An Open Letter to the Fans of The Help

by Britni Danielle

This week, the film The Help opened to critical acclaim. The film, which is based on a novel by the same name, takes a look at the relationship (or lack there of) between affluent White families and their Black housekeepers. Set in the 1960s in Mississippi, many have had varying reactions to the film. Some have hailed it as a beautiful story of friendship and claiming your own voice, while others assert it exploits Black domestic workers and offers a skewed version of the truth.

Recently, Ida E. Jones, the National Director of the Association of Black Women Historians penned an open letter hoping to add a bit of historical context to The Help. Her letter is not only eye-opening, but adds even more depth to the issues tackled in the film.

Read Ida E. Jones’ open letter about The Help.

An Open Statement to the Fans of The Help:

On behalf of the Association of Black Women Historians (ABWH), this statement provides historical context to address widespread stereotyping presented in both the film and novel version of The Help.   The book has sold over three million copies, and heavy promotion of the movie will ensure its success at the box office. Despite efforts to market the book and the film as a progressive story of triumph over racial injustice, The Help distorts, ignores, and trivializes the experiences of black domestic workers. We are specifically concerned about the representations of black life and the lack of attention given to sexual harassment and civil rights activism. 

During the 1960s, the era covered in The Help, legal segregation and economic inequalities limited black women’s employment opportunities. Up to 90 per cent of working black women in the South labored as domestic servants in white homes. The Help’s representation of these women is a disappointing resurrection of Mammy—a mythical stereotype of black women who were compelled, either by slavery or segregation, to serve white families. Portrayed as asexual, loyal, and contented caretakers of whites, the caricature of Mammy allowed mainstream America to ignore the systemic racism that bound black women to back-breaking, low paying jobs where employers routinely exploited them. The popularity of this most recent iteration is troubling because it reveals a contemporary nostalgia for the days when a black woman could only hope to clean the White House rather than reside in it.

Both versions of The Help also misrepresent African American speech and culture. Set in the South, the appropriate regional accent gives way to a child-like, over-exaggerated “black” dialect. In the film, for example, the primary character, Aibileen, reassures a young white child that, “You is smat, you is kind, you is important.” In the book, black women refer to the Lord as the “Law,” an irreverent depiction of black vernacular. For centuries, black women and men have drawn strength from their community institutions. The black family, in particular provided support and the validation of personhood necessary to stand against adversity. We do not recognize the black community described in The Help where most of the black male characters are depicted as drunkards, abusive, or absent. Such distorted images are misleading and do not represent the historical realities of black masculinity and manhood.

Furthermore, African American domestic workers often suffered sexual harassment as well as physical and verbal abuse in the homes of white employers. For example, a recently discovered letter written by Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks indicates that she, like many black domestic workers, lived under the threat and sometimes reality of sexual assault. The film, on the other hand, makes light of black women’s fears and vulnerabilities turning them into moments of comic relief.

Similarly, the film is woefully silent on the rich and vibrant history of black Civil Rights activists in Mississippi. Granted, the assassination of Medgar Evers, the first Mississippi based field secretary of the NAACP, gets some attention. However, Evers’ assassination sends Jackson’s black community frantically scurrying into the streets in utter chaos and disorganized confusion—a far cry from the courage demonstrated by the black men and women who continued his fight. Portraying the most dangerous racists in 1960s Mississippi as a group of attractive, well dressed, society women, while ignoring the reign of terror perpetuated by the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens Council, limits racial injustice to individual acts of meanness.

We respect the stellar performances of the African American actresses in this film. Indeed, this statement is in no way a criticism of their talent. It is, however, an attempt to provide context for this popular rendition of black life in the Jim Crow South. 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.

 

Did you see ‘The Help’? What do you think of Dr. Jones’ open letter?

  • DGP

    I do not agree with this statement, at all. It assumes that audiences are ignorant to the reality of racial and sexual injustice in America. WE KNOW! WE KNOW! Our great grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers…they told us. Now, can we just go see the movie and support our sisters, both Black and White. A resurrection of “Mammy?” Please stop…and pass the popcorn.

  • whyaskquestions

    I thought this letter was eloquent and spot on. I wish people would stop making excuses for these types of films and works. Yes, okay, it is just a movie but please don’t deny the impact films have. And don’t deny that though this is fiction it still attempts to recreate history. Glossing over certain issues and distorting realities is disrespectful to the people who lived through the atrocities of this era and disrespectful to the people now that are forced to constantly tangle with a society that denies realities of the past and present.

  • S.

    Dear Jesus,

    Please forgive the fans of The Help, for they know not what they do…

  • http://twitter.com/crperry84 Clayton Perry

    The ABWH notes that “[up to 90 per cent of working black women in the South labored as domestic servants in white homes." If this is the case, then why not condemn the fact that it has taken decades to get a depiction of the black, Southern, female experience on-screen? I'm just at a loss of words. The attack seems to target the wrong people: Kathryn Stockett, Tate Taylor and the cast of "The Help."

    Also, why is the film being labeled a "feel-good" story? Even though Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter are friends, they know the present world will not accept their friendship. (This is why Aibileen and Minny tell Skeeter to leave Jackson, since she has no future in Jackson due to her book's publication.) During the end credits, Aibileen walks off into the sunset - after being fired from her first job, an emotional departure from her "baby" Mae, a threat of being reported to the police, no sure plans for the future and an empty home to lay her head.

    As far as the concerns cited:

    "...silent on the rich and vibrant history of black Civil Rights activists in Mississippi?" (I can't remember the last time Hollywood even made mention of Medgar Evers, let alone the White Citizens Council.)

    "...most of the black ma...le characters are depicted as drunkards, abusive, or absent?" (The men depicted on-screen were far from sloths! Aibileen's son was hard-working, yet killed at work. And finances willing, Yule Mae's two sons are college-bound.)

    "...[no] depictions of sexual harassment? “(Hilly started the Home Help Sanitation Initiative, because she believe diseased would be spread BY the help INTO the household.)

    “…a contemporary nostalgia for the days when a black woman could only hope to clean the White House rather than reside in it?” (Did we read the same book, or watch the same film? The maids hoped for better, their situation dictated otherwise. Yule Mae was CRUSHED when Hilly did not grant her “loan” request, which ultimately led to her arrest. Minny constantly gave her employers have a piece of her mind. Why else would she have had 19 jobs – and such difficulty keeping work?)

  • S.

    You know, sometimes I think some Black women will say anything to justify white people showing them a little bit of attention…

    No one is stopping you from watching this movie!

    If you want to see it then go right ahead but why protest against intelligent Black women who are trying to educated the ignorant masses of the REALITIES of Black maids of past in the face of the popularity of a FICTIONAL story that dangerously strips this critical era in Black history from all seriousness and minimizes it to being an vehicle for the white protagonists character growth???

  • DGP

    Okay, Brother. You saw the movie, too…

  • taylor

    Agree. Can’t even bring myself to understand wtf is going on with all my girlfriends’ reading the book and running to see the movie. Crickets…..

  • DGP

    Maybe to see a film that ignites discourse such as this…

  • Wposton723

    Brilliantly stated!

  • alyssa j.

    Are you serious? Since we have heard it from our grandmothers and great grandmothers, why the hell do we need to see it in a movie? I am so sick of black people justifying portrayals of them in the media. Can we get some positive representation please?!!

  • CJ

    This is just ridiculous. The movie is historical fiction, plain and simple. GET OVER IT. It is a sweet and enjoyable movie. How many other movies are out there that portray various groups of white people inaccurately and in a bad light? So STFU and stop perpetuating racism, which I’m convinced wouldn’t widely exist anymore if minorities would just stop bringing it up at the drop of a hat.

  • alyssa j.

    Peep the game. Tariq Nasheed breaks down the purpose of “The Help”

    http://macklessonsradio.com/index/episode-298-fake-white-liberalism-

  • RiddleMeThis

    I’m sorry, but this is such a stupid argument. Chilllllllllll out! Some black people will always make a big deal out of ANYTHING that has to do with race. smh.

  • http://twitter.com/SheThrives11 E. Wilson

    Interesting letter, but I don’t need permission or advice from the black thought police on which movies I should/ should not see. I’m going to go see “The Help” because I’m a fan of Viola Davis, and I heard she did great in the film.

  • feri

    *sigh*

    1) The author never claimed the movie was racist.

    2) Historical fiction is supposed to be believable. The events are supposed to represent a story that could have believably happened during the time period.

    3) The author never said the movie was not “sweet” or “enjoyable”, she was making it clear to audiences that it was not a realistic portrayal of what domestic workers went through in the 60′s but a “coming-of-age story of a white protagonist, who uses myths about the lives of black women to make sense of her own”. Which is what it is.

    4) The only one here that is perpetuating racism is you. Blaming minorities for the racism perpetrated by autonomous self thinking individuals because they “bring it up” is a little ridiculous. Thats right along lines blaming rape victims for wearing a short skirt disgusting. And telling people to “STFU” when they even bring the topic up is over the top. If this article makes you that angry maybe you should reevaluate your own attitudes.

  • alyssa j.

    It is 2011 and they are still making movies about black maids?

  • Dan

    I agree with you CJ. This crap is getting out of hand. Why can’t a movie just be a movie anymore?

  • http://twitter.com/crperry84 Clayton Perry

    Authors of historical fiction tend to suffer a backlash when the issue of “accuracy” comes into play. Although I disagree with critics who speak with of the movie negatively, there is much to be said about the lack of documented [non-fictional] accounts. According to the Association of Black Women Historians: during the ’60, “[u]p to 90 per cent of working black women in the South labored as domestic servants in white homes.” Considering the singular commonality of the black, Southern, female experience, there is plenty of room in the social narrative of “The Help” for both – historical truth alongside literary/film masterpiece.

  • Annoyed

    Exactly! thank u

  • Clnmike

    That’s the best response I have heard against this movie, seems everyone else is in love while telling everyone else to “get over it”.

  • whilome

    “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.”

    Indeed. So WRITE YOUR OWN DAMN STORIES!

    gah!

  • http://anorexicescapades.com BougieHippie

    People are delusional! I feel people just want to be upset to feel in support of a cause. Have a real purpose. I understand everyone have a critique but let it be sound. No matter how someone tell a story it still happened and you can’t knock someone for how they tell their story.

  • http://melindasperspective.blogspot.com Melinda

    I don’t think that some of the posters should ‘get over it’.It’s actually kind of refreshing to know that some of us aren’t going to take this non-sense lying down.It seems like it’s no big deal but please don’t underestimate the power of the media.If we can start with that,who knows what else we can do.

  • Sanity

    GET OVER IT, IT IS A MOVIE! If you don’t like it, write you own story about the “truth” as you see it, and let others tell their story in the manner in which they choose.

  • Unique_one

    I’m not interested in seeing this movie or reading this book.

  • http://Yahoo.com Shay

    If black people want to see movies that uplift them and show them in a positive light, etc. they should support their own film makers. People usually write stories and make movies from their own perspective. It doesn’t mean they are being disrespectful if they don’t speak from your perspective, that is for you to do.

  • http://http//ileiwosanorunmilamimotemple.com Fayomi Falade Aworeni Obafemi

    It is disappointing to read the sarcastic( meaning to tear apart:Latin) and belittling the opinions of those who lived through these times such as I did as a child of the 1960′s. It is unfortunate the film could not portray in truth everything that Africans born in America experienced in the climate of racial oppression, systemic and institutionalize discrimination. Living and working in this climate is a recipe for failure and yet, there are many who survived but not without scars that are both physically visual and psychologically traumatizing. Yes, there is a story of triumph but it is limited and does not give justice to the many women and men who worked in homes of Caucasians American and on jobs of that era with less respect given but with dignity held their heads high on won their place in the world in spite of those who did not ‘helped’ them along the way. It is my prayer that those who have no sense of History or know historical markers before they make such tearing and unfeeling remarks; remember those who bore the burden of this work as domestics is the reason you can walk in this world even today.

  • starr

    If you don’t want to see the movie, don’t. If you want to go a head.

    At this point, its like beating a dead horse. We get it, some people find it offensive, some don’t blah blah blah

  • http://Yahoo.com Shay

    If black people want to see a movie that uplifts them, they should support their own film makers. People usually write stories and make movies based on their own perception. It is not disrespectful or racist for them to not dictate things the way you see fit. It is up to you to tell your own story.

  • http://cupofjo-jo.blogspot.com bk chick

    Thank you for this link. He is speaking the truth! I don’t see how so many people don’t get it…

  • S.

    Thank you alyssa for this link! He makes some excellent points…

    particularly when he said…

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    “we have a lot of fake white liberalism out here and that has been the problem of black folks. Black folks go for that fake white liberalism every time and it’s GAME.”

    “Because alot of Black folks have such a desire to be accepted by Whites, when you come with that fake white liberalism, black folks eat it up because they feel like it’s a chance for them to be accepted”

    “White folks who constantly help black people like you feed the children or help the disenfranchised, poor inner city school kids, that’s cool, but you gotta look at white folks like that. Certain white folks, when they do that, they do that b/c it’s not challenging their status or their privilege”

    “But you move next door as a Black person, they’ll call the police on yo ass everyday”
    “You try to move next door to them or try to be to equal to them, they have a problem with it”

    “they’ll deal with people of color as long as they are in an inferior position to them”
    “they’ll deal with black folks on their terms, as long as they get to maintain their privilege”

    “See deep down, white folks like to believe that black folks liked working for them”

    “Alot of the HBCU’s were funded by fake white liberals. And if you look into the background of these founders, they were racist as hell. For example, Hampton”

    “Only Black American people would go to schools that were found by people who thought they were inferior”

    “That’s why they’re only slave documentaries”

    “Fake white liberals don’t have a problem with the slave documentaries because as long as black people were slaves, that’s fine b/c it’s not ruining their status. But when you talk about African kingdoms or when you talk about how the Moors where running Europe, then they get quite.They don’t want to talk about that”

    On ‘The Help’…

    “I want black folks to stop allowing people to put you into that slave-submissive bag. Because the thing is movies like The Help–I don’t give a damn how good the book is, i don’t give a damn how good the storyline is…

    Because it could be a damn good story. It could be a great story. I’m not saying that the direction of the movie isn’t great. I’m not saying the acting isn’t great; I’m just talking about the overall message you’re gonna get when you leave the movie.

    Especially as a person of color, movies like that will f*ck with you on a subconscious level because it makes you think it’s cool to be on a submissive inferior position to people. And your kids shouldn’t be watching that because when you look at that movie poster, that movie poster sends a message. You have homely looking Black folks and well-to-do looking white women. And this is why you get little kids and they do that doll test and you tell them to point out the doll that looks the best they point to the white one and you tell them to point out ugly one and they point to the Black one and they’re like 3 or 4 years old. So it’s the conditioning that’s being programed in their minds.This is why you should be cognizance to what’s going on and how they play this game. Because the thing is man, they’ve been playing/showing maid movies for damn near 80 years. It’s not an accident that maid movies with black women always get green-lite in Hollywood. You think that’s accident? And the thing is, again, the storyline can be whatever: it can be a maid with dignity, it can be a maid with courage, it can be a maid with strength, but at the end of the day it’s still a maid!”

    “And also, there’s another movie that Quentin Tarantino is doing about some slaves. So yall see the pattern about all the movies getting green-lite about black folks being maids and slaves, in 2011? Really? That’s not a coincidence, that’s trying to play on your subconscious mind. Movies like that, white supremacy will still be in tact”.

  • Rashied

    _Ethnic Notions_, Marlon Riggs’ (1987) outstanding documentation of an ethnographic study conducted at Univ. of CA (Berkeley)_, gave a very insightful analysis of the way that images are used in the propagation of stereotypical representations and what effect that has had and continues to have. From the time I first saw it, I’ve been identifying elements across a spectrum of media that I might otherwise have only seen relative to entertainment value.

    Nothing is ever “just a movie.” Mental models are being challenged; others are being created. When scientists learned to split the atom, they didn’t learn it for the purposes of bomb-making, but it wasn’t a far leap for other interests to make a connection. while not explosive, a broad propagation of imagery can be just as destructive.

    For anyone with a serious interest in how imagery has been and continues to be utilized to social ends, find Riggs’ film at http://newsreel.org/video/ETHNIC-NOTIONS . Clips may be viewed on Youtube, but it’s much better to have the DVD for yourself and your family to watch and discuss.

  • http://TheBlackBoxOffice.com TheBlackBoxOffice.com

    Dear Ida and everyone!

    Ava DuVernay’s “I Will Follow” is on DVD in a about a week…BUY IT!

    Moozlum is on DVD…BUY IT!

    “The misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl” Issa Rae just raised 36k and while that is good how about we send a stronger message of 500k for her web series?…SUPPORT IT!

    Seriously. let’s stop talking and let’s start supporting…there are some really exciting things happening out there with Black film…

    Find a black film and support it! It really IS that simple:)

  • http://TheBlackBoxOffice.com TheBlackBoxOffice.com

    THANK YOU!

    We MUST stop complaining and CREATE our own…

  • Intellblackman

    It would be interesting to see the ages of those in favor and those against this movie. I’d bet anything that those supporting the movie were not even born during this era. Trust me. There was nothing even remotely entertaining about this time period in America’s shameful history. To portray this in anything other than a dismal light would be a disservice to those who actually walked in their shoes. Only in America could a white character be the focus of a story about the destitution of blacks. Some white people love these types of films because they portray them in a favorable light. This alleviates white guilt they have over centuries of mistreatment of people of color. They get to portray themselves as compassionate, sensitive beings, when in reality nothing could be further from the truth. Why is it that they love living in the past? First, we have Driving Miss Daisy, and now this sh*t. To white folks, those were the good ole days. Somebody please tell me what were the good ole days in America for us. Was it the water hoses and police dogs, or the lynchings and church bombings? Maybe it was the degradation of segregation or some other nostalgic facet of Jim Crow. Somebody please tell me. I want to reminisce about the good ole days too.

    And I can’t stand the argument, “Well, at lease black actresses are working.” Should I use this same logic to defend those portraying pimps, drug dealers, prostitutes and crack heads? After all, there are plenty of working actors playing those roles too. Wake up and smell the coffee people. If this film was written by a black woman who actually “was” a maid during this era, it would never have made it past the screenplay.

  • Disgusted by what I’m seeing !

    Its quite sad how some of the commentors are dismissing the words of people who ACTUALLY lived through this and telling them to just get over it. Really? How sad that we would actually rather ignore the opinions and insites of the black women who lived through it and tell just dismiss the realities that they lived in rather than those of a white woman who just imagined up a world that most real black domestics never feel existed!

  • mary mary

    Actually there was a whole movie devoted to bringing the assassinators of Medgar Evers to justice. It’s called Ghosts of Mississippi and starred Whoopi Goldberg as Medgar Evers’ widow. Makes me wonder what else you have exaggerated in your comment…

  • mary mary

    I’m sorry, would people like Tyler Perry and Spike Lee be successful if not supported by the Black community? Yes, we need more African Americans in front of the camera and behind the scenes in Hollywood, but I don’t see how that should stop people from using critical thinking skills and offering opinions when viewing a film not made by African Americans. Especially when it concerns a story relating to a part of African-American history.

  • BeautyIAM

    LOL, I guess the best way to bring out the white liberals who lurk on this site is to call them out on ish like this.

  • Jess

    I mean gee, any Black woman with half a brain should have known “The Help” would be garbage just from the commercials and book alone.

    I mean do you really think these white women like seeing Black women like Michelle Obama in the White House? NADA. So they have to reminisce about “the good ol’ days.

    And sorry, Viola Davis’ mammy-ish acting is just shameful. In the day annd age of Obama, she’s acting more stereotypically than Hattie Mcdaniels. At least Hattie was living in a more racist, violent, and oppressive time and truly had little choice in jobs.

    Viola Davis and the other Black women of “The Help” are just losers, IMHO.

  • LurkerG

    This makes me weary, too.

    Don’t like Stockett’s fictional tale? WRITE A BETTER ONE.

    Don’t like Hollywood’s persistent portrayal of type-specfic black females? WRITE YOUR OWN SCRIPT. PRODUCE AND DISTRIBUTE YOUR OWN TALES.

    The publishing industry and movie industry are slow in changing, but there are ways to work outside the box and be successful.

  • Chrissy

    @CJ

    Oh Please. It is easy to tell someone get over something if you never have to experience it.

  • http://clutchmagonline.com/2011/08/an-open-letter-to-the-fans-of-the-help/comment-page-1/?replytocom=142756#respond Mimi

    AGREED!

    sn: Now I feel slightly bad for enjoying it. My racism detector is always on and ready for combat, but sometimes it just takes up too much energy.

  • Thereluctantsocialite

    Well… I kind of feel like they have a point.

    I mean… I actually enjoyed the book. I thought it was a touching story. I haven’t seen the movie yet, though. Is the movie really THAT much different than the book?

    In the book, the maids DO talk about fearing for their life and about the abuse that they sometimes had to suffer. It DOES talk about the civil rights movement (even though its not always front in center in the story). The maids weren’t all shown as “loyal to their white employers”. There was one in particular, that DID say that the family she worked for was very generous… but other than that, most of them didn’t care for their employers. They were only loyal (if thats what you want to call it) because they needed that job.

    The book did touch on the backgrounds of some of the different maids. For example, I remember one in particular who went away to college only to come back and have to work as a domestic because she couldn’t find any other work.

    My thing is… this book/movie is supposed to be a feel good story… and, I think its more of a story about the lives of women in general (black AND white) during that time…I don’t think it was intended to be a historically acurate depiction of the lives of the domestic help in Mississippi during the 60′s.

    So… I guess thats why I don’t understand what everyone is so upset about. I kind of feel like the people who are upset with the book/movie are trying to make it represent more than the writer had originally intended it to represent.

    Now I’m really curious to see the movie… maybe the book didn’t translate that well to film…

  • Thereluctantsocialite

    “The ABWH notes that “[up to 90 per cent of working black women in the South labored as domestic servants in white homes.” If this is the case, then why not condemn the fact that it has taken decades to get a depiction of the black, Southern, female experience on-screen? I’m just at a loss of words. The attack seems to target the wrong people: Kathryn Stockett, Tate Taylor and the cast of “The Help.”

    Yup… I think this is what people are really upset about.

    And I agree.. why is everyone attacking the actresses of “The Help”? Viola Davis is a dope actress… even if you don’t like the role that she’s playing… you can’t deny her talent.

  • Thereluctantsocialite

    “This is just ridiculous. The movie is historical fiction, plain and simple.”

    Yeah… I think this is the point that people seem to be missing…

    I kind of get the frustration about that movie… but I don’t get how its turning to anger. The story is supposed to be more about women in general than it is about the plight of the domestic help.

  • whilome

    THIS.

  • Thereluctantsocialite

    “People usually write stories and make movies based on their own perception.”

    Yup… and the author talks about the relationship that she had with her family’s maid at the end of the book. I think you hit the nail on the head. Its really about her perception of how things were. It doesn’t mean its inaccurate. Limited? Of course… but it was still based on her experiences…

  • Timcampi

    “On behalf of the Association of Black Women Historians (ABWH), this statement provides historical context to address widespread stereotyping presented in both the film and novel version of The Help.”

    Except you only gave examples from THE MOVIE. So I’m going to go ahead and assume you didn’t touch the book. *groan* Why would you bring up the novel if most of the criticism lies in the adaptation? This could have been so much stronger.

  • Natalie

    I have not seen The Help; I’m not sure if I’m going to. My grandmother worked as a domestic, and with the love and support of my grandfather, purchased a home, sent her daughter to college, and was able to provide financial support to her grandchildren when they needed it.

    There was nothing “mammyish” about her.

    I take pride in the fact that she maintained her dignity, intelligence and pride while supporting her family in one of the few professions open to her at the time, and I guess that’s why many of the comments on this page have pissed me off. To equate being a domestic, or playing one for that matter, as “mammying it up” is superficial and trite. I’m willing to bet my bottom dollar that many who are criticizing this film are big House Wives and and Basketball “Wives” fans, programming that is far more accessible, and in my opinion, far more damaging to who we as black women are and how we are represented.

    My grandmother walked through the back door, so I could walk through the front one, and while The Help may or may not honor her sacrifices or experiences, I am certainly not going to dishonor her or the countless other black women that provided for their families in one of the few ways they were allowed to by using derogatory terminology describe how they made a living, to do so, in my opinion, is more disrespectful than any representation Hollywood puts out there.

  • Simone

    We must be in church because you just preached to the choir. AMEN!!

  • Disgusted by what I’m seeing !

    What bothers me more than anything is the general lack of respect shown towards the people who actually lived this. The whole just shut up and get over it message. I think the fact that she tried to make this a feel good movie is part of what bothers the woman who wrote the letter too. Can we make a feel good story about the civil rights activists sprayed with hoses and attacked by dogs? The fact that we want to silence the elders who actually went through the civil rights movement is problematic for me. Would we silence someone who went through the holocaust who spoke out about a movie that they felt was historically inacturate. Of course not. That movie would probably tank after someone who who went thorugh the holocause called out the moviemakers. So why are we telling these women to just suck it up?

  • http://clutch kiara st. james

    i understand that there will be those people in the black community who will condemn this movie,but the reality is that many black women including my grandmother who was a housekeeper,in beaumont,texas have lived through this period of our history and the fact is they used dialect many not all, that is similar to tho one used in this film,but what people are missing more than anything is the dignity these women had holding down their families as well as raising their employers kids,i find these women more dignified than the women of today who are caught up in being video ho’s as well as the modern trash of well to do basketball wives that has done more harm to black women than the help.

  • http://clutch kiara st. james

    black women were dignified and worked hard to provide for their familes,they endured many indignities by the society of that time and yet still held their heads up high,unlike the current crop of black women who seem to aspire o be strippers,video ho’s and let’s not go in n the basketball wives bad girl crap out there that has done more to stereotype and brand black women as jezebel.

  • http://clutch kiara st. james

    basketballwives, the bad girls club have done more to set back black women than a movie on black women who endured untold dignities and showed how they maintained dignity when there were not many options for them.

  • Thereluctantsocialite.com

    “What bothers me more than anything is the general lack of respect shown towards the people who actually lived this. The whole just shut up and get over it message.”

    Well… I can understand that, and if thats what people are saying then yeah… that’s pretty rude. Athough I feel like the “get over it” message is directed more towards people who have a problem with black women wanting to go see the movie and not towards the people who actually worked as domestic help during that time.

    “I think the fact that she tried to make this a feel good movie is part of what bothers the woman who wrote the letter too. Can we make a feel good story about the civil rights activists sprayed with hoses and attacked by dogs?”

    The purpose of the book was not specifically to talk about the civil rights movement. The purpose of the book was to highlight the complicated relationship that existed between the maids and the white families that they worked for, in particular, the fact that the domestics raised white children … only to perhaps have to turn around work for them later on in life, therefore causing this whole love/hate dynamic to exist. I think original intent of the book is getting lost in the shuffle because of the period of time that it takes place in.

    In the back of the book, the author talks about her family’s maid and the experiences that she had with her growing up… thats really what caused her to write the book.

  • http://twitter.com/Diva_Magnifique La Diva Negra, J

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/18/books/18help.html

    The book, while purported to be fictional, is based from interviews and personal experiences with the maids that worked for the writer’s family.

    But yeah, I totally agree with you. We also need to support those people who do write excellent independent films that are minorities. Madea may be funny, but she isn’t doing it for me in terms of progression.

  • http://twitter.com/Diva_Magnifique La Diva Negra, J

    So what about the issues of classism at hand? A movie based from a book written by a wealthy woman who exploited the personal tales of real life workers that worked within her and other relatives’ homes to profit without giving any of them, or living relatives, a dime.

    Exploitation at its finest. I hope Miss Cooper wins her suit.

  • Lola289

    I dont think anyone is talking negatively about those that worked as domestics. Moreso just the movie &book… I dont support either. Especially after seeing the 20/20 special for the movie. Call me crazy, but I just dont support plots like these.
    Its truly sad AAs cant understand the crap that their fed through the media.
    Wake Up…

  • Alexandra

    As much as I have no interest in the book or the film, I think this has gone to far. If you don’t want to see the movie or read the book, don’t! But what’s with all the whining? Come on, the movie came out already and it made $5m on opening day, might even top the weekend. What are you going to do about? Even if all Black women didn’t go see this movie, other people will? This is a Hollywood movie, so it’s never going to show the true harshness of history during that time. Movies are for entertainment, no matter what the story is.

    All the energy used in hating the book and movie, could be used to promote new ideas and stories told from ‘Black’ writers.

    Shay and TheBlackBoxOffice.com comments were right on.

  • Penny

    Not to be dismissive of people’s opinions…people certainly have the right to have feelings about the book and the movie. However, so much of the reactions to this movie and to the book seemed based on a fear that people (of all races) are going to think that the story is an accurate portrayal of how it was for black people during that time. It’s like, “OMG…I have to say something to the public before this gets out of hand…before people think that this white woman is telling it like it is!!!”

    It feels a little insulting (to me, at least). I am capable of reading a book, seeing a movie and walking away from both with my own opinion and I am objective enough to realize that this story was written from a perspective that is much different than my own. Did I love the book and think it was perfect? No. I found it entertaining and it kept my attention. (I hated the dialect that she chose for Abileen, but I liked the character.) Am I going to be swayed into believing that because the film shows black and white women laugh or crack a smile in one another’s presence, that things really weren’t that bad during that time? Uh, no. That would be like watching Forrest Gump and leaving the theater thinking, “I never knew a dim witted white man had a hand in so many historic events.”

  • Penny

    I mean, seriously…these people act as if The Help was written as a civil rights era textbook and Hollywood decided to make it into an educational video. The fact that ABWH would have such a strong reaction to a movie and not the same strong reaction to plenty of other serious things that negatively affect black women says a LOT.

  • http://thespelmandropout.wordpress.com/ The Spelman Dropout

    Okay, so today my mother and I went to see The Help and I LOVED it. Even though the film doesn’t not entirely focus on the Civil Rights Movement and maids across the nation; the film does give a glimpse on what some women experienced inside and out of the homes of their white employers. For those who say that they won’t see the movie because it doesn’t give 100% acute portrayal of maid and the Civil Rights movement I just say

    HELLO,

    Are you willing to sit down and see that portrayal because the movie as is is already 2 hours long. Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spenser, and Bryce Dallas Howard all performed their characters with such an amazing effort and to not see the movie because of that is wrong. The story plot is wonderful because their are issues that aren’t even hinted at in the trailer so you must see the film to get the whole story before judging it.

    I just wonder what people are going to start saying about Red Tails.

  • Curious

    here is my question for those that care…in regards to THE HELP…why can’t a white woman share her story about having a black maid and nanny? isn’t her story relevant, too? why does she have to speak for all of us? why can’t she just tell HER story the way SHE remembers it?

  • S.

    This is America, a white woman’s story is *always* relevant…

    isn’t that why we are sitting here talking about it, right?

    Even better that this white woman’s story involves Black women! What did we do to deserve such the honor!?!?!

    AND she gives the black female characters some dignity? WOW. We are the women of the night, we must be special

  • Gigi Young

    You’re right…but how many people–of any ethnicity–knows anything about the Civil Rights Era beyond Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and the “I Have a Dream” speech? I ended up taking a regular US history course and an AA history course in college and in the former, I was the only black student out of a class of forty-five. Further along in my studies, anything relating to ethnic studies and literature was filled with students of color, whereas the “normal” courses hovered around 90% white. So if white students are going through college viewing history, literature, etc through a white lens, why wouldn’t they take The Help–written by a white woman–at face value?

    This is why the ABWH needed to speak out–and not just to white audiences, but to black audiences as well, because unlike back in the day, our history is not being passed down in its full, rich, amazing, and multi-faceted manner.

  • Simone

    I saw the movie and we must remember, it is from a white perspective. Yes, the movie “glossed” over the civil right issue. It was a typical white hollywood “black” movie—are we really surprised?? More black writers and filmmakers are needed now more than ever. Bill Duke has a movie coming out, “Dark”; it is about the colorism within the black community regarding women and girls….it’s heartbreaking, but it needs to be discussed.

  • Penny

    Gigi, I guess it never hurts that they speak out. But then, I must be a bit naive in hoping that if people really want to learn about history, they will read books on the subject. They will watch documentaries in order to get facts, not movies based on fiction novels. If I want to learn about the American Civil War, I’m not going to write a paper on what I saw in Gone With the Wind. I guess I expect most people to have common sense, so they don’t need an organization to come out and warn them about seeing a certain movie or reading a certain book. I know their heart is in the right place, but I just don’t think that it was necessary.

  • Why So Evil

    @ S. – I just want to thank you for expressing your critically thought out thoughts. Some blacks still operate and think based the false world that whites have created. This movie does nothing more than reminds whites of the good old days. Of all of the empowering movies that Hollywood could have made that empowered and uplifted people with color, they chose to produce and finance this one.

    Why aren’t there movies that study why whites seem to be inherently wicked and evil in nature which allows them to do such demonic crimes against humanity (ie: Jim Crow, slavery, corporate greed, white oppression etc). For blacks to come to the defense of whites with their demonic behavior is just pathetic. There are tons of scripts that are waiting to be produced that tell a far more up lifting story of people with color, but they aren’t being produced. Demand more family.

  • http://cupofjo-jo.blogspot.com bk chick

    What people do not realize is that the dissenting opinions are not necessarily about the book, the writing, the author or any of those details in themselves, I think the issue is in the bigger picture. For me, I read the book the help, and if I kept my interest at a superficial level, then yes the book was entertaining, but then I thought a little deeper. First off, I felt that this book was being falsely advertised because it was NOT about maids it was about a white women who came of age as she realized her own humanity through the plight of black women around her. She was the focal point. Through this white character, and only through this white character, could any other character in the novel be meaningful. Then Hollywood picks this movie up and suddenly there is Oscar buzz and a great actress such as Viola Davis is now only relevant when she plays a maid.

    Wake up people! Hollywood has only co-signed a black movie when it furthers the agenda of subjugating black people. In the minds of the people who control Hollywood, black people can only be relevant in stereotypical roles. Halle Berry is constantly playing the “Jezebel” or perhaps the “Tragic Mullato” stereotype and of course out of all the movies she has made she wins an Oscar for her role in Monster’s Ball. Denzel wins an oscar for his role as a thug in Training Day, despite all the movies he has made. Precious was sooooo oscar worthy cuz, what could get more stereotypical than that? Will smith is seen as an anomaly in Hollywood, but note that he is seen as great because most of the movies he is in there are virtually no black characters other than himself. However, he also usually fulfills the stereotype of the defiant loud black male (there is a name for this, but it eludes me at the moment). Movies such as the blind side are only deemed oscar worthy because when the plot has anything to do with black people it has to framed around race or a white person becoming a better person because they helped out a lowly black person, cuz black people are always lowly, right?

    All in all Hollywood is about maintaining the status-quo, and this is not just confined to the black community. IF we do not stand up against this type of propaganda, then we will continue to allow this to happen. However, if we do not even SEE the problem, how can we fight against it? Def, a microcosm of the suffering our community is enduring now….

  • sunshyne84

    exactly, it’s a movie….

    I had no intentions of seeing it initially because I just wasn’t interested, but I saw tonight and it wasn’t half bad. Some people just can’t be pleased. The majority of the white people were not given favorable characters and it wasn’t another white woman saves a poor black person film. How can you be upset that one of the characters actually had compassion for the help? Yall act like that’s not possible and that’s just as bad as how others categorize us. Everyone is not the same and everybody doesn’t have the same story to tell.

  • Lola

    I am a white woman who is reading all of this because I was wondering if I wanted to watch this movie. I saw a post of this article on my friend’s Facebook page & decided to check it out. I probably won’t see it now unless I decide to watch it when it is no longer on the big screen just to finally see what everyone here is talking about. But I am offended that you think you have the right to say that white women don’t want to see Michelle Obama in the White House. Thanks for your racism dear. I LIKE the Obamas, BOTH of them. I voted for Barack Obama and I am STILL proud of my vote even with some of the current rhetoric. I have many white friends (and that includes MALES also) who voted for Obama. Here’s the thing, I’m not going to take your racist comment and allow that to taint my thoughts towards anyone else. But it would seem that you cannot allow others the same courtesy. Thanks.

  • S.

    They don’t hear you blkchick!

    I tried to tell them. These black actresses are just being used!

    This movie was just a vehicle for Emma Stone to receive an Oscar nomination.
    Viola Davis getting a nom is a bonus b/c it’s like throwing Black actresses a bone! The Oscars LOVE these type of movies that portray Black women as subservient and downtrodden and white women as deeply complicated, imperfect beauty queens.

    As far as why everyone loves this book, if it’s not for the writing (which i heard wasn’t on-par with the acclaim the story has received) and if it’s not for it’s accuracy (the author didn’t even have enough sense to get Medgar Evers’ cause of death correct), then what is it for?

    It’s because America is OBSESSED with this era of Black people being in obsequious positions to White people.

    America MISSES this era of Black people being submissive to White people!

    What makes you think that the SAME group of people that would usually dodge any movie with more than 2 Black starring faces, suddenly be interested in the stories of Black folk?

    They don’t care about you!

    They are only interested in the journey of the White female character’s journey… is that not why Emma Stone is starring in a movie OVER seasoned actress Viola Davis??? What the hell???

  • http://cupofjo-jo.blogspot.com bk chick

    @ s….yes! I agree with you 100% I think the the biggest problem we are discussing is one of perspective. The people who don’t understand what we are saying need to take off their microscopic lenses and take a look at the BIG picture. Like you said, Hollywood is NOT trying to really elevate black people to a different level. They will continue to only see and understand black people ONLY in a stereotypical light because it suits them. Sad part is, we are willing to buy into it.

  • S.

    Bkchick, Exactly!

    It’s sad that this movie/book has so many Black women focused on how ‘black maids are portrayed with dignity *this time*’…. so sad

    As if roles for Black women will get better now because Viola Davis got to play a maid with some humanity to an up and coming white actress *sigh*

    Some of them just don’t want to realize that there is a *system* in place that functions off of what White people want to see. That’s the number one reason this movie was made! Some white woman fantasized that black maids cared so much about their white employers, that they loved the white children over their own, they loved the lives of white women and they loved talking about their lives… disgustingly offensive how black women are used in this fairytale about the importance of white women… disgusting

  • Penny

    And that is why black people who are passionate enough about film making need to find ways to make independent films that are from black people’s perspectives. Independent films don’t have the huge budgets, but it is still possible to make a great movie with limited funds. Then, black people need to support those independent films. Once the rest of the world catches on to that (just like they always catch on to anything that black people seem to find “cool” and/or authentically black), then more opportunities for bigger budgets will come. And ideally, those film makers who were initially passionate about making films from black people’s perspectives will stay on that path and maintain as much creative control as possible. (In other words, hopefully, the authentic tone won’t get watered down once more money starts pouring in.)

  • S.

    Penny,

    You aren’t preaching anything that hasn’t been done already! You act as if Black filmmakers are sitting on their ass… have you ever been to a Black Film Festival? Probably not.

    Further more, no matter how many movies Black people make from their own perspective it doesn’t have ANYTHING TO DO with movies being made with Black storylines from a White perspective!

    That is not within out control and that’s the problem! It really doesn’t help that there are naive Black women who support this

  • http://cupofjo-jo.blogspot.com bk chick

    @ penny..I agree with you but like S. is saying, as long as movies like The Help are out there and our being supported by Black women, it doesn’t matter how many independent black films are out, the problem will still exist. The fact that so many black people are willing to support or don’t see anything wrong with “The Help” is a problem within itself. The stereotype will continue to perpetuate and Hollywood would not be forced to pick movies and hire black actors/actresses to star in movies that highlight black life in a non-stereotypical way. This also leads to a lack of interest in investing in or creating the independent films that you speak of because people don’t see anything wrong with what Hollywood produces and are satisfied with the current status-quo.

  • Sunshine

    “AND she gives the black female characters some dignity? WOW. We are the women of the night, we must be special”

    Actually, she doesn’t give them any dignity at all. The author is audacious enough to have a black character compare her skin color to a cockroach. Funny, when I read all the supportive comments from the book and movie’s many fans they ALWAYS neglect to mention that scene. I’m sure it’s not in the movie, though. That would’ve unveiled Ms. Stockett’s true agenda to subjugate black women and portray us as Mammies that are “asexual, loyal, and contented caretakers of whites”. Sure it’s her perspective, no argument there. My question is why would ANY black woman in her right mind support that perspective? SMDH at all the ignorance I’ve read in this comment section. We have definitely failed our youth in passing down our black history and experiences. If you want to educate yourself on the book’s message, take the time to visit this website-

    http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/

  • http://www.blackpositivenews.com Visions Research

    Just the name ‘The Help’ is condescending.

  • Bunny

    If it were only that simple…

    Systematic racism prevents many meaningful black stories from being told. And keeps many black people out of movies and television, except in roles like this.

    There are many black indie operations going, but they will almost certainly never get the exposure “movies” like the Help have

  • S.

    :Why So Evil

    Thank you!

    That’s why I come to this website. There have been times that I’ve had my mind made up on certain issues and then I read someone else’s comments and it’s like ‘damn, I didn’t even think about it that way”

    As far as your comment, I don’t believe that whites are “inherently wicked and evil”… I just believe that White American culture is a culture that invokes fear, insecurity and rewards greed and self-centeredness. That’s why, the more blacks assimilate into this culture, the more self-centered, egotistical and greedy we become… but that’s another topic for another day

    As far as The Help and ‘fake white liberalism’

    I appreciate the comments that some of you ladies have left on sites like this because they help me to have greater understanding of the social/racial climate in which we live in.

    For example, someone mentioned that this movie was ‘just another movie like Mississippi Burning and A Time To Kill’ which dealt with the Civil Rights Era but have white protagonists like ‘The Help’. And being fairly young, (mid-twenties) and someone who has always seen those movies—I didn’t connect them to white pathological movie themes until someone pointed it out to me.

    See, in these type of movies they show that the majority of whites were racists (and they were) but notice these are ‘racist’ characters are never the ‘main’ character and neither the black characters. The protagonists of these stories is *always* the non-racist white hero or heroine. And we, the audience, are forced to identify with the non-racist WHITE character during these times, not the victims and people living the harshest American experience during the Civil Rights Era. The one’s who have a greatest story to tell—African Americans.

    That’s dangerous! And people can say that it’s “just a movie” all they want (which is treacherously ignorant) but they can’t tell me that the American public doesn’t have a tendency to identify with white women more so than black women (or any other woman of color for the matter) in real life.

    Who is more likely to end up on television after going missing?
    Who is more likely to, initially, get sympathy in an argument caught on tape?
    Who is more likely to be imagined in as a character in a book?

    White women.

    And that’s because we are already conditioned (from movies, televisions, books, etc,.) to envision and sympathize with *their* experiences

    That’s why movies like this are dangerous for Black women

  • http://centrylink.com Louise Vaughn

    I have not read the book, nor will I purchase or see the movie. The rhetoric continues where black women are still characterized in a negative way. And I agree with the author of this article as to her point -of -view regarding.

  • Miss Higgi

    While I respect the author and premise of this article and many of the posts. I am not feeling the hype. NO movie can cover all issues on any one topic. That is not realistic… The story was going to be told no matter. While flawed in some respects, I am respectful that efforts were made to assure that this story, about women (Black & White) and their relationships, was told in such a way that one could HEAR the message.

    I do not feel that the plight and pain of the Black Maid was compromised or diluted. I think the comedic relief was skillfully used to address a serious issue and NOT lose the American audience who prefers NOT to address unpleasantries such as the atrocities of the past, particularly regarding Black folks in America (remember “Beloved”). In light of the reactions we are seeing, the movie struck a nerve in both communities. That is good. Open the dialogue and let the talks begin… Candid Talks! That is how we grow…

    Just because there was no mention of sexual harassment or rape does not mean that it did not exist. We KNOW it existed. Perhaps however, that is another story to be told at another time. There was no emphasis on men, Black or White, because it was not a story about men but a story about WOMEN and their relationships during a certain period, in a certain situation… Her misuse of Black southern vernacular just further suggests that she is likely telling the story as told to her by the Black maids. So shoot her for not distorting their words… Granted, if Abilene wrote so well and enjoyed reading as much as she is depicted (in the book she writes her prayers, her accounts for the book and the main character borrows books from the all-white public library for her to read), it is NOT likely that she said, You “is” kind, You “is” smart, You “is” beautiful… So clearly someone exercised artistic privilege…

    Again, the atrocities of the 60′s and other backdrops for civil rights battles cannot be reflected in their entirety in any one medium. Considering this situation, I think the author, the producer and the actresses did just fine… Not one of these women was depicted as a happy-go-lucky Mammy devoid of hurt or feelings. Instead they were depicted as upstanding women with pride and dignity in themselves, their community and their craft. One could even argue that in some ways, the Black maid was afforded at least a minor victory, some vindication… I look forward to watching again with an even more critical eye, but on first take, I am not offended…

    Some folks complaining are the same folks who are silent when a positive movie about Black people, like the “Great Debaters” or “Akeelah and the Bees”, is made and it is NOT supported by our community. Some are the same people who will flock to see a drug dealer or gangsta’ wreak havoc on our community or a Black woman portrayed as vamp or a hoochie’ mama and who will argue to the end that such depictions are keepin’ it real, telling the Black experience as it really is… So I am not hearing the criticism from people who likely did not see this movie, but based on perceptions, personal ideology or some visceral reaction to the story being told by someone other than a Black writer, feel justified on those things alone to tell the rest of us how to react or that we should not see the movie. Just not feeling it. There are plenty of instances when such a reaction is appropriate but this does not seem one. When we support us and our own, then we can talk trash when we feel others have exploited us and/or our truth.

    On another note, I hope that the writer paid the maids who told their stories. She has been highly rewarded for work that she could not have completed or, if the book is correct, imagined without the aid of the Black maids, one of whom shared the artistic dream of her deceased son who planned to write a book about what it was like to work for Whites in the south during the 60′s. In light, however that one of the Maids is suing her for a paltry $75K, I doubt that the author has adequately compensated any of the Maids for their bravery as was suggested in the movie… It is also worth noting that in telling this truth, the author got some White folks pretty angry along the way. Why? Because they were not glorified and depicted in some flowery or vindicating way? Because sometimes the truth hurts? I’m Just Supposin’…

    So go see the movie and then root for some fine acting and acknowledgment of a job well done at the Oscars! I’m Just Sayin’…

  • Eloise Brown

    I know everything written in your article is politically correct and to some degree historically correct. However, you missed a point. The Help showed the behind the scenes retaliation of the workers who followed in the footsteps of their enslaved ancestors
    who wrecked havoc on those who thought they had total control of them.

    “The Help” represents black women housekeepers far beyond Mississippi.

    If you had been one of “the helpers” or personally knew someone who was one, I think you would have more than an academic approach (objection to…)
    the book and the movie. It was not (the book) about the whole modern civil rights movement. It just showed the power of women! I have not seen the movie yet since
    I am not presently in America.

    I spent my undergraduate and graduate school years studying black history and I grew up in the American south in a states east of Miss.

  • Jess

    @LOLA – BLAH BLAH BLAHHH..Yadda yadda yadda. NEXT!

  • Jess

    gawd, than you Sunshine – finally somebody with some sense!

  • Jess

    well thank god for Tareeq Nashis..I knew their had to be SOME Black men who get it! Too bad I can’t say the same for Black women.

    “The Help” = typical white liberal drivel trash.

  • Jess

    Nobody on here is keeping you from seeing The Help. If you want to ingest garbage, that’s your choice. But we have the right to point out racist drivel when we see it.

  • Kaybee

    I don’t disagree with your frustrations but don’t I don’t understand why the Help is the target. The author was entitled to write the book from her perspective, to focus on the history that she felt was important and to tell her truth which will be that of a white woman (for obvious reasons). She doesn’t have to highlight civil rights triumphs in the book, it’s not a history book.

    The open letter was filled with exaggerations. The vernacular was not offensive. Heck, we say much much worse today and have heated debates to defend our ridiculous claim to some of the most historically offensive words. WE do this, not them.

    The men in the book were not all drunk and absent. One man was an abusive drunk. The others were only shown working, preaching and offering to walk an older woman home. Hardly offensive. And besides men weren’t the focus.

    As for the women who chose to take the parts, bravo to them. Viola Davis was relevant before the Help. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Doubt and won a Tony for her work in Fences. And she was phenomenal in the Help.

    If the author hadn’t inserted comedy I couldn’t have watched the film because in my opinion she did focus on the injustice and inhumane treatment. Not all of it certainly because it’s a book. 300 pages.

  • Stephen

    Thanks Miss Higgi.
    It may be that someone may think that my opinion is not important; a redbone brother born in 1949, but what you have expressed is exactly how my soul responds to a genuine attempt to honor in poetic cinema the hard won civility and humanity that triumphed over the primitive and selfish. The only thing that happened here is that a few decent people were willing to tackle Hollywood,the Hollywood Haters, and the literati to get a message through to some non-readers. The message that a few of those little white girls (and boys I suspect) that black women raised and tried to humanize, GOT IT! Just a few. Just like only a few of the people who read poems, and hear music, and see all forms of beauty in the midst of indigence, injustice, and ingratitude take the best of it and leave the rest of it. We can certainly improve on other’s attempts, but we have to do more than simply point out their flaws.

  • Pingback: "The Help" In Review | AskDrO.com

  • Angie

    Cheers to Miss Higgi and Eloise Brown. Well said.

  • Alanco

    My grandmother and all of her sisters worked as domestics as well. I am a member of the 2nd generation of college-educated descendants to benefit from their hard work. I saw the movie, and I in no way disrespected my grandmother’s memory by supporting it.

    I thought it was a great movie. The black characters were not “mammy-ish.” They were realistic for the time period. You have characters who, like my grandmother, were working to send their children to college. Believe it or not, not all white employers were mean to their maids and some black maids who raised white children actually cared about those children.

    This movie is not supposed to be “Malcolm X.” It is a story of what went on is the lives of regular working people during the civil rights movement. I think that the movie did a good job of showing both sides of the story. It was just as much a coming of age story for Stone’s character as it was for Davis’s character. Just as white women were learning that they didn’t have to go to college simply to find a husband, get married, and have babies like their mothers; black women were learning that they didn’t have to grow up to be maids like their mothers. I am a product of this generation of black women. My grandmother didn’t March on Washington, but what she did do (work hard to put my dad through college) was just as important to my life today as those who did. Not every black person who lived during this era did overt things to protest the way they were treated. This movie does not disrespect black women in any way. I think it tells a much needed story.

  • DH

    To add insult to injury, the lawsuit filed by the real life Abilene against the author of “The Help” for the use of her likeness in the movie has been thrown out. She was only asking for $75,000. Any writer with a hint of sense knows that you always change names.
    Abilene is a rare and unique name, and she was the housekeeper for the filmmaker’s family, who was a childhood friend of the author- who admits to meeting the real life Abilene once or twice during childhood. The author will make millions from both the film and the book, yet she can’t fathom paying $75,000 for the unlawful use of someone’s image.

  • …..

    The darker picture is always the correct one. When you read the history of the world you are reading a saga of bloodshed and greed and folly the import of which is impossible to ignore. And yet we imagine that the future will somehow be different.

  • Sandra

    I just saw the movie and I quite enjoyed it. I wasn’t looking at it from the perspective of one who wishes to preserve black history. Although I appreciate the point of view that announces “we will never forget”, I believe that to pass on the pain from the past is what keeps people angry. The anger that I felt stemmed from seeing people treating other people as “less than” or non-human. It was unacceptable then – it is unacceptable now, and yet it still happens around the world and even here in our so-called developed countries. I am a white Canadian woman – I can’t claim to understand the anger that black people carry due to past exploitation or prejudices that still exist. Aboriginal people continue to be scarred by the wrongs inflicted on them and suffer similar prejudices in modern day society. Women continue to be raped, murdered, and enslaved world-wide, and I don’t have to watch a movie about it to know that it’s happening. When I watch a movie on a Sunday night, I want to feel good. I want to be reminded that we can all choose the kind of person we want to be, regardless of how other people treat us. When I want to feel bad, or be reminded of the evil that exists in some hearts – I only have to pick up a newspaper. The book was written as a novel – not as a history book, and I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about liking it.

  • Randy

    I watched the movie and loved it. Having experienced first hand the segregational divide that existed in the deep south during the 60′s, it is difficult for me to understand how the author of this article would allow focus on the minor inaccuracies in the movie reather than acknoledging that the storyline contained the most accurate depiction of that era in Southern history. When sitting through the movie, I felt emotions with power that I have seldom felt since that time in American history.

    It seems like academics always want to microanalyze things to the point that they seem to entirely miss the message. While not a perfect depiction, The Help did a good overall job of allowing the world to see the overwhelming difficulties that african americans had to endure in the South during those times and how the white aristrocrat did their best to keep us empoverished and dependent upon them. That story was told.

    It is hard to put much stock in the comments of a writer who criticises the “factual accuracy” about a movie yet never lived in the South during that challenging time. This article is filled with all types of criticisms concerning omitted events that Dr. Jones undoubtedly read about while engaging in her studies in Maryland. There are thousands of us whose research in this area was conducted by living through those conditions and being involved in the social changes that followed. The friends of mine who have seen the movie all felt better after watching it. It’s difficult to see how a movie can be embraced by the very people it was written to portray and silmultaneously receive overwhelming criticism from an “african american history scholar” who derived all of her knowlege about the subject from history books.

    I would encourage Dr. Jones to travel to Mississippi and spend some time there. Then, maybe she can see that, even though it didn’t contain all of the important events outlined in her textbooks, the depiction of the relationships and the racial divide in The Help was spot on.

  • Matt

    Rare and unique are mutually exclusive. Abilene is neither.

    Furthermore, the name of the maid is AIBILENE. An important distinction for copywriting. Also, this is a work of fiction, inspired by the author’s own childhood as she was raised by an African-american woman due to an absentee mother.

    The case was thrown out because it was found to have no basis. The Abilene in question, was the name of the author’s brother’s maid, and she had only met her briefly. She might have been inspired by the name, and that is likely the reason for the lawsuit. Someone got into the woman’s ear about a pay day when the book became successful. That sounds about as frivolous of a lawsuit as any. “You used my name, so you stole my life story.”

    As to this article, it’s almost embarrassingly myopic. How on Earth could a woman be expected to include all travesties occurred to the subject matter in a work of fiction. That is her RIGHT as an author, to present her story and her vision, factual or fictional. It is your right to dislike the story,but one would hope you’d do so without resorting to hate and scare tactics, such as those the protagonist of the book would employ.

    I can’t help but feel Dr. Jones comes off as a bit like Hilly Holbrook herself. Perhaps her real disdain for this novel, is that it was written by a caucasian woman?

  • Matt

    Well let’s face it, Randy. As ugly as it may be to say — Dr. Jones sending an open letter praising the Help as an entertaining work of fiction, and a well-acted film, doesn’t quite ramp as much interest for her cause.

    Take an organization such as PETA that ridiculously attacked a video game that depicted a cartoonish character dressing in a squirrel suit. Are they really as outraged as they sound? No, but they get their name in the press, and they do it well.

    Dr. Jones is simply doing her job to try to keep the coffers of the ABWH lined. And if she has to sell a little of her self-respect for a worthy cause, so be it.

  • Heather

    I think this article provides a very important and informative viewpoint on “The Help”, and the issues the book/film raises.

    I watched the film last night (6 well-educated white females) and I think we all really enjoyed it. I hold a BA in American History, and although this degree is not needed to miss the discrepanices present in “The Help”, I do think, for me, it was helpful.

    As I said, I enjoyed the movie a lot, however, there is much missing. Perhaps if I were a black female, I would not have enjoyed the movie, or not have enjoyed the movie as much.

    The first thing that struck me as “off” about the film is the lack of fear the “help” (the black, domestic workers) seemed to feel in the film. What they did was very dangerous and I cannot imagine what the consequences would truly have been had they been found out. The Jim Crow South was a violent, volatile, often dangerous place; these domestics would have been putting their lives at stake in sharing their stories. The KKK, as well as other racist organizations, were not once addressed during the entirety of the film. I did find the black comic relief refreshing as I am sure this kind of humor did exist, and I’m sure it provided a much-needed outlet for the frustrations of these women. And most likely also served as a strong, binding force between them.

    The film, as the writer states, also ignores the brutal harrassment suffered by many black domestics at this time at the hands of their white, male employers. The reader/viewer did not see the terrorism many of these women were truly exposed to.

    I cannot say I understand the comment about contemporary nostalgia. Perhaps the author is referring to the lack of reality portrayed in the book/fim that makes the Jim Crow South appear less threatening than it truly was. I know living in such a time and place as depicted in “The Help” does not appeal to me. Ialso agree with the comment about the book/film serving as a catalyst for young Skeeter’s career.

    On a final note, I think all of the actors in the film, both black and white, were stellar and gave wonderful performances, not just the black women. I think that Sissy Spacek, in particular, was hugely entertaining, and Bryce Dallas Howard also gave a stunning performance.

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