Friday, February 15, 2013
"Everyone's Good at Something" - Social Jerk's guest review of Precious
"What movie has connected with your story in a powerful way?" Two weeks ago, Adoption at the Movies hosted the first in a series of guest posts by adoption and social work bloggers. Adoptive mom and adoption author Lori Holden shared her thoughts on The Blind Side. This week, anonymous Bronx social work blogger "Social Jerk" shares her reflections on the film Precious. Enjoy!
When the idea of social work blogging about movies was raised, Precious was my first thought. Well, that's a lie. My first thought was to elaborate on my plans to become social worker at Hogwarts. Then I remembered that I'm a grown up, and Precious was my second thought. It's in my tagline! So it was a pretty obvious choice.
It came out at a pretty pivotal time for my social work career. I was about four months in, so I knew some stuff. I wanted to see the movie for obvious reasons. Multiproblem families in New York are kind of my jam, especially teenagers. Not to mention all the buzz Mariah Carey was getting for playing a social worker.
Ultimately, I had mixed feelings about the movie.
If you haven't seen it, I do recommend it. It's the story of a young woman from a horrifically abusive home, who finds a mentor and support in a GED program and manages to discover her self worth. That makes it sound significantly happier than it, in fact, is, but does about sum it up.
We'll start with the film's strengths. This is an important part of social work, and is also just good manners.
Gabourey Sidibe was fricking awesome, no question. And while I don't care for his music, I would happily pay twelve dollars to watch Lenny Kravitz sit quietly in a rocker reading Good Night Moon.
The message, and the story, were also compelling. On Precious' first day of class, students are asked to share what they're good at. A strength. Precious can't come up with a thing, and is told, "Everyone is good at something." It's so simple, but it's a great place to start. I use that line all the time. So many people we work with can't conceive of themselves as being worthwhile in any way and this is an easy, concrete way to challenge it.
In the class, we get to see young women come together to support one another. Running teen girls' groups has shows me that this is an incredibly powerful thing. The strength that they find in one another is remarkable. Considering we normally hear about how awful girls that age are, and how they tear one another down, it's nice to see.
It's also rare and crucial to see that the love that a teenage mother from unfair circumstances has for her child is no less transformative and life altering than the love for any other child.
On the negative side, it's definitely misery porn. There are people to whom terrible things happen, of course. Children are abused, physically, emotionally, and sexually. Plenty are victims of all three. But the kind of constant, ritualistic, horrifying abuse that Precious was subjected to is beyond rare. Raped and impregnated multiple times by her biological father, molested by her mother, infected with HIV, force fed into morbid obesity, beaten with no reprieve, illiterate, unloved...someone watching this with little outside knowledge would think that our kids have nothing to complain about. "You think you've got it bad?!"
What with all the horror, there's little joy. It's the old trope I get corrected with when I say my work is fun. "Well, it's rewarding," say people who have nothing to do with social work. They can't imagine the delight, or the times that our work isn't heartbreaking. Or maybe, heartbreaking in a good way. (You know, like then the Grinch's heart grows three sizes and breaks the measuring device.)
Of course, there's the social worker. Mariah Carey's character wasn't evil, but she was completely clueless and in over her head. She had no idea how to talk to Precious and no understanding of her reality. How many people know that it was a reflection of the even worse old days in 1980s New York City, that she tried to get Precious to talk about sexual abuse while sitting at her cubicle?
Not to mention, the Carey was so lauded for her bravery in looking like a social worker--wearing frumpy clothing and growing a mustache. It was hard not to take that a little personally.
I was interested to find out that the author, Sapphire, worked as a teacher, not a social worker. So...you know. The teacher was the hero. I get it.
Precious also made me wonder, a little, how frequently I was played and referred to as "the white bitch" upon leaving a home visit. But really, few clients are such good actors.
Social Jerk is the Internet handle of a 20-something family social worker in the Bronx, keeping it together through humor. She posts about life as a social worker at http://socialjerk.wordpress.com
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You might also enjoy
Adoption Movie Guide: The Hobbit
Lori Holden's guest post about The Blind Side
Adoption Movie Guide: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Adoption Movie Guide: Twilight