Monday, November 16, 2009

A Shout Out for 'Precious' and Lee Daniels

Lee Daniels, the director of 'Precious,' likes to cut against the grain. That's what stayed with me after I got through the piece in the October 25 NY Times Magazine, The Audacity of 'Precious,': Is America Ready for a Movie About An Obese Harlem Girl Raped and Impregnated by Her Abusive Father? I had forgotten that he did 'The Woodsman,' and 'The Shadowboxer' with Cuba Gooding and Helen Mirren (interesting mix, yes?). I had intended to see both but never did. It's clear -- Daniels is a straight up, gutsy, keep-on-getting up dude who likes to mix it up. He is committed to getting his voice out there, and all the blocking from Hollywood couldn't bring him down. His story left me feeling empowered to take bold up a notch.

I saw the film too. Hard to witness but wonderful, and I especially liked that African-Americans could be the heroines to address the wrongs of other African-Americans. I'd like a sequel, one that widens the story of the mother and reveals that she too can be redeemed.

But before I could settle into my seat I had to deal with my feelings about the 4 and 5 years old children some Black mothers brought to the theater. Why do these young children need to be exposed to this battering that I know is going to be hard for me as an adult to watch? And later during the film showing, I felt sad and angry when one of those mothers, clearly irritated, told her daughter "Shut up," as they were walking out because she was crying. I always tell myself that the issue is a babysitter, that it's not that easily come by for some mothers. But still...I found myself wondering about the young boy a few seats down from me, riveted to the screen. How is he putting this together in his head, how is he feeling? Will there be a conversation later to help him make 5 years old sense of this?

Joy DeGruy,who came up with the concept of Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome,, suggests that our children are not our children but they should be. I kept thinking, how can I address this, certainly not right then in the theater, but how? How can our community provide guidance to parents on the ways of nurturing and protecting children? It's a question worth asking.

Photo courtesy of


  1. I haven't seen the movie yet but as a mother of three (under 7) children, your post totally spoke to me. I dwell on this issue a lot. Do I protect my kids and let them only watch PBS Kids? Can I actually protect them and be a 100% sure that they won't be exposed elsewhere? Sometimes I feel that movies like Precious should be dealt with in the same manner we deal with environmental pollution and viruses. While some mothers do their outmost to disinfect and sterilyze her child's environment, others, like me, prefer to give them a taste and let their little bodies develop their immune system. Could the same be said about their minds? If we feed our children a little bit of the dark world that we live in, are we actually damaging their lives? or maybe we are helping their minds develop their own immune system to better fend for themselves in a possibly unjust future?
    I honestly don't have a clear answer and I'm not sure how much is too much if we opt for the second view. I'm grateful my kids don't like big screens and dark crowded halls and we still have a long way before they can actually make it to a PG rated movie on the big screen without hiding under their chairs and sticking their fingers in their ears.

  2. Hey Lilo,
    Interesting perspective! Thanks for sharing it.

  3. I haven't seen this movie yet, but have had plenty of experiences going to the movie theatre and observing how some parents bring their extremely young children to clearly inappropriate movies (Rated R) and at inappropriate times (10pm-midnight). The babysitter thing is a nice excuse, but the bottom line is that's all it is- an excuse not a good reason. Movies are a source of entertainment, not a necessity in life. There's always the option of waiting until the movie comes out on video, but it is a choice that is made by some not to do so.

  4. regarding this film specifically, I haven't seen it yet, but I will. I do think this is the rare film that people feel a need to see - it is obviously not just entertainment, but it is something deep that we (the royal "we," meaning everyone) don't often get from popular culture and media. But I also wonder about the children who are going to see this - will the trip to the movies be followed by a discussion about it? My mom saw it and had similar experience. Moms scolding their kids, and worse, kids that were laughing at the parts that were surely not funny. Who knows if it was laughs of nervousness or just inappropriate laughing.
    Thandiwe, your blog is really deep, I hope you are sharing your thoughts via this blog for a long time. I've turned on one of my friends to your blog, I know there are so many people who will benefit from reading it.

  5. You are clearly a VERY smart woman and you write well. The topics of most of your blogs seem a little dark. The topics make one thing but in a really negative direction which does not to seem to be who you are at your core (that is just a guess). It would be interesting to hear you blog about things on a brighter note to offset the posts about thinking with a dark side.

    I greatly respect what you are doing here.

  6. Hi Minority,
    I'm so glad you are finding the blogs meaningful. I love connecting with people around what I care deeply about -- the well-being of our community and the world at large. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Hi Tom,
    Thank you for your feedback. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by 'dark.' You may want to check out the blog I did, I Changed My Name, which gives some insight into my perspective on the way dark and darkness are commonly used. So can you clarify what seems dark or negative about the blogs and what you would consider 'brighter?'