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When Push Comes to Shove

T here are worst-case scenarios, and then there is Precious, who’s in a hellish league of her own. The heroine and narrator of the novel Push by Sapphire (born Ramona Lofton), now a much-hyped film called Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, is the embodiment of everything—I mean, everything—American society values least and victimizes most. She’s a poor, illiterate, morbidly obese, dark-skinned African-American girl. She was raped by her father from the age of 3, pregnant with his child at 12 (the baby, which she names Mongo, has severe Down syndrome), and then pregnant by him again at 16, when the novel begins. She’s also sexually molested by her jealous, welfare-cheating, gross, and sedentary mother, although the genital fingering might seem preferable to the verbal and physical abuse. The book gives you quite a bludgeoning. I started to pull back from it in a flashback when the 12-year-old girl is in labor on the kitchen floor and her mother is kicking her in the face.

See Also Edelstein's Response to Commenters Gabby Sidibe’s Astonishing Debut

Sapphire goes on to chart Precious’s journey from darkness to light: her transfer to an alternative school and acceptance into a warm, matriarchal community, where she’s encouraged to give voice to her experiences in poetry and prose. A former teacher, Sapphire wants to show young women that if the damaged, emotionally locked-up Precious can develop a sense of self-worth and autonomy, anyone can. But Push, written in Precious’s distinctive patois (“I still don’t say nuffin’. This hoe is keeping me from maff class. I like maff class”), is so schematic, so single-minded in its depiction of predatory evil and empowering good that you may think its title is not an exhortation to drive through pain but a description of the author’s technique.

I dwell on the novel because the movie leads with it (that subtitle!) and because it faithfully, even reverently, sticks to Sapphire’s outline. But the director, Lee Daniels, working from a screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher, has a good sense of when to push and when to lie back. His rhythms are punchy—abrasive without being assaultive. And he has such a striking actress in Gabourey Sidibe, who plays Precious, that he doesn’t need to force her alienation—or ours. I’m not judging girls who look like Sidibe in life, but her image onscreen is jarring to the point of being transgressive, its only equivalent to be seen in John Waters’s pointedly outrageous carnivals. Her head is a balloon on the body of a zeppelin, her cheeks so inflated they squash her eyes into slits. Her expression is either surly or unreadable. Even with her voice-over narration, you’re meant to stare at her ebony face and see nothing. The movie is saying that she’s not an object, but the way that Sidibe is directed she becomes one. It’s only in a couple of heavy-handed fantasy sequences (she emerges from a theater in a bright-red gown to popping flashbulbs) that her eyes are windows to the soul.

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Great WBF, Britney :)Really curious to hear about what will come out for the optimization you did to get featured snippets (especially the Quora's one).One thing that happened (in italian language tho) was that after changing removing a definite article in the keyword (from title tag and beginning of the body text) we got a featured snippet for that query without the article, but lost it for the one with the article. The opposite happened once we re-added the definite article.Regarding featured snippet: Is Google still so much based on exact matches sometimes?

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Interesting!? There are so many factors at play now it's impossible to say with certainty that exact match will or will not help you. Think you're doing all of the right things by testing out various formats. Keep up the great work Stefano!

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Thanks for this post Britney. Personally grammarly has helped me so much with simplify the page and your Quora tip is just amazing. Can't wait for part 3!

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One of our pages that currently has a featured snippet actually displays a picture from another website (though from Google Images). I am guessing this is because I don't have an image on the page. Have you ever seen this before? I was thinking about adding an image to my page to see if I can grab it as well. Thoughts on that?

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That's been pretty common actually. They test a few images for various FS over time and then seem to go with the best performing one. However, I'm not sure if that means image clicks or no FS clicks.

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Comments ( 38 )

Thanks Dan. Great article. Online reputation management is probably the most critical element in any business at the moment, with the proliferation of social media sites and the time of everyone’s voice being heard.

Reply

Thanks Haroun, yes it’s definitely critical at this very moment. With so many voices being heard, it’s not easy to stay on course.

Reply

Absolutely Haroun, managing the business’s reputation on social media is becoming ever so difficult. Even occupying the first page of the search results on both Google and Bing for the brand name searches is very important.

Reply

Great, man. Excellent write-up. I think this must be referred to as the essential course for everyone who has something to do with an online presence! Thanks for inviting to read this!

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