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Literature: Push

"Some folks has a lot of things around them that shines for other peoples. I think that maybe some of them was in tunnels. And in that tunnel, the only light they had, was inside of them. And then long after they escape that tunnel, they still be shining for everybody else."
Clareece 'Precious' Jones

A 1996 novel by Sapphire. Push earned numerous accolades before coming to the screen in 2009 as Precious: Based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire, starring Gabourey Sidibe as Precious.

Clareece Jones, aka "Precious," is an obese, illiterate African-American teenager living in Harlem with her parents. As the story opens, Clareece is pregnant with her second child (both the child she has and the child she's pregnant with are products of rape by her father, Carl). Her relationship with her mother Mary, meanwhile, is even worse (mostly physical and verbal abuse, but there is some implications of sexual abuse as well). But things start to look up when she's transferred to a GED program. There, she makes friends with a kind social worker, Mrs. Weiss; a teacher named Ms. Rain; and a few students.

The movie version, Precious: Based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire" was nominated for 3 Golden Globes, winning one (Best Supporting Actress for Mo'Nique) and 6 Oscars, winning 2, (Best Supporting Actress for Mo'Nique and Best Writing for Geoffrey Fletcher, also marking the first time an African-American has won that award solo.)

A sequel to the book was published in 2011, called The Kid, about Precious' son Abdul. The book received mixed reviews.

Not to be confused with the movie about psychics.

The novel and film feature examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Precious's father has repeatedly raped her, and her mother has gone as far as to, among other acts, toss a TV at her after falling down the steps with her son, Abdul. She also forces Precious to have sex with her —explicit in the novel, implied in the movie
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: While being diagnosed as HIV+ is still a serious matter today, during the movie's late-1980's setting it was considered a death sentence. Mostly, because it was. It was also mistakenly considered to affect only gays.
  • Ambiguously Brown: There's a scene where Precious and Miss Weiss are talking, and Precious can't tell what ethnicity she is, and asks if she's "Italian, or black, or some type of Spanish." In the book, Ms. Weiss is white and Precious does not fully trust her.
  • Anvils That Needed To Be Dropped: Though some claim it's a case of Anvilicious.
  • Ascended Extra: The young actress who plays Ruby (the little girl in Precious' building) started out as an extra.
  • Author Avatar: Ms. Rain
  • Beauty Inversion and Playing Against Type: Mariah Carey as Precious' social worker in the movie. She is almost unrecognizable. Gabourey Sidibe is also made to look larger using unflattering clothes and hairstyles along with a menacing, surly glower. Sherri Shepard as the receptionist at the alternative school. She has braids and is also almost unrecognizable, but not nearly as much as Mariah Carey. Still counts as Adaptational Attractiveness because even at their least glamorous, the actors are much better looking than the characters as described in the book. Mo'Nique, primarily known for comedic roles, took both tropes Up to Eleven.
  • The Bechdel Test: A rare case of an inverted failure, or near-failure. The only dialogue between male characters not involving a woman consists of a few angry words between a teacher and a student at the very beginning. The only significant male character, John McFadden, interacts solely with women.
  • Berserk Button: Calling Precious fat (in the film at least). One of her classmates learned the hard way.
  • Break the Cutie
  • But Not Too Black:
    • The saintly and fair-skinned Ms. Rain rescues poor, black-as-ebony Precious from a life of misery and woe. In the novel, however, Ms. Rain was actually darker skinned with somewhat messy dredlocks.
    • In the book, Precious has a poster of Louis Farrakhan on her bedroom wall, and speaks about his sermons on self-respect. In the film, she has only white film stars on her wall. It's to emphasize her poor self-image (and how she believes that white people have it better than she does), but still. Precious also explicitly states that among her many dreams is to have a light-skinned boyfriend.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Precious repeatedly drops "Bitch" and "Shit" into her dialogue. So does Mary, who also gives us the charming epithet "cunt bucket".
  • Dawson Casting: 26-year-old (at the time) Gabourey Sidibe as 16-year-old Precious.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The poster, seen above. This one's less Hitchcock-y. This one tells the whole story.
  • Determinator: Precious. "I cried the other day. I felt stupid. But you know what? Fuck that day. That's why God, or whoever, makes new days."
  • Deus Angst Machina: Just when you think it couldn't get worse for Precious, it's learned that her father died of AIDS, meaning she's now HIV-positive. A bright spot, however, is that both her children are HIV-negative.
  • The Eighties: The novel is set in 1987.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Despite contracting HIV from her father, Precious manages to dig herself out of the hell of her past life. She is reading at a near high school level by the end of the film, has new friends, severs all ties with her mother, is in possession of both her children, and has gained a new lease on life. Her next move as the film ends is to complete a GED test, which will allow her to graduate high school. As of her death at the beginning of the sequel, 10 years later, she makes it to college, too.
  • Freudian Excuse: The reason for Precious's antagonistic relationship with her mother was her mom being jealous that her husband would rather have sex with his daughter than with her. In her mother's eyes, Precious was stealing him away from her.
    But, those... those things she told you I did to her? Who... who... who else was going to love me? WHO else was going to touch me? WHO else was going to make me feel good about myself?
  • Hope Spot: In the novel, after reading The Color Purple, it dawns on Precious that it's possible that Carl might not actually be her biological father. He is, but the sheer magnitude of her mother's ignorance on the subject completely eclipses anything else about it, and Precious moves on without giving the idea any further thought.
  • I Am Not Spock: After the movie made Gabourey Sidbe into a breakout star, many people started to confuse her with the character and began showering her with woobie-appropriate sympathy, despite growing up in a loving, functional two-parent family. She mocked the phenomenon in her monologue on SNL in a grand musical number. "I am happy, because I'm not Precious!"
  • Inner City School
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping
  • One Mario Limit: For the film, as applied to titles. There was another 2009 film (an Action Movie) titled Push, so whether the...erm...unique title of the film was planned ahead of time or not, it helped avoid confusion (one doubts that there's much overlap between the two films' audiences). They did however go a bit overboard calling it 'Precious (Base On Nol By Saf) (Based On The Novel 'Push' By Sapphire)' (mimicking the way Precious writes when she is first learning how to). When the movie tie-in edition of Push was released, the cover read "Push: A Novel by Sapphire. Now a Major Motion Picture 'Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" By Sapphire'" to the confusion of readers and booksellers alike.
  • Oscar Bait: The film version.
  • Parental Incest: From both parents, no less.
  • Save Our Students
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In a few places. The movie has REALLY surreal moments. The most bizarre might be the scene where Precious and her mother fight, accompanied by a gospel Christmas song.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Twice, in fact Precious' first pregnancy is almost a preteen pregnancy.
  • The Unfair Sex: Precious's mom is just as bad (if not worse) than her father in terms of how she treats her daughter. Of course, we don't get a scene of her father being confronted or confessing in tears that he was also abused, either.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Precious in the movie.

PassingLiterary Works by African-American AuthorsRoots
The Perks of Being a WallflowerSmall Genres and Unclassified LiteraturePygmy
Macabre Moth MotifImageSource/Live-Action FilmsBeauty Inversion
Inglourious BasterdsAcademy AwardA Serious Man
The Prism PentadLiterature of the 1990sThe Queen's Thief
Prayers for BobbyFilms of 2005 - 2009 The Princess and the Frog

alternative title(s): Precious
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