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.