Anxiety About The HELP
After heavy promotion and media buzz, the highly anticipated film The Help opens in theatres nationwide August 10. Based on the National Bestseller (100 wks on top!) written by Kathryn Stockett (2009) the plot centers around a young white journalist (Skeeter) writing behind-the-scenes-stories about Southern life from the perspective of the Black “help” maids. Set in the racially charged early 1960’s, the film stars Oscar nominee Viola Davis, Emma Stone, and Octavia Spencer, and directed by first-timer Tate Taylor, there are several gripes of public concern prior to next week’s release.
One point of concern was that the book, screen play, and narrative character are all white, so the story is ultimately told from a white POV. Another point was that as protagonist, Skeeter’s character is to “save” the poor colored women in Mississippi. The major point of frustration is that in 2011 some folks have grown tired of seeing Black actresses cast in ignominious roles opposite white leading actors. While I don’t support the replication of stereotypical imaging, originated during chattel slavery, now altered to entertain majority yt audiences (the Mammy role/ or Tyler Perry’s Madea for example) I’m not quick to boycott. I overstand the hesitation, it is Hollywood attempting to tell our stories after all, but I’ll pay to see it for two reasons.
First, the maid/help culture did exist, particularly in the South, and the overwhelming majority were Black workers. Many grandmothers, great grandmothers, aunties and Big Mama’s supporting their families in these subservient roles and their stories are just as relevant as the Black scholars and Civil Rights leaders of the same age. Secondly, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer deserve my ticket support simply as talented Black actresses that researched their roles. In other words, if I can pay to see Bridesmaids, with an all-yt cast (sowwy Maya Rudolph) then I can support these two sistahs. I read the book (review to come) so viewing the film will be an opportunity to compare. Controversy was the primary reason I decided against making it a MMDD* selection but we can always discuss!! What are your thoughts? Will you view The Help?