A person, place or thing

November 7, 2009 at 6:04 pm (Uncategorized)

When I was a wee Nomes, only learning the first few pieces of grammar, that’s what I learned what a noun is. And obviously the misogynistic culture we live in has a lot to do with shunting women from “person” to “thing.” Lately I’ve been carrying around in my head that particular chant when I’ve seen the marketing for the film Precious. Please bear with me; image analysis is so not my field, and I am out of practice with this stuff, but I wanted to write about this.


I got the book out of the library. And it is phenomenal. I love that Precious is so determined to tell her story that we get the words directly as she thinks them. Here’s the cover:

Bright, bold, striking. I like it, I think it goes really well with the story. Especially with the significance of the lettering – the letters themselves – and Precious’s struggle to gain literacy and express herself.

Here is the first poster for the film:

Although Precious is the titular character of the film, what do we get for her here? A silhouette. Cracked and broken with the image of a hand between her legs, which strikes me as not the most subtle way of alluding to the sexual abuse she suffers from her parents. She has no features, no face, nothing. It’s unclear whether she’s intended to be naked, which is problematic. The safety orange behind her does a good job of expressing the misery of her situation at the start, but that’s about it.

Poster number two:

I like this as art but I don’t know if I like it for the film. Once again Precious has no features – we don’t even get a differentiation between her face and her hair. She looms out of the dingy background, opaque and oblique. I can’t tell if she’s supposed to be wearing a dress with an apron over it? But Precious in the book describes herself as dressing fashionably and loving clothes, including a pair of neon yellow leggings she got at Lane Bryant. I don’t know that dress-with-apron really fits. The name necklace is a nice touch. But overall it again feels to me like it falls short.

Lesley over at Fatshionista already covered some of this same ground. I want to highlight a couple of lines in particular:

Indeed, our culture would remove big pieces of Precious’ identifiable humanity for each of the two physical characteristics that make her different from most everyone else we see in leading roles: her fatness, and her Blackness. If it’s difficult to recognize Precious’ humanity, it isn’t because of the lighting or the angle at which the camera is seeing her; it’s because we’re not accustomed to seeing women who look like Precious portrayed as fully human.

By presenting Precious as a silhouette, a negative space for us to map our readings onto, we take away a lot of what makes Push so incredibly moving and heartrending. The story is about how despite the absolutely toxic environment in which she finds herself, this girl has a mind that only needs a little encouragement to blossom. She has dreams and ideals and hopes and fears and desires and sadnesses, but we don’t get any of that from these posters. Push is a story that demands to be told in the words that Precious can use. These posters don’t give her a mouth, much less a mind.

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2 Comments

  1. Deeleigh said,

    I like your comments on the posters. They’re part of what has made me feel ambivalent about seeing the film – made me think that the character is being held up as a sideshow freak in both her embodiment and her emotional life. I mean, the image of a hand up between the legs of a shattered body in silhouette? WTF? So self-consciously arty, and so dehumanizing to the character.

  2. crazyreal said,

    After seeing your comment, it made me think of a story I wrote and here are few lines:

    An ugly girl named Sophia was walking toward the metro sherbrooke in Montreal when two guys and three girls started laughing at her. She went in front of them and asked them if there was something funny about her.

    They looked at her and said that they could not help themselves laughing because her face was way out of the ordinary. The moment they saw her, they could not stop laughing. It was beyond their control. They would have preferred not to act this way but there was nothing they could have done to stop it. They understood that it must be embarrassing for you but what do you want to do? If we could not control it, should we force ourselves? How far are we suppose to take this respectful behaviour? Would you have preferred that we laughed behind your back after you passed by us? Would you have felt better? Is it our fault if your face is way out of this world? What is it about our laughs that make you think that they are necessarily evil? We can apologize and are ready to do so but is it really the solution? Why can’t you be proud of that face and think that anywhere you go, people would notice you? People would die to have any kind of attention? You are lucky to have people scrutinizing you. They either have pity, sadness, jokes, hatred, and compassion toward you. They know you are in the place. Many people go by and no one cares for them. You on the other hand, everybody is aware of your presence. You should be happy.

    If you want to read the whole story, go on http://www.crazyreal.wordpress.com and click the article called: Ugly girl.
    Thank you for your post

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