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« Our help | Main | Rick Perrys heroes have always been cowboys, although apparently the ones wearing the black hats »


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Kevin Wolf

All I know about it is from David Denby's mostly positive review in the newest NYer. It sounds pretty awful to me, projecting white fantasies of being enlightened about race even in the early 60s as things were heating up in that regard. (The protagonist is clued in, that is, while the rest of her class is not and we get to feel superior to them.) I'm in no hurry to see it.

Doug K

from the Denby review,
"In brief, Stockett memorialized her own book as she wrote it, composing a myth of literary creation, with a version of herself as heroine. The result is a little embarrassing: what Stockett did in safety in 2009 feels like a projection of what she would have liked to have done in a more heroic time."

The actors apparently are terrific, though.

So another kind of Avatar-like movie: a renegade representative of the oppressors parachutes in and saves the world; this time without the blue people, only black and white, a fantasy of the real world.
"we had fed the heart on fantasies,
the heart's grown brutal from the fare" Yeats.


All I know about it is that Viola Davis is lauded to the skies in Time for her performance in it. Meryl Streep is quoted: "Meryl Streep once said at an awards event, “The gigantically gifted Viola Davis—my God, somebody give her a movie!” "


I listened to an unabridged version of The Help / the reader was acceptable and i listened to the whole thing / i was not, however, born yesterday (actually 1933) and recall the struggle for civil rights as quite different than Ms Stockett who was apparently not born yet or was too young to know what was really going on / no more to say about it / i will not be seeing the film


I'll let the Association for Black Women Historians explain.

Key point (but the whole thing should be read): In the end, The Help is not a story about the millions of hardworking and dignified black women who labored in white homes to support their families and communities. Rather, it is the coming-of-age story of a white protagonist, who uses myths about the lives of black women to make sense of her own. The Association of Black Women Historians finds it unacceptable for either this book or this film to strip black women’s lives of historical accuracy for the sake of entertainment.

I also remember someone pointing out that, when it came to civil rights actions, it was the white activists who were "the help" - they weren't the ones driving the movement, not by a long shot.

chris the cop

Sounds to me that some people are upset about the movie not being whta they think it should be about. Nothng wrong with making a coming of age movie and maybe The Association of Black Women Historians is taking itself JUST a little bit too seriously.

Elizabeth has the roundup of everything negative. The major issues Onyx M outlines are 1) the protagonist is a spirited white lady who leads the black maids to tell their story, rather than having black people themselves take agency for their lives, as they actually did during the civil rights movement (and the general fact that movies about the time period *always* seem to have a white lead); 2) the black men are largely portrayed as lazy/drunk/abusive, while the white men are portrayed relatively positively, which ignores both the courage of southern black men during the '50s and '60s and the brutality of southern white men in the same period; 3) the black women in the story are portrayed as "mammies" and stereotypes.

chris the cop

I'd also suggest reading the Leonard Pitts (writer for the Miami Hearld) column re: this subject for a nice example of presenting both sides before coming to his own conclusion.

Bill Hicks

Melissa Lacewell Perry's remarks on the movie, on the Rachel Maddow show, would be a good start towards a critical view of "The Help."

Earl Bockenfeld

"Wendell Pierce finds out after movie that mom was 'The Help'

When “Treme” actor and native New Orleanian Wendell Pierce took his mother, Althea, to a movie recently, he didn’t realize “The Help” would stir up some painful memories for her or that he would learn something new about the former elementary school teacher who raised him in Pontchartrain Park.

‘The Help’ was well done but was a passive version of the terror of Jim Crow South. … She told me how she wasn’t allowed in the kitchen. She couldn’t eat during a 12-hour shift. … She couldn’t drink water from the kitchen but had to go to the faucet outdoors.

“Watching the film in Uptown New Orleans to the sniffles of elderly white people while my 80-year-old mother was seething, made clear distinction … the story was a sentimental primer of a palatable segregation history that is Jim Crow light.”

I happen to agree with the film critics who are saying that the movie portrays Jim Crow as way less bad than it actually was--an opinion backed by dozens of historians and others who have seen the film and studied the period. And they're also saying that it's merely sentimental, designed to make white viewers feel good about themselves, rather than making them confront the reality of recent US racial history. That included a "rein of terror" that included assaults and even murders of black people and not just the civil rights leaders that stood up to the Ku Klux Klan.

I guess they also don't agree with Michelle Bachmann that we don't need to feel bad about what happened to Black people because the "US Founding Fathers ended/fought slavery". They also don't agree with Halley Bourbor that racial relations "wasn't really that bad, where he lived". I don't even like the idea the movie might be giving some aid and comfort to those whitewashing of history efforts, and seems it might help the Kock Brother's efforts to bring back racial segration to the integrated schools in the South.

Utterly trivial point: I found a copy of the book where I was staying last weekend, and about midway through a character is humming "Love Me Do" in 1962, in America. Er, no -- no one in the country except for a few tin-eared, skeptical record executives ever heard the Beatles until '64.

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