Why I Don’t Need To See The Help (Updated)

So, tomorrow night is the Oscar’s and vying for Best Picture is The Help.

Woop! Woop! Not.

You had to have heard about it, it’s popularity makes it hard to escape. Critiques and accolades are indeed everywhere. In fact, in keeping with Capitalism American Style, there is a product line on the Home Shopping Network. You know, to be sure that they feed our atavistic  consumerism and pimp us for every dollar.

And yet, I have not seen it.

My initial reaction was, “Who needs to see yet another movie about Blacks in a menial position being “rescued” by a White Savior?” It’s a story as old as the world and I for one would much rather not.

But I try to keep an open mind so rather than run screaming in the other direction, I sought out the opinions of others and have watched with great curiosity the dearth of commentary about the film on Twitter. I follow a pretty diverse group of smart folks, writers, feminists, political pundits, pop icons, intellectuals, activists and the like. It has been extremely enlightening to listen to the array of voices dissect and analyze The Help. Unsurprisingly, their criticism echoed my initial reaction and cemented my reluctance.

Someone on my TL Tweeted, “The Help was no help to me.” LOL. Succinct but accurate.

The opinions follow a general trend, that the story itself, is a false depiction of the historical record and insulting to the struggles of African Americans. That it is wrong to depict the perpetually smiling, loving, jovial, self-sacrificing, stereotype of the “Mammy” in the face of racism and debasement. It’s undignified and plain stupid, to say the very least. To boot, that such depictions inform the misconception of Black women as victims, incapable of saving themselves and reliant upon, in this case, White liberals “do-gooders” to save/enlighten them.

It should be noted that the author, Kathryn Stockett, based the story on her experiences growing up in Mississippi and her family maid. Sadly, it seems she did much more than that. Click here to read the article about Abilene Cooper’s court case against Kathryn Stockett.

Of course, not all African Americans agree, we are nothing if not a heterogeneous group. I think those who disagree are giving a nod to revisionist history and downplaying the importance of media representations which inform, or reflect, social norms. This is an all too common meme in Hollywood which hearkens back to the good ol’ days of Gone With The Wind, Butterfly McQueen and Hattie McDaniel.

The Help is defended as a “feel good” story and I don’t doubt it has some redeeming qualities but that doesn’t give it the right to obscure history with fantasy. Nor, can any rational person argue that revisionist history is good for mankind.

There is an alarming trend towards revisionist history that seems to be gaining momentum in America. I believe that it’s the driving force behind censorship of Huckleberry Finn removing the word Nigger, HD 2281, the Arizona law that deems it unlawful to teach Ethnic studies in schools and Texas Board of Education’s attempts to revise history books, changing slavery to the Altantic Triangular Trade. *snort*

The mindset seems to say, “Let’s erase the evil deeds of our ancestors because it’s over. Why harp on slavery and Jim Crow?” We have the Civil Rights Amendment, Affirmative Action and a Black president now.

Right, like women have ERA and Roe v. Wade and are still fighting today for equal pay and the right to control our bodies. Let that be a lesson to you.

Would you ask a rape victim to forget about her rape? Would you ask a victim of child abuse to forget that their abuse?” I didn’t think so.

History teaches us, collectively and personally, informing who we are and where we came from. It encapsulates the full spectrum of possibility, achievements and atrocities. In many cases, it is a cautionary lesson. Erasure does not encourage critical thinking or evolution. Which is why such stories, parroting as truth, offend me.

When I saw For Colored Girl’s Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” it devastated me, hit me right in my core and left me sobbing in the theater. Why? Because it was so REAL. Those women told the often marginalized, undiluted tales of Black women who rise or fall, in the wake of emotional and physical trauma. Their voices reflect a reality that women face and it would be a completely different story if the guts were taken away because it’s too controversial, or some such mess. No, it’s not the uplifting escape from reality you seek but hey, life is not a perpetual party and people should not be reduced to caricatures for material gain, or personal appeasement. And never, never, should fiction be paraded as history for convenience sake…

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14 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Need To See The Help (Updated)”

  1. I read the book, and quite frankly that was as much as I could stand. I’m not even interested in whether it’s historically accurate or not, I’m just tired of seeing that mess. Kudos to Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer for finding work in Hollywood. That’s no small feat for African-American actors today; however, I’d like to see another dimension of us. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. It feels too much like they’re putting me in what they would like to call “my place”, and I’m not having it.

    1. You reminded me of the conversation I had with my brother last year. He said that he doesn’t frequent a lot of African American films because he is sick of the stereotypical roles and norms that Hollywood likes to promote. He wanted to know where are Sci Films, Fantasy etc. and see an exploration of the myriad genres that are represented in film for White mainstream audiences. I thought that was such a beautiful articulation.

      It can’t be stated enough the influence of books, film and other medium in our lives. In many cases, the define and determine the realm of possibility…for present and future generations. In my opinion, that’s why it matters so very much. Furthermore, that’s why the marginalization of other races and cultures, in a pluralistic society, has far reaching consequences that are morally reprehensible.

  2. This was a book I never heard of before the movie, thank goodness, but I’m sure it’s one I wouldn’t want to read. I knew I’d see the movie if it was ever on TV where I could see it and formulate an opinion for free, but I could never see paying for the privilege when I didn’t see any reason why. (And my local reviewer said it didn’t add anything to history or seem to have more than a strangely caucasian ‘feel good’ reason for existing.)

    I was interested in the seemingly valid reasons the two actresses who are nominated for awards gave on the Tavis Smiley show in response to his (and our?) upset about this film.

    I’m somewhat upset and unable to articulate my own feelings so far. I’m glad you could articulate yours about it.

    Last, unfortunately, I’ve been told quite a few times that I should just forget about my own child abuse. Extremists, some who are in elected positions, have been trying to tell victims of rape that they should forget about it even if they become pregnant. I think you meant to say that healthy informed people don’t expect us to forget about these things.

    I wish all people would get healthy enough to seek out the truth so we can stop hurting each other. That’s my pie-in-the-sky dream.

    1. Hi Re,

      I haven’t caught any of the commentary by the actresses and I have to say I am very curious about it. It agitates me to no end that they took these roles on knowing the message they would send. I understand that people have to eat but I really do think people must take responsibility for what they put out in the universe. Imagine where we would be now if the likes of Sidney Poitier & Harry Belafonte had not held out/demanded quality roles for Black actors. Right. All my love goes to those who have the courage to fight against oppression, in it’s myriad forms.

      And you’re absolutely right, I deleted the sentence in my edit that said a healthy well-adjusted person’s goal is to accept their reality, not edit their existence.

      That’s a good dream! #AGirlCanDream

  3. I couldn’t agree with you more, Coco. I did see it because a few people I know thought it merited an academy award. I really disliked the movie. It was a redemption story…in part, but it was also another look at how all white women are stupid, bitchy, catty, want nothing to do with raising their own children, and will do anything for appearance. I want a movie to stretch my mind. This just made me angry.

    1. Annie,

      It’s so funny you say that because I just saw a clip yesterday that made me think that exact same thing. So, the tally continues. Not only is is historically inaccurate, racially insensitive but it also perpetuates gender biases…You know, like all Housewives series. In my opinion, we really must demand more qualitative entertainment. It’s a sad fact that the stereotypes we see in media inform the opinions and behavior of many. “Just another thing that grinds my ass to the bone on a daily basis” – Whoopi Goldberg

  4. Someone gave me a “copy” of The Help several weeks ago. It has been sitting on my desk since then and every now and then I’ll pick it up and put it back down. I just don’t have any interest in seeing it. But that film wasn’t made for me it was made for middle-aged White women so they can feel better about a time that was their youth.

    1. Hi Valentina,

      You bring up an interesting point about the target audience and it explains a lot. I find it sad that people aren’t more discriminating about what they “ingest”. It matters, you know?!

      1. What is the ‘middle age’ age range. I am now 48, born in the 60’s. I would have been a baby if I had grown up in that area. I would remember little or nothing. From the clips I have seen the line that stands out the most to me is how after the maids raise these girls, they all turn out to be hateful like their mamas. Is that the memory people want to explore?

      2. I think we are pretty much in the middle range, I’ll be 44 this year. Interesting observation, why would we want to glorify such a memory/behavior? Clearly, we are in the minority but there seems a good portion of us that don’t cotton to such nonsense, at any age.

  5. This is one of the Oscar movies I have not seen and i am not sure I will. I remember when the book came out and everyone was reading it like crazy. But as a former critic I have seen other movies in this vein and I am not sure seeing this one, no matter how much I love the actors, will make a difference.

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