Maybe David Simon Should Make A 'Precious' TV Series His Next Assignment - Here's Why

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by Malcolm Woodard
June 20, 2013 5:58 PM
14 Comments
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A thought that occurred to me this morning, after watching Precious for the very first time. Yes I know I'm late, but I was one of those people who intentionally avoided the film for a number of reasons that I won't bore you with.

For it to have had any real, sustained impact of the kind OprahTyler Perry and Lee Daniels were hoping for (at least, as they presented), what Precious really deserved was the same treatment The Wire received - essentially, an episodic, unflinching cable TV series, that deconstructs every relevant societal institution, and the contribution each one makes to the cyclical predicaments the characters in Precious are more-or-less trapped in.

A 110-minute film simply can't inform fully; and that was made clear by the contentious discussions that followed after the film was released, with some taking offense to the portrayals of black men in the film; others bothered by the portrayals of black women; and still others infuriated by the weight & colorism issues, the depiction of the "urban" poor, and on.

Of course! In hindsight, I wouldn't have expected anything less, given what I started this post stating. I think a thorough investigation into why Precious and her family exist as they are would have been much more instructive and effective overall. We're left to assume certain things that are glazed over in the film, or aren't even touched on at all, and that can actually prove to be dangerous. Every issue has a root, and, like The Wire, I think a thorough exploration of each would have been easier swallowed by all, if "blame" was equally distributed, up and down society's hierarchy. Precious, as is, glazes over, or just flat out doesn't cover some rather salient factors that contribute to the plight of the Precious-types in the world. But, that's not a surprise, because it really couldn't have - not within its allotted time.

This is partly why I question the overwhelmingly generous response many had to the film (especially those upper class and elite whites in power, whose real-life impact on real-life Precious-types was noticeably absent in the film), claiming that they were truly enraptured by the story, and uplifted by its apparent message of hope. How could they have been? How could anyone really have been, when the film doesn't at all address the full range of institutions that systematically contribute to the plight of the Precious-types in the world?

The film sufficiently tugs on heartstrings, quite manipulatively, in my opinion, and so it does its job for 110 minutes; but what happens after, when we leave the theatre and return to our "superior" lives, thanking our lucky stars that we aren't Precious, or her mother, lacking a proper understanding of why things are as they are in the film?

For the most part, the film has been almost forgotten, despite all the discussion that was had over it - much of it contentious and not all that useful, as I see it. And Mo'Nique's Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress was good for Mo'Nique. It didn't mean much for the rest of us, and certainly not for the many similar real-life characters the film portrays.

So if there's interest in a genuine attempt to address the myriad of issues Precious sought to bring to light, I think it would be best served in a series similar to the approach taken with The Wire, and on the same cable TV network, given how raw the material is. Then I'd say, we'd have much more robust insight into why Precious is.

But regardless of how I felt about the film, I'll give Lee Daniels credit for at least opting to tackle subject matter that rarely gets recognition on film. It just wasn't nearly enough, nor as fulfilling as it needed to be.

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14 Comments

  • Don | July 15, 2013 3:44 AMReply

    this would be a horrendous idea, it would truly diminish a great piece of art, that is precious. lol

  • NO BRAINER | June 22, 2013 5:29 PMReply

    After just reading the title of this, I say a resounding NO. End of story.

  • Beezdablock | June 21, 2013 5:22 PMReply

    I agree with this article, and I'm glad it was written. Unfortunately, it would take David Simon (rather than a black person) to get a show like this on the air, but it would be lovely if he teamed up with some black women writers and directors on it.

  • mark | June 21, 2013 10:24 AMReply

    Mo'Nique's win of an Oscar hasn't done anything for her career. She hasn't appeared in any films of note since 'Precious.'

  • saadiyah | June 21, 2013 9:53 AMReply

    "but what happens after, when we leave the theatre and return to our "superior" lives...?" I was going to answer this question in my comment, but CC has said exactly what I wanted to say:

    The Wire, for the most part, was a drug story, its theme centered on the life and times of drug dealers, cops, politicians, judges and lawyers, all of whom were ultimately "compromised". So please tell me, what "messages" in that display of corruption, are still being talked about? More importantly, what's the take away/payoff from the issues in that drama? I mean, as a result of The Wire being shown on cable television, is Baltimore less corrupt? Has illegal drugs stopped being dispensed as if they are legal in that city, and every major city in the USA? Are drug addicts still dying by the thousands? Seriously, as a result of The Wire being aired in multiple episodes, were new laws written to help the suffering addict and his or hers family? And btw, unlike Mo' Nique and Precious, The Wire received NO major television awards, so what has that drama done for us?

    So in a nutshell, "NOTHING." If there is no call for action associated with movies, documentaries, even rap songs chronicling the ills visited upon poor or minority population, it changes NOTHING.

  • Amari | June 21, 2013 7:29 AMReply

    Though I understand where the writer is coming from, and critique should always be welcomed in our community, I do think there is a problem with us comparing media featuring our people. stories and culture with each other. Let each stand on its own. The Wire represented a certain piece of our culture; Precious represented a certain piece of our culture and that is just it: pieces.

    You can't really expect someone to every try to cover every single bit of a fictional person's life and situation, be it in a movie, mini-series or full blown show. If you want something that explores why Precious' life the way it was, that is more so for documentries to provide. All that most non-documentry films can do is try to pack into a episode or a movie, enough for you to understand the character where they are at and where they are going.

    Now, PUSH does have a sequel featuring Precious' son which could maybe breakdown all that is asked for, I can't say if it definitively does since I didn't read the book yet, but maybe it is time to start critiquing with ways to improve, rather than critiquing by comparison since it isn't like there is such a plethora of films that focus on the exact same topic as Precious to really give fair comparison judgement.

  • CC | June 20, 2013 11:15 PMReply

    POPPYCOCK! NONSENSE! I am sorry Malcolm, the premise of your arguments were highly flawed, to say the least.

    Let's start here--> "For it to have had any real, sustained impact of the kind Oprah, Tyler Perry and Lee Daniels were hoping for" and here--> "So if there's interest in a genuine attempt to address the myriad of issues Precious sought to bring to light, I think it would be best served in a series similar to the approach taken with The Wire"

    Malcolm, your argument instantly fell apart when you spoke for Oprah, Tyler, Lee Daniels and the alleged issues Precious sought to bring to light. To that point, it should be noted that "Precious" was adapted from the novel "Push", penned by the author Sapphire. Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey merely provided promotional assistance to the film, AFTER it received numerous rewards at the Sundance Film Festival. And by the way, the writer Geoffery Fletcher won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. And, the film WAS highly successful, earniing 50 million on a 10 million budget.

    With the above facts in hand, I question your knowledge of Oprah's, Tyler's and Lee Daniels' goals and/or motives? But, your misconceptions didn't stop there.

    "For the most part, the film has been almost forgotten, despite all the discussion that was had over it - much of it contentious and not all that useful, as I see it. And Mo'Nique's Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress was good for Mo' Nique. It didn't mean much for the rest of us, and certainly not for the many similar real-life characters the film portrays."

    Really!? And The Wire accomplished all of the above, huh? The Wire, for the most part, was a drug story, its theme centered on the life and times of drug dealers, cops, politicians, judges and lawyers, all of whom were ultimately "compromised". So please tell me, what "messages" in that display of corruption, are still being talked about? More importantly, what's the take away/payoff from the issues in that drama? I mean, as a result of The Wire being shown on cable television, is Baltimore less corrupt? Has illegal drugs stopped being dispensed as if they are legal in that city, and every major city in the USA? Are drug addicts still dying by the thousands? Seriously, as a result of The Wire being aired in multiple episodes, were new laws written to help the suffering addict and his or hers family? And btw, unlike Mo' Nique and Precious, The Wire received NO major television awards, so what has that drama done for us?

    And Malcolm, your poppycock didn't stop there, either:

    "I question the overwhelmingly generous response many had to the film (especially those upper class and elite whites in power, whose real-life impact on real-life Precious-types was noticeably absent in the film), claiming that they were truly enraptured by the story, and uplifted by its apparent message of hope."

    Really? seriously? Is that the true gist of your article? Are you implying that those who enjoyed Precious (including those evil upper class and elite whites in power (and those unknowing negros) have no compassion, empathy and hope for "Precious types" (whatever that is) because they have not lived that life and/or because the film doesn't at all address the full range of institutions that systematically contribute to the plight of the Precious-types in the world?

    Well my man, in short, your obvious predisposition to dislike this film and your aversion for those involved (yes, you didn't have to bore us with that) has crippled your ability to view the film from an unbiased position.

  • Turner | June 20, 2013 9:50 PMReply

    YUCK! NOT AGAIN!

  • No | June 20, 2013 9:30 PMReply

    Does any one recall -- or care-- that Precious was based on a book called "Push" by Sapphire?

  • Miles Ellison | June 20, 2013 9:14 PMReply

    A significant part of what made The Wire so great were the diverse and well-drawn characters. The show portrayed people, not stereotypes. It also rigorously detailed the various economic, political, and social forces that shaped one city. That's also a not insignificant reason that hardly anyone watched it during its initial run.

    Someone could make a series that rigorously explains the forces that made Precious and her mother. It could be stone-cold genius like The Wire was. And nobody would watch it because stereotypical context-free dysfunction porn is much more likely to draw viewers than detailed storytelling and three dimensional characters.

  • Mark and Darla | June 20, 2013 8:39 PMReply

    Are you kidding!A series like that will make a lot of black folks ill, especially black men.

  • Augus Wasoba | June 20, 2013 8:11 PMReply

    I'm confused, I didn't really pay attention to any of the press or the media push for this film when it came out. Was it Lee Daniels intention to do a film with an approach and perspective like the "Wire"?

  • Ernest Champell | June 20, 2013 7:51 PMReply

    When I first read the headline for this story I laughed to myself. "Precious" was one of the most depressing and revolting films I've ever seen. But after reading why you thought a more through examination of the pathologies in the film was needed by The Wire team, I said to myself that would be a great idea.

  • Milton Brown | June 20, 2013 7:32 PMReply

    I am moved and inspired by the idea that someone besides myself understands that underlying reasons extending beyond what most are willing to acknowledge. I am even more thrilled that they are not silent about that fact. Thanks for articulating the difference between blame and responsibility.

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