside my pussy. When that hurt, I cry. He start to choke me, saying You better shut up and git used to it. But I don’t never git used to it” (Walker 1). As you can see here, Celie gets raped by her own father. He shows her no love or respect. He even abuses her while in the act of sex. He tells her to get used to it, but how do someone get used to rape and abuse at a young age? After Celie’s mother death, things began to get worse and her father began to treat her with animosity and violence: “He act like he can’t stand me no more. Say I’m evil an always up to no goood. He took my other little baby, a boy this time. But I don’t think he kilt it. I think he sold it to a man an his wife over Monticello. I got breasts full of milk running down myself. He say Why don’t you look decent? Put on something. But what I’m sposed to put on? I don ‘t have nothing” (Walker 3). In this excerpt, we see how her father deprives her of her children by selling them. Her father talks about her negatively and treats her like a stranger. In comparing the two novels you see some similarities as well as differences. We also see that Precious was very persistent in her consideration of her children and education, as oppose to Celie. Precious gave more effort in being a student and a mother than Celie did. I actually feel that The Color Purple may have given Precious the motivation to keep pressing forward for her own good and her children’s well being. You could very well say that The Color Purple was a great novel to help Precious to see how things could have been for her if she hadn’t made a change for the better. Both of the girls were raped by their father’s which lowered their self-esteem, caused them issues in the social world, they weren’t able to speak out about their situations, and their kids were taken from them. They experienced emotional and physical problems. There were many questions that they could have asked: why me, why you have to take my child, what did I do to deserve this, i am just a child. But at the end of the day they both realized that the only care that they had in the world was for their children.


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Some thoughts on Precious

I feel that it is very interesting to watch the movie, especially in comparison with the book as text. I always think that it is important to view the two entities as separate texts because often they do things so differently, and it is true that the movie Precious has to handle some aspects very differently, if only because of its position as a film. One of the main things I noticed was that – the movie did not ignore the sexual and incestual instances in the novel – which surprised me. I expected it to cover over alot of those things, or to change them in some way, but was surprised at how it handled them. The screen goes black, but you still are able to imagine what is happening, so it gave them more attention than I expected. The movie is incredibly difficult to watch and it does seem to stay fairly true to the book – to the extent that it can be. However, as we have not finished the movie yet I am unable to comment in terms of the whole thing. It was also interesting the way the film visually presents the things that are Precious’s internal wishes and daydreams. She sees a blonde girl in the mirror, she imagines herself as a celebrity, and literally gets to act it out in the film. This seems like a very effective tool although a couple of the scenes were a little bit confusing in terms to time passing and what was actually going on, they give us insight into her inner thoughts that we might not get otherwise. (And which are such an intrinsic part of the book). I am interested in seeing how the rest of the movie plays out.


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Fatness and Push

One thing that I have found interesting in Push is the discussion of fatness.  Throughout the novel I noticed passages where Precious talks about her body, specifically her fatness and at times these seemed very much in conversation with Fat Studies.  For instance, Precious talks about how a saleswoman at Lane Bryant says that there is no reason that “big girls can’t wear the latest” (Sapphire 37).  Even as Precious points out that boys still laugh at her because of her size no matter what she wears, I feel like comments like this are meant to complicate the reader’s ideas about fatness and Precious’ body more specifically.  Precious also expresses anxiety and dissatisfaction with her fatness at other times in the novel, so for me, it is unclear whether this text is meant to be taken as a having a radical stance on our society’s construction of fatness, or represents a more normative representation of body shame.  I read these contradictory messages about fatness as potentially being Sapphire’s way of complicating our ideas about fatness without making it look like she is unrealistically suggesting that Precious has a simplistic relationship to her body because no one, regardless of their weight/size, feels the same way about their body at all times/situations.

 

Still, I was interested to see if there had been any scholarship done on Push from a Fat Studies perspective.  One of the first articles to come up was from the magazine The Root.  In this article, Alicia Villarosa argues that Gabourey Sidibe (who plays Precious in the film) should be acknowledged and rewarded for her acting, but not her size.  Villarosa claims that obesity is a national epidemic and that Sidibe’s relationship to her fatness (which is positive and prideful) is harmful because it gives viewers/readers the misconception that it is ok/good/desirable/healthy to be “a five-foot-something woman tipping the scales at over 300 pounds” (Villarosa).  Villarosa then goes on to talk about how obesity is linked to health problems and psychological issues even though Sidibe has not reported any health problems and does not appear to have “psychological issues” regarding her weight.  Villarosa denies the validity of Sidibe’s own expressions of herself by saying, “As well adjusted as Sidibe purports to be, there’s got to be an emotional disconnect between the mind and body” (Villarosa).  This article seems to perform a lot of the harmful messaging that Fat Studies seeks to critique.  The link between health and size is not only prized but also applied to a real individual’s body in a way that is not only problematic and harmful, but downright fat phobic.

 

I haven’t seen the film adaptation of Push yet, but I am interested to see how fatness is constructed through Precious’ body.  Are the messages in the book continued in the film regarding the complicated nature of Precious’ relationship to her fatness?  How might the discussion of fatness change from text to visual media?  What does it mean that Gabourey Sidibe’s weight has been such a topic of discussion?  How does Sidibe’s relationship to her fatness and Precious’ relationship to her fatness interact with each other?

http://www.theroot.com/views/precious-and-pushback


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Jermaine’s Voice

I really appreciated the end of Push and the inclusion of multiple students’ entries in the class book.  For me, this felt like a relief in some ways, especially concerning Jermaine.  Up until this point we have only been able to learn about Jermaine through Precious who seems largely uncomfortable with Jermaine’s queer sexuality and non-feminine presentation.  There were moments in the text where I felt almost offended by Precious’ word choice and thoughts on Jermaine’s sexuality, and it was interesting to see how Sapphire chose to complicate and deal with that.  By including Jermaine’s own words at the end of the novel/the class book, I think that Sapphire was seeking to give Jermaine’s voice a chance to speak out, which forces the reader to both understand Precious’ view of Jermaine but also Jermaine’s own experience/view of herself.


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A Precious Baby

I would like to blog a little right now of the time right after Precious has Abdul, and she is reflecting upon her feelings of her new birth.

“My baby is pretty babya. I don’t not love him. He is a rapist’s baby” (Sapphire 68). “I love Abdul. He normal. But I ain’? I want to go back to school. Abdul in my way…” (Sapphire 69).

Despite how scatterbrained these thoughts might seem, the obvious truth is that Precious feels responsible for taking care of Abdul and she is still passionate about her education. As Miss Rain poses though, Precious is not in any position to provide for this baby properly, and it would be a fair notion to put him up for adoption. Does Precious really love this new baby? Or is it the attachment to a being that is innocent of her world as she knows it, and she feels she must be the one to take care of him. I’m not underestimating Precious’ genuine feelings, or her intentions, but I also feel that there is a lot more to what she is claiming, then simply “loving” her newly born.


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Missing Issues

 I thought it was interesting that in all of our class discussions over this book, we never really came to a discussion of the issue that Precious is trying to come to terms with – the fact that on top of her rape by her father, she also contracted AIDS, and is not trying to deal with that fact as well.  I think Sapphire’s inclusion of this issue as a very modern issue lends itself to some discussion, and might also lend itself to a comparison with Ntozake Shange’s updated version of for colored girls.  I don’t often encounter this issue in literature and so I think it would have been helpful for us to discuss the ways that it is thought about, read about, and narrated about.  Especially in Precious’s case, where this issue is compounded upon the physical violence of rape and incest.  “Rita go to her purse and get magazine call Body Positive say I got to join HIV community…But I tell her, Not now. I just need to think” (Sapphire 96).  Precious feels kind of numb for awhile after this news, which is worse for her than even her pregnancy, etc.  It has a profound effect on her – and she shuts herself off for awhile, pulls away from other people, fights with acceptance.  Is this a setback to her “kunstlerroman” development?  Ultimately, what allows Precious to come to terms with it?  Is it art? Poetry?  Or something else?