Tradegy and Comedy
Nearly two weeks ago, my wife, son, and I went to see the movie "Precious" at the movie theatre. The movie is about an abused, morbidly obese African-American young women who endures incredible suffering in her life journey. The filming is purposely raw and the imagines are beyond imagination. The realism of the sadistic treatments along with the invisibility and powerlessness of poverty is overwhelming.
What struck me most in this film was not the acting or the directing (although both were top-notch). What bothered me most was the response of the audience. Throughout the movie, you are exposed to some of the most disturbing portraits of abuse. There is abusive language, abusive physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and even the abusive use of food (force feeding alternating with deprivation). The purpose of this collage of violence was to give you a true sense of the abuse that the main character (Precious) had experienced. More often than not, the audience would often laugh at the scenes. I know, some people laugh when they are nervous. However, this laughing was not nervous. It was a laughter filled with commentary of why the abuse was so funny.
Now, I love humor. In fact, one of the ways in which African Americans overcome abuse and oppression is through the development of the tragicomedy, in which we laugh in order to stop the crying. I understand its role in history and ethnology. However, this was not funny and it pointed to the warped and confused perspectives of audience, which in the theatre that I attended, was mostly African American.
The audience saw the main character as someone to exploit for their entertainment rather than someone to identify with.. Her weight, her scowl, her daydreams were all things to laugh at rather than signs of her humanity, her pain, and need for someone to care. The tradegy should move us to liberate others in similar situations. It should inspire us not to accept the status quo of child abuse, domestic violence, undereducations, and struggle of young single mothers all over. Instead, the audience was entertained and easily objectified her as a things to be laughed at as opposed to a person to be loved. Our sense of justice is overwhelmed by our desire to be entertained.
If you go see Precious, know that it is disturbing. It is not appropriate for anyone under the age of 16. However, resolve to see the movie, your neighborhood, your community, and your workplace as real people whose lives and stories can inspire you to greatness and not merely entertain you.
May God bless you all,
Pastor M Traylor