Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Review of a Review: Precious

I came across this... interesting review of the movie Precious.

I use the word interesting not because the reviewer, Josh Tyler, has a particularly interesting reason for disliking the movie. Indeed, he claims that the movie "isn't worth your time" essentially because it's not inspiring or uplifting. Fair enough. Whether Precious is or is not inspiring is a judgment call, but I can accept that some people watch movies to escape from the fact that sometimes bad things happen to people in real life.

But then he goes on to mistake his subjective experience of the film as some sort of objective truth. Like:

"Unless you're an industry insider looking for filmmaking tips, there's no reason to see it. Precious does all of those things right but it does one thing wrong: It exists without cause. Precious offers nothing of any real consequence to those who would see it....Buying a ticket for Precious means choosing to spend a couple of hours watching really mean, obese people beat up on a delusional, obese teenager in a roach motel."

First, there's his incredibly broad claim that no one in the entire world will get anything out of watching Precious. It's always bizarre when dudes deem themselves the arbiter of all that does and doesn't count as meaningful to other people.

See, given that Precious depicts a lesbian, who is also a woman of color, who is pretty much the sole positive influence in the life of a teenage girl whom heterosexual after heterosexual has abused in some manner, I strongly disagree that the movie "offers nothing of any real consequence to those who would see it." As a lesbian, it certainly offers something to me. Namely, it counters the stereotype that heterosexuality is an automatic safe haven from the dangers of homosexuality. In fact, this portrayal turned that assumption on its head, as the lesbian teacher offered a haven from dangerous and predatory heterosexuals.

Then, we have Tyler's suggestion that part of what makes Precious worthless is because it has fat people in it. Indeed, in his article he uses the word "obese" or "fat" 5 times and in an attempt at humor(?), jokes that the main character will die of diabetes, if AIDS doesn't get her first.

Oddly, he doesn't seem to pick up the fat-shaming within his own article as, a bit later, he notes that "everyone who abuses Precious is dangerously overweight, while everyone who helps Precious is thin." That, I could concede as a legitimate criticism regarding the conflation of fatness with immorality. However, if a critic's going to suggest that watching a movie that has fat people in it "isn't worth your time" in part because it has fat people in it, he should own that fat-shaming criticism as well. Instead, Tyler doesn't seem to recognize it.

Lastly, Tyler writes:

"Perhaps Precious is a cautionary tale? Planning to rape your kid any time soon? Then watch this to find out what might happen. For the other 99.999% of us, there's nothing we need to know here."

In actuality, incest is one of the most common forms of child abuse.

Yes, this is just some random dude's movie review. But in it, is an amazing clusterfuck of the male entitlement to dismiss the experiences of Others combined with superficial body shaming combined with the rape culture-tastic invisibilization of the prevalence of sexual violence.

To me, that's a big deal, even though it's not to those who are the deciders of all that does and doesn't count as a big deal.

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