The Help: Hey Guys, Did You Know Southerners in the 60s Were Racist?

Next up is The Help.  I've heard a lot of varying opinions about this movie, everything from the best movie of the year to an offensive white savior film.  It's up to me to get to the truth.

I'm sorry, OK?  I couldn't resist.

So there's really not too much technically wrong with the movie.  I am one of those people who truly believes that Emma Stone can do no wrong, and she carries the narrative of the film pretty well.  Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer deserve the praise they've been getting for the film.  Jessica Chastain is freaking adorable as the white trash girl who married up, but can't seem to break into Jackson's social scene.  I really think the best think this movie has going for it is its incredible ensemble of actors and constantly engaging characters.  Every role, no matter how small, ends up being memorable, which is pretty impressive given the size of the cast.

Am I a little uncomfortable with the depiction of racial issues?  Yes.  Ultimately I find it unfortunate that for these marginalized members of society to find a voice, it takes a privileged white woman to come along and show them the way.  And it is a little sad that in 2012, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are nominate for Oscars for playing what amounts to little more than mammy stereotypes.  I mean, they act the hell out of them, so there's some depth to the characters, but shouldn't we have more for our black actresses than wise, sassy, down-trodden maids?

This is a problem that all female characters face, the lack of good, substantial material that doesn't rely on cliches, but it's particularly evident for women of color.  The fact that these two talented ladies are being nominated for playing the same type of character as Hattie McDaniels did back in the 1930s...well, it's a little disheartening.

I mean, it's clear that the film had good intentions, but sort of in the same naive, simplistic way that Skeeter did.  To be fair, I did enjoy the film as treacly entertainment...I'm just not sure if it advances the conversation on race relations or makes it take a step backwards.

Random Musings:

  • This probably makes me a terrible person, but when the maid was teaching the little girl to say, "You is kind.  You is smart.  You is important." I couldn't help but think how annoyed I would be if someone was teaching my kid to say You is instead of You are.  Which, I know, completely misses the point, but it just sets my teeth on edge.  I am such a grammar Nazi.

  • Her name is Skeeter??

  • OK, so let me get this straight, white bitches.  It's OK for black maids to touch the food that you eat, but sitting on the same toilet is a no no, correct?  No offense, but that's insane troll logic.

  • OMG...I am experiencing the 1960s version of that awkward conversation where the mother casually tries to determine whether or not her daughter is a roaring lesbian...and it is glorious.

  • "Excuse me a moment, my daughter's upset my cancerous ulcer."  Excuse me, I believe the only guilt that's supposed to be floating around in this movie is white guilt.  Please adjust your quips accordingly.

  • I love that Bryce Dallas Howard is easily filling Hollywood's bitch niche.  Kind of ironic, considering her dad is Richie Cunningham, who couldn't be mean to people even if the plot depended on it.  Which it did...frequently.

  • Holy crap did I just see the littlest Seaver from Growing Pains??

I totally did, she was one of the Stepfords at the Bored Housewives Committee or whatever they were calling it!

  • I love the thirty second ad for Crisco they just throw in there.  Apparently Crisco can do anything.  Like, it cures cancer and helps you fold fitted sheets and stuff like that.  The only thing that makes it better is that it is immediately followed by the outrageously racist revelation that Minnie likes fried chicken.  Come on, if you're going to go that route, you might as well mention orange soda, watermelon, dominoes, and Tyler Perry.

  • It's so sad that those Southern debutante housewives don't care about their babies if they're not perfect looking.  People have to deal with that enough in life, they don't need to get it from their mothers as well.  Elizabeth's little baby girl breaks my heart, especially when she's so proud of herself for using the toilet and her mom freaks out and starts hitting her for it.

  • That one maid was talking about how her employer put it in her will that she had to work for her daughter.  Pretty sure you can't do that.  I didn't go to law school or anything like that, but...I don't think there's a legal precedent for that.

  • See, there's a reason you should never eat food prepared by someone you just royally pissed off and then fired.  I'm surprised more people don't see the wisdom in that.  I mean, sure, most people are just going to let bygones be bygones, but there's always the chance that your old maid is going to go rogue and take a shit in your pie.  Why take that chance?

  • I like that when Hilly is warning Skeeter about the liberal book she's reading, because there are "real" racists in this town.  It's interesting to see how in her mind, her actions are completely reasonable and not racist because she's not running around in a bedsheet, hanging black people from trees.

  • Oh my dear sweet Jesus there are few things that break my heart more than people who are cruel and disrespectful to frail old people who have worked dutifully all their lives.  The way that Constantine got fired and then died "of a broken heart"...I just can't...

  • Great casting.  You want a woman who can deliver, "Get your raggedy ass off my porch," you bring in Allison Janney.  100% of the time.  No questions asked.

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS


Post a Comment

Blog Directory