DreamWorks Studios' The Help presents itself to the public as a movie about the relationships between white women and their maids in the civil rights period. It’s being heavily promoted in African-American and Latino neighborhoods as a Black movie about the Black experience during the Civil Rights period.
That’s false advertising.
The Help primarily focuses on the story of a spoiled Southern White plantation princess who comes back home from college not knowing what she wants to do with her life and aspires to be a writer. So to get her career started she EXPLOITS the struggles of the maids to have a story for her first book. Most of the movie is actually about the White people in the South, not African-Americans or the African-American experience.
Below the surface of the story of The Help is a patronizing view of black women and the Civil Rights struggle. From the clips I saw and the tone of a 20/20 piece about the film the movie’s “good” White characters present themselves with a condescending tone towards their African-American maids. There’s a humorous subtext to the film like they see the racism and struggle for Civil rights like a joke and don’t take it seriously.
Oh, the White women love their maids. They love them like mammies, not as human beings. They feel sorry for them but won’t lift a finger to help them overcome the racism they endure from the institutionally racist system Whites benefitted from since the inception of this country’s constitution. The entire film is an attempt at revisionist history and cinematic propaganda for White Liberals who don’t want to confront their own racist attitudes about African-Americans.
I am so tired of Hollywood patronizing black people with these movies about the po’ miserable downtrodden black folks. The Help tries to put a dignified veneer on the Mammy stereotype, but I can see right through it. It’s another cinematic pity party like Precious, The Blind Side and Monster’s Ball presenting Black people as pathetic victims who can’t move forward in their lives without the assistance of a Great White Savior™.
Sorry, but that’s not what the Civil Rights struggle was about then. And it’s not what it’s about now. Brothers and sisters who participate in the Civil Rights movement want economic and social equality, the ability to compete with Whites and everyone else on a level playing field. Brothers and Sisters who fight for Civil Rights want to stand on their own two feet as men and women without the assistance of anyone. It is a fight for equality in the job market, the court system, the arts and in the representation of our image on stage and in screen.
And if I’m about participating in that struggle for economic and social equality I have to support products that empower brothers and sisters not tear them down.
And that’s why I won’t be buying a movie ticket to support the box-office of The Help. Instead, I’ll be helping the brothers and sisters who want to make quality black films by buying a DVD copy of Ava Duvernay’s I Will Follow, a critically acclaimed film written, directed, and produced by African-Americans, and distributed by African-Americans. I’m urging everyone else in the Black community to do the same.