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Precious

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Precious
Precious (Magness & Daniels, 2009) is a movie based on the novel “Push” by Saphire. It follows the life and struggles of sixteen-year-old Claireece Precious Jones who is living in Harlem’s low income housing neighborhood in, 1987. She is illiterate, obese, and severely emotionally disturbed due to the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse that she has endured from both her mother, Mary, and her father, Carl. The sexual abuse from her father has resulted in two pregnancies, one of which was born with Down Syndrome. Precious’ mother is unemployed and collecting welfare. After learning of her second pregnancy, Precious’ principal arranges for her to attend an alternative school in the hopes that it will help her turn her life around. In order to escape from her nightmare of a life, Precious escapes into daydreams where she is loved and cared for. After attending the alternative school, Precious is taken under the wing of her teacher, Blu Rain, and is eventually able to learn to read and write. After delivering her second child, Precious escapes from her abusive mother, and with the help of Ms. Rain, seeks shelter in a halfway house. Mary eventually seeks Precious out to inform her of the death of her father from AIDS. Precious later discovers that she too is HIV-positive. The film ends with Precious completely severing ties with her mother, and taking custody of her first child, Mongo and her baby, Abdul. She is focused on improving life for herself and her children by making plans to complete a GED test to receive a high school diploma equivalency. The movie Precious describes a girl in the adolescent stage of development who, despite the traumatic events in her life, is able to change her life and overcome many of the threats to her biosocial, cognitive, and psychosocial development.
According to the textbook, The Developing Person Through the Lifespan, by Kathleen Stassen Berger, Precious is in the middle of the adolescent stage of development. Adolescents, will, in this stage of development, “seek their own identity, sorting through the traditions and values of their own family and cultures” (Berger 2014). This stage of development is marked by the onset of puberty and the development of sexual maturation. Hormones released by the pituitary gland stimulate the adrenal gland in the processes known as the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. Abnormalities in this process are associated with eating disorders, anxiety, and depression. Many adolescents suffer from one or several of these problems. Estradiol and testosterone released during this process also aid in the growth spurts and maturation of primary and secondary sex characteristics. Adolescents often show poor emotion control not only due to these "raging hormones" but also to their undeveloped prefrontal cortex. At this time in a adolescent's life, the prefrontal cortex is limited in connections and engagement. In early onset puberty, extreme stress is presented to the individual before the prefrontal cortex can properly mature. This can cause many adolescents to seek out excitement and pleasure without fully understanding the consequences. This can be a positive aspect of adolescents in that it allows them to question traditions set forth to them as a way of achieving adult levels of social competence. Adolescents will question their elders and create their own standards and values. In Precious' case, this allowed her to break free of the abusive and destructive life that her mother and father raised her in. Precious demonstrated a classic aspect of cognitive development in the movie called egocentrism. The textbook defines egocentrism as, "a characteristic of of adolescent thinking that leads young people to focus on themselves to the exclusion of others" (Berger, 2014, p430). Egocentrism is most noticeable in adolescents who suffer with delinquency, aggression, or eating disorders, all of which Precious struggled with. Adolescents tend to interpret other people's behavior as a judgment on them, positive or negative. Precious had an especially skewed view of herself due to the constant verbal and physical abuse from her mother. Precious' mother would continuously tell her that she was fat, worthless, and stupid. This lead Precious to believe this about herself until her teacher, Ms. Rains encouraged her to believe otherwise. Ms. Rains helped Precious understand and use the concept of analytical thought. Piaget described analytical thought as, "thought that results from analysis, such as systematic ranking of pros and cons, risks and consequences, possibilities and facts" (Berger, 2014, p436). Ms. Rains showed Precious that she could learn to read and write at an eighth grade level and encouraged her to get her GED. She encouraged her to write her thoughts and feeling down through poetry, and she helped her to imagine a better life for both her and her two children. A life that Precious had only been able to imagine in her elaborate day dreams.
Precious exhibits aspects of Erikson's theory of foreclosure in the film. This theory describes a premature identity formation where adolescents will adopt a parents' roles or values without question or analysis. Before Ms. Rains shows her otherwise, Precious accepts the abusive and detrimental ideals of her mother and father without ever believing that her life could change. She purposefully avoids social situations by isolating herself from her peers and only escaping into her own head. She does not believe that others will accept her until not only Ms Rains, but also the nurse at the hospital where her second baby was delivered, shows her kindness. These small encouragements are so far removed from the constant negative feedback that she receives at home.
Precious faced so many roadblocks to her development starting as young as the age of three-years-old. This is when her father began to sexually abuse her and her mother began to resent her for it. She was unable to form healthy attachments to her family and was raised to believe that she was ugly and stupid. The people in her life that were supposed to protect her and help instill healthy values and morals were the ones who hurt and oppressed her the most. Even something as simple as instilling healthy eating habits was grossly detrimental to Precious. In one scene of the movie, Precious' mother forced her to eat a greasy meal even when she was not hungry to punish her for not preparing the meal the way she wanted it. Instances such as this helped foster Precious' binge eating when she was alone on stolen chicken (only to vomit it up later at school). These unhealthy eating habits, and well as her lack of economical means, were most likely habits that helped perpetuate her morbid obesity problems. Her abusive childhood also precipitated her lack of education. The poor self-image that was instilled in her at home, caused her to believe she was not smart enough to try and exceed at school. Precious was only able to overcome this with the support and direction of Ms. Rains and her social worker at the welfare office. By the end of the movie, this support motivated Precious to finally leave her abusive home, find shelter in a half-way house, and pursue her education through the alternative school. She takes custody of both her children and starts the rest of her life with a positive attitude for both her future and the future of her children.
As we have learned in class, there are many stages to the overall development of a person. Each stage is met with its roadblocks and hurtles. Precious' life seemed to be met with more of these roadblocks than any normal person could have overcome. What can be ultimately taken from this movie is the amazing resilience of the human spirit. Precious exhibited an immensely resilient spirit and was therefore able to overcome the pain and suffering that was inflicted upon her. Her story demonstrated how important role models are especially in the adolescent stage of development. Were it not for the positive roles models of Ms Rains, the social worker, and the other girls at the alternative school, Precious may never have been able to rise above her circumstances and change her life.

References
Berger, K. S. (2014). The Developing Person Through the Life Span (9th ed.). New York: Worth
Publishers.
Magness, G, and Siegel-Magness, S. (Producers), & Daniels, L. (Director). (2009). Precious [Motion Picture].United States: Lionsgate.

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