The film under study is Precious, a movie is grounded on the novel Push by Sapphire,and the character being analyzedis Precious who is the play’s main character (Sapphire, 1996). GaboureySidibe, a renowned actress, plays the role of Claireece Precious Jones, who is referred to as precious in the movie. The entire movie revolves around Precious who lives with her dysfunctional family. Precious’ mother, Mary does not perform any chores and instead watches T.V, smokes cigarettes and abuses her both physically and mentally all day long. Precious and her family live in the Harlem, a New York Ghetto, and they depend on welfare since her mother is unemployed and her stepfather abandoned them (Sapphire, 1996).
Precious is a 16 year old, black American female who is overweight, a mother of one and pregnant with her father’s second child and is about to be kicked out of school who is seen to often fantasize about being normal. She has a normaloverall lookand she dresses as decently as her financial status permits her (Sapphire, 1996). Precious struggles at school, her academic performance is poor, children mock her because of her overweight condition,and she finds interacting with people challenging. Precious is an object of several psychological distresses and anxieties including rape, incest, child abuse, domestic violence, physical abuse and mental abuse, all of which have contributed to her low self-esteem. Her stepfather molests her constantly and her mother also forces her to have sexual relations with her stepfather, whichhas resulted in her two pregnancies (Sapphire, 1996). Precious suffers from Post Traumatic Stress;Generalized and Social Anxiety; eating disorders specially bulimia nervosa; relational problems; and bipolar disorder. She is also HIV positive (Kakutani, 1996).
Precious has damaging family relationships, she does not have friends, her presence is never recognizedand her schoolmates often mock her. Additionally, she has to live with the trauma of being raped by someone she loved and trusted. As a coping mechanism, Precious escapes from her traumatic real life into her imagination world where she is a movie star or a supermodel and people love and care for her. She also imagines herself in a wonderful romantic relationship with a boyfriend who loves her (Kakutani, 1996). Precious is also strong and resilient and it helps her to get through her life tribulations. Although her fantasies provide her relief, they portray a deeply flawed sense of self worth, as all her escape characters are sexual icons.
Precious has been raped by her step father numerous of times and she now has two children by him. Although the father is absent in the movie, precious has flashbacks of the abuse he subjected her to (Sapphire, 1996). From the flashbacks, it is clear that he treated precious and her mother as possessions and subjected both of them to intimidation and physical might in order to get them to submit. The sexual abuse that her father subjected her to since a young age has resulted to low self-esteem and caused a clash between her perception of affection and sexuality and it is proven by behavior like crying over never having being in a romantic relationship (Kakutani2006).
Precious’ motheris cold and withdrawn and has subjected her to long-term physical, mental and sexual maltreatment. She uses her as a servant, she is always yelling at her, she is often violent towards her and occasionally abuses her sexually (Sapphire, 1996). This has infused anger in their relationship, which has made Precious starved for care and nurture. Her mother’s harshness is mainly because she resents precious for taking her husband from her even thoughit is the father who forces himself on precious against her will. Precious mother does not protect her from her stepfather who rapes her constantly. She even goes ahead to sexually abuse Precious too by forcing Precious to have sexual relations with her stepfather (Kakutani2006).
Other than causing trauma, Precious’ mother is also against her academic progress. When she discovers that Precious accepted the offer to attend the “Each One Teach One” school she is outragedso much that she yells and throwsobjects around the house. When Precious gives birth to her father’s second child,her mother tries to kill her and her new born baby and although she does not succeed, Precious escapes their apartment leaving her homeless (Sapphire, 1996).
The social worker
Precious’ social worker is seen to be more unhelpful than she is helpful. Although the social worker makes an effort to try and help Precious, her efforts are fruitless, harmful even. When the social worker holds a counseling session with both Precious and her mother,she exhibits very poorsocial work practice that couldconceivably have detrimental outcomes (Sapphire, 1996). Although the session is a moment of empowerment for Precious that positive outcome has nothing to do with anything the social worker accomplishes. It takes the social worker a long time to find out about the abuse that precious is being subjected to but when she does she makes an effort of helping her. When she finally does, she partners with the headteacher and helps Precious get into the alternative school, which eventually changes precious life (Kakutani, 1996).
The school community is has both positive and negative impact on Precious. The children at the school make fun of herand the public education system fails to provide her with an education. Precious is illiterate and her educators do not seem to have the skills and resources to support her achieve her education goals (Sapphire, 1996). Although schools are among the institutions charged with the liability of protecting venerable individuals, Precious is one of the many people who fall through the system’s cracks never receiving the support they need (Kakutani2006). The school does not uncover the abuse that Precious was being subjected to regardless of the many indications. Furthermore, the school discontinues her education after she gets pregnant with the second child. It took the second pregnancy before anyone in the school decided to help her (Sapphire, 1996).
There is a positive turn when Precious joins the alternative school “Each One Teach One” where she meets a caring and inspirational educator, Ms. Rain. Here she receives the support she needs to get through her present situation.Precious new classmates are also more hospitable than her former schoolmates (Kakutani2006). When Precious runs away from home, Ms. Rain supports her in finding a place to live and she spends Christmas with her. Even though Precious finds out that she is HIV positive during that period, the support she gets in the alternative school helps her learn to love herself and to accept love (Kakutani2006). The relationships that Precious builds in the new school go a long way in strengthening her and she can now stand up to people who abused her in the past, her mother included.
Precious is a member of a dysfunctional family that greatly contributes to the challenges she is currently facing. Having an abusive childhood is the root cause of her low self-esteem, young motherhood, social disorders and mental disarray. Her family not only fails to offer her comfort or love that she desperately needs but also gets in the way of her personal achievements (Kakutani2006). Her father’s sexual abuse is the reason she is kicked out of school and her mother is the reason she is homeless. Her grand mother is somewhat supportive as she is seen taking care of Precious child, which allowed her to continue with her studies but this support is limited as when Precious runs away from home, she has no family member to turn to, not even her grand mother. Precious children are a source of comfort and strength for her as she is determined to offer them a better life than the one she had. In addition, her escape to a fantasy world where she is in a romantic relationship shows that the hope of one day being a part of a loving and caring family keeps her going (Sapphire, 1996).
A strengths-based tactic is a philosophy employed when working with persons, families, and communities ((Brun& Rapp, 2001). It is an environmental perspective that appreciates the importance of individual and communities’surroundings and the multiple situations that impact their lives (Kisthardt, 2006). This perspective acknowledges the strength of the participants and focuses on theircapacities, strengths, welfares, knowledge and interests rather than focusing on their limitations. This distinguishes the strength-based model from traditional deficit models hence making it more appropriate for use with adults (Brun& Rapp, 2001). The model aims to help individuals identify and achieve personal goals by triggering an individual’s self-determination. To do this, the participant is encouraged to focus on their strengths and to view the community positively. As a result, the participant identifies their strengths and work towards positive personal outcomes and thus minimizing existing predicaments and risk factors.
Brun, C., & Rapp, R. C. (2001). Strengths-based case management: Individuals’ perspectives on strengths and the case manager relationship.Social work, 46(3), 278-288.
Kakutani, M. (1996). A cruel world, endless until a teacher steps in. Rev. of Push, by Sapphire.New York Times, 14.
Kisthardt, W. (2006). The opportunities and challenges of strengths-based, person-centered practice: Purpose, principles, and applications in a climate of systems’ integration. The strengths perspective in social work practice, 171-196.
Sapphire. (1996). Push: A novel. Vintage. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
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