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…