On Precious

April 14, 2010

I watched about half the film but I couldn’t finish it. There is only so much brutality and cruelty and psychopathology that I can take outside of the ER. As I got deeper and deeper into the movie, I recoiled from the hyper-real depiction of violence and depravity.

The other night my wife was working the overnight and I was tired of reading, so I took a break and bought and downloaded the movie “Precious” from the On Demand channel. Since the kids came along I rarely go to the theater - unless the movie has Hannah Montana or a talking fish, I’m usually watching it on my couch.

I watched about half the film but I couldn’t finish it. There is only so much brutality and cruelty and psychopathology that I can take outside of the ER. As I got deeper and deeper into the movie, I recoiled from the hyper-real depiction of violence and depravity.

Finally, as I literally became nauseated, the thought dawned on me – why and I subjecting myself to this? Don’t I get enough of this at work? Don’t I get enough ignorance and hostility and violence from the residents? Just kidding.

The movie was just too good. It was too real.
To those that aren’t familiar with the movie “Precious” is about a very unattractive and unsympathetic young black woman (ironically named Precious) living with her sadistic, mentally unstable mother in Harlem. Precious is surrounded by ignorance, violence, and antisocial behavior by dysfunctional and psychotic characters including her father, who rapes her repeatedly and impregnates her twice. As the movie opens, Precious is dismissed from her public school because of the pregnancy. A dedicated counselor finds a place for her in a special school for girls with extracurricular obstacles, but every where she turns Precious is berated, beaten, and bullied.

Most of time, despite her enormous size and obesity, Precious is invisible to other people and when she is noticed, she is tortured. The major antagonist is her mother, played by an actress named Mo’nique, who, when she isn’t beating her with pots and pans, is drunk and high, smoking cigarettes and screaming at Precious to forget school and stay home and collect welfare.

After the third or fourth scene of Precious being beaten and seventh or eighth scene of illiterate black characters engaging in irresponsible, immature behavior and substance abuse, I just couldn’t take it anymore. Who wants to see a movie about this crap when I have to deal with this exact same set of problems every time I walk into the ER?

I’m sick of seeing the effects of drug and alcohol abuse on abused wives and children. I’m sick of trying to explain simple concepts of health maintenance like the importance of not smoking crack when you are pregnant to young women (who are generally more interested and engaged in texting while I’m trying to speak with them) that already have two other children from different sexual partners and haven’t read a book or magazine that doesn’t have a menacing tattooed hip-hop rapper thug felon on the cover. Does this have to be celebrated with a movie?

“Precious” the movie does an incredible job of realistically depicting the worst behavior of black inner city inhabitants. I watched as much of the movie that I could stand and I didn’t see a single heroic or even sympathetic character. That is not my experience.

In my years of practicing emergency medicine in the ghetto I have witnessed breathtaking examples of selflessness and honor. Instead of the disgusting and depressing “Precious,” give me a movie about a heroic inner city math teacher or a grade school spelling bee champ or basketball team that beats the odds any day.