I HATED The HELP: A Review

After much public debate, reading the book, and even posting about my anxiety about the film, my LS and I braved Atlanta’s Midtown Arts Cinema over the weekend to view The Help, starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. How a story about demeaning racist employment, Jim Crow’s human indecency, and ties of friendship in the midst of immense struggle can turn into a “feel-good” film, is beyond me. Several points throughout the film left me physically uncomfortable (to the point I considered leaving) and did not mimic the feel or outcome in the book.

US Book Cover

Acting by Octavia Spencer (Minnie), Bryce Dallas Howard (Hilly), Allison Chaney (Skeeter’s Mama) and Sissy Spacek (Miss Walters) was worthy of recognition – they worked the hell out of their screen time. Over-hyped and underwhelming were Emma Stone (SO much better in Easy A) and Viola Davis (too boring/middle-aged Cicely Tyson) Skeeter and Aibileene. Central character development was most compelling about the book, as it explored their individual circumstances attempting to correlate like bonds in the midst of oppressing times. An amateur screenplay however, sought laughs and jokes at times clearly inappropriate, scenes when the focus should have been on historical accuracy (or clarity?!) so audiences sans book or history lesson could gain an honest understanding of racial tension in the story’s setting. Instead the focus was on Skeeter’s social awkwardness and ostracization instead of the mistreatment of the Black maids, or race relations in Jackson, MS, (notorious for terrorist activities against Blacks).

Cicely Tyson reprised yet another slave/help/Great-Grandmother time role, shuffling across the screen with drinking gourd in-hand, (well, not really a drinking gourd). As the “beloved maid Constantine” Cicely did slave-shuffle, uttered (6) broken-English lines, and followed with her epic non-verbal acting when cast out of Skeeter’s household *rolls eyes*. Yule May Crookle, the intelligent maid jailed for stealing from Hilly Holbrook, was shown “vindicated” from jail as she reads excerpts from the published book to her cell mates (all Black women) and they cackle uncontrollably. From jail. *Fingers To Temple* Aibileen’s character was shown walking off into the sunset (still clad in maid uniform) post-firing lamenting about being a “writer in the family,” an ending completely different from the book. Where is the closure/evolution in that?!?!?!

One of the most crucial events in the book, the murder of Medgar Evans, was reduced to a punchline opportunity for Minny?!? Treelore’s murder, the unspoken motivation for Aibileen’s quiet strength, and misplaced monologue at the end was glazed over with a wide-eye stare from Skeeter. Minny’s abusive relationship dynamic with her husband was received with white woman pity, the promise her maid job would be available for life…if she wants it, and a freshly prepared dinner spread (careful NOT to burn the chicken). The scene ended with Minny’s Kool-Aid smile and seating to smash some chicken. Smdh. #WhatTheJoeJacksonHell

UK Book Cover

It was past frustrating that Black actors portrayed Jim Crow segregation/oppression with little character development; the word “nigger” was used less than 5 times in spite of the setting being Jackson, MS during the height of Jim Crow’s enforcement. By choosing to muffle the facts, or omit the countless extremist acts by the KKK, the book’s greater message was lost, and a shallow film vying for box office domination played on white guilt and privilege for majority white audiences. After the showing in Midtown (we were 2 of 8 Blacks counted in the sold-out theatre) whites began applauding. APPLAUDING?!?! Who would have applauded at the close of Schindler’s List?!?!

Last week, the racist murder of a man right outside of Jackson, MS was reported barely holding national attention from media or citizens. How ironic that a film based on three women overcoming racist oppression during Jim Crow was given the Disney treatment, careful not to offend white Americans. White guilt wouldn’t let a real story be told, and more fitting would be a documentary about Black maids from the perception of the generations of workers/families impacted. The Help was the worst depiction of a Black stereotypical, one-dimensional, media script, the Mammy, since Gone With The Wind. Yea, I said it. Perhaps because WE weren’t responsible for the story, its production nor marketing, the movie was such a racist FAIL, but nonetheless… total bullshyt. Save your money or risk rioting.

What did you think??

*Further examples Americans are uncomfortable honestly discussing race relations: Note the US Book Cover vs. the UK Book Cover. Don’t worry… I’ll wait.*




About Dawnavette

A Modern Renaissance Woman passionate about writing, women's issues, race relations, pop culture and music.

Posted on August 17, 2011, in Commentary, Relationships, WhatTheJoeJacksonHell?! and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Avier Whitfield

    WOW! I’ve heard “Good” reviews (nothing more) and “Horrible” reviews. Ill pass on watching this film and catch it when it comes to Redbox. Movies of this nature tend to make me HELLA angry and leave me with such a sad disposition . Enjoyed your blog…

  2. I was definitely disappointed in the film. It just didn’t carry the gravitas that the book did. I don’t think it was horrible, but definitely did not live up to the book.

  3. The wife is reading the book so I look forward to her summary upon reading it, but as far as the film, I left the theater feeling as if I had not gained closure at the end. Skeeter writes the book and then escapes to New York. Minny leaves her husband and that is viewed as an empowering moment (the destruction of a black family…and why did her husband beat on her?). And Abilene walks off to who knows where. It was too fluff and “safe”. Having stood in the same driveway that Medgar Evers was gunned down in, having spoken with James Meredith and he STILL breakdown bawling upon recalling the horror he experience in the Mississippi in the 1960s, this film simply fell short of painting a true picture of that era’s pain and struggle. To have the audience clap at the end just showed me that folks really think that some “happy ending” has been attained in our society while black men are literally still being ran over like roadkill in Mississippi. Tragic.

  4. after reading your blog i am definitely planning on reading the book first. movie never really do a great job anyway of depicting the book. was the author involved with the production? just curious… anyway great job on the blog. the headline was definitely an attention grabber!

  5. pat S. I have not read the book but I have seen the film. I like the film but agree with you that it sugar coated the truth. My generation know’s the truth of the matter and perhaps the fact that we have lived some of that truth has made us tired of all the hated, so we are not nearly as offended as we should be about the sugar coating. The shame of it is that our youth,( not you evidently) don’t know the truth and this film may give them the sweetened untruth of it all. I talk to my children and enlighten them on such issuses, but I know for a fact that there are those of us (blacks) who would ratther pretend that these injustices didn’t happen at least not to them or their ancestors. I have actually had blacks age 54 say that they have never been called nigger. I find that hard to believe and very unfortunate the they felt that that statement somehow made them better that most blacks. We have such a long way to go, but until we first adress our own concepts on race and what we deserve as a people we will not conquer the movies like the “HELP”

    The movie was safe, and with a black man in the white house and whites having issuse with that, the movie took the safe route. Otherwise it would have to not been made at this time. The fact that the story was told at all amazes me. It allows us to not forget even if it is not the whole truth. It is not “Roots”, which agnited much anger among both races when it was released, but it’s something that still rings the bell of the treatment of blacks in America. Our treatment hasn’t changed much since then but it’s more our fault now than then. it will take more young people taking pride in themselves and standing up for their rights. It will take less sagging of the pants, less drugging, less drinking, less cursing, less degrading of ourselves to grab the respect that we as a race deserve. When all of this takes hold then we will not be denied.

  6. I have to admit that my initial impression just from viewing the trailer was similar to your review so I decided to pass on viewing this one. I’ve heard some pretty good reviews, but I just can’t do it.

  7. The book was well written; however, the movie omitted key details that showed the true, in depth evil that whites did to blacks. It most definately would have made whites too uncomfortable. Some would have needed police escort to their cars. Angie

  8. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I just had a discussion with a close friend of mine who stated I was basically the only person she has encountered that had anything negative to say about this garbage. I left the theater disappointed and frustrated. There was no true historical value and as you previously mentioned, the scenes that resulted in laughter were not worthy of any. Minny’s character was too over the top and not realistic. Come on now! If a black maid in MS of all places really had made a chocolate bowel pie that her white employee had consumed that woman would not have lived to see the next day. And I too did not appreciate how Medgar Evers’ death was merely brushed under the rug. This movie to me was more about making white people feel better about themselves in regards to their racist past and less about the interactions of blacks and whites during this tumultuous time. Nothing was funny or feel good about this film at all to me. Kepp blogging girl, you hit the nail on the head:)

  9. I totally agree with the author of this article. after reading the book and hating it, i am not sure why i went to see the movie. perhaps i wanted it to be better, but it was not. it was worse and not only that, seeing it on the big screen as opposed to reading it in privacy, made me feel very uncomfortable. this was a very poorly written book that was turned into an uneven movie that failed to launch. if people was to read about the south perhaps a little harper lee or carson mccullers. better still read, some black authors on the subject such as zora neale hurston.

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