Movies about incest trigger my memories and feelings about the abuse I suffered as a young girl. Precious hit me just where it hurts the most. It's difficult to say this, but Mary, the mother of Precious, really reminded me of my own mother when I was a child.
Powerfully played by Mo'Nique, Mary is as different from my mother on the surface as could possibly be. Mary is a defeated black woman on welfare, vegetating on her couch in front of the TV, chain-smoking and cruelly treating her daughter like a worthless domestic servant. Her boyfriend, the father of Precious AND her two children, is an absentee drug addict. As some reviewers have complained, these characters portray stereotypes of the worst of poor black life. That begs the point. What this film offers is an accurate and unflinching look at the dynamics in an abusive family situation.
My mother wasn't uneducated, on welfare, or black. My father was a politician, attorney, and the pillar of his church and community. My mother, like so many parents, wanted for me what she had not had herself. She made sure I had piano lessons from the time I was four, that I learned which fork and spoon to use at formal dinners, that I attended the best private boarding schools and was invariably the best dressed little girl. Outward appearance was everything.
But inside it was a different story. Emotionally cruel and jealous? Cold and hard? Definitely. Those were the same no matter the differences in race or economic standing or social class. Just as Mary felt about Precious, my mother was jealous of me because her man, my father, preferred me. And although I'm sure she knew what was going on when "Bad Daddy" was in my bedroom, my mother, like Mary, did nothing to stop the abuse.
I always felt the barbs of her jealousy, especially when my father was around. I knew exactly how to please him. And the need to please him, to have at least one parent who loved me, continued long after the sexual contact stopped when I was a young teen. I knew that becoming an attorney was the key to his heart, so I complied. Mother was so angry she couldn't even look me in the eye the day I graduated from the law school she had paid for me to attend.
As an expert now in the abuse field, I've worked with hundreds, maybe thousands of women (and men) from all strata of society--wealthy and destitute, every color of the rainbow, from all religious faiths and atheists. The outer trappings don't matter at all when it comes to the need for love and the jealousy that ensues when someone is perceived as taking that love away from you.
Parents can be jealous of their children for so many reasons. I've seen jealousy of a daughter or son who was better looking, more athletic, better educated, or financially better off than the parent. Imagine the jealousy when the child has "stolen" the parent's love interest.
Thou shalt not covet. The last of the Ten Commandments directly addresses the problem of envy--undoubtedly the oldest emotion on earth. I ask the reader to think about your own jealousies. Like Mary, do you blame someone for stealing some measure of love from you? Do you harbor the "green monster" of envy in your heart? Especially look at your feelings about your children. Is there something there you need to acknowledge and weed out?
We all have some measure of Mary within us.