“The Help” trends on Netflix as Black Lives Matter protests continue worldwide after the death of George Floyd, who died after now-dismissed Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
But “The Help” is not a useful resource on understanding racism.
Many Americans turn to literature and film to learn about racial and cultural issues, with sales of books on race and racism soaring. But the problem is, “The Help” is not an authentic take on the perspective and experiences of racial injustice that black people face.
In fact, the 2011 film directed by Tate Taylor, a white man, is based on a 2009 novel written by author Kathryn Stockett, a white woman, which focuses more on white voices and characters than workers. black servants.
“The Help” focuses on a privileged young white woman named Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone), who writes a book about the experiences of two dark maids, Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) , during the civil rights movement in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s.
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Although critics have widely praised “The Help” and the film then received four Oscar nominations – best picture, best actress for Davis, and best supporting actress for Jessica Chastain and Spencer (Spencer won the Oscar) – the film was severely criticized for perpetuating the stereotypical “Mammy” offensive for black women.
“Not to say that the film is not entertaining and can have other advantages, but if I had to choose a film which helps us to understand where (the Blacks) are today and what problems we meet, it does not wouldn’t be the one I would choose, “said Darnell Hunt, director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, at USA TODAY.
“The Help” is also accused of playing in the story of the white savior, a trope where the white characters come to the rescue of minorities in a well-being story that dilutes people of color in their own stories by minimizing and simplifying racial issues.
“One of the problems with films like” The Help “is that they take place in a safe and distant past that lets the present take hold,” added Hunt. “It’s almost like,” Oh my God, look how horrible things were back then and see how far we are today. “Which, of course, is not true. “
Hunt, who is also a professor of sociology at UCLA, continued: “(‘The Help’) tends to flatten the consideration of things that affect how race actually works … the limits of the film (racism ) to individuals as opposed to systemic racism. ”
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In 2018, Davis openly expressed regret for participating in the film.
“Have I ever played roles that I regret? I did, and “The Help” is on this list, “Davis told the New York Times.
Davis continued, “I just felt that … it was not the maids’ voices that were heard. I know Aibileen. I know Minny. It’s my grandmother. It’s my mother. And I know if you’re making a film where the whole premise is, I want to know what it’s like to work for white people and raise kids in 1963, I want to know how you really feel about it. I never heard that during the film. ”
Ablene Cooper, a Stockett family nanny who allegedly inspired the character of Davis, described her in the novel “embarrassing” and “emotionally overwhelming.” Cooper filed a $ 75,000 lawsuit against the author in 2011, but was ultimately dismissed by a Mississippi judge.
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The complaints did not stop there.
Bryce Dallas Howard, who played worldly racist Hillary “Hilly” Holbrook in “The Help,” said the film is not educational in understanding racism amid the protests.
“Help The Help’ is a fictional story told from the perspective of a white character and was created by predominantly white storytellers, “Howard Instagram and Facebook wrote on Sunday. “We can all go further. “
The criticism spread on Twitter.
“Movies NOT to watch while trying to educate yourself on racism:” Help “,” The Blind Side “,” The Green Book “,” Freedom (Writers “(and) Any other White Savior movie,” tweeted @cynthiacide. User @yolian_ogbu added, “Not Trend Aid on Netflix …. the white savior complex is not the right direction to take. “
User @kenicemobley wrote, “Help is trending on Netflix, which means a lot of people still don’t get it. “
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However, the “The Help” trend (starting Monday at # 4) on Netflix indicates that people are at least trying to educate themselves, even if their attempts are wrong.
Dallas Howard used his platform to beg fans to watch films that “center black life, stories, creators and / or artists”.
“Stories are a gateway to radical empathy and the larger ones are catalysts for action,” added Dallas Howard. “If you’re looking for ways to learn more about the civil rights movement, the lynchings, segregation, Jim Crow and all the ways in which these are impacting us today, here are a handful of movies and d powerful, essential and masterful broadcasts. “
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To better understand racism, try streaming these movies:
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