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Film “The Help” is about racism in a fictional Black and White nation

August 15, 2011

If you love to cry at the movies, go see “The Help”, it’s full of drama not pleasant at all. But it has a happy ending, sort of.

Beware, this film is based in fiction, but the story is mixed with historical facts from the Civil Rights movement and the assassination of president John F. Kennedy, making it really hard to draw a line between reality and imaginary.

For instance, according to “The Help” some Black American women of last century felt better about themselves by eating fried chicken, some loved the children of their abusive employers, no matter how racists they were, and one even baked a shit pie as a way of revenge.

This never ending film, is a successful drama directed by Tate Taylor based in the book of Kathryn Stockett, about the segregated life of Mississippi in the 1960’s and the abuse faced by Black women working as maids for rich White families.

The acting is really good, especially of Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer as the leading maids, and Emma Stone as “Skeeter” Phelan, a liberal White aspiring writer. The movie will transport you to those days.

However “The Help” can be sometimes boring and predictable, and the extreme level of abuse and hatred shown is very annoying, mostly because of for most of the movie, the conversations are about shit and bathrooms.

Most of the first half is plain emotional torture, drama –unless you enjoy watching abuse- and the film ends right when it’s getting more interesting, leaving many questions about the lives of the maids and their abusive employers, after the book “The Help” is for sale.

This film will be a favorite for those who enjoy crying at the movies, and those experiencing the “White guilt” (look it up). Among the movie goers who packed the DC’s Chinatown theatre (full house) where I was last weekend, the most crying were White people — some of them seating close to me, made sure everybody around were aware of their painful guiltiness.

Although the film is based on historical facts, there are some things that make no sense. For instance, the book “The Help” would have never made it to a printer in those years, much less to the bookstores in Jackson, Mississippi. The maids would probably have been killed along with the White journalist leading the effort. Anyways.

The story has a positive and a negative impact. In the good side, it will remind people of the deeply racist nation the United States was only four or five decades ago –well, it is still a racist nation today but in different ways- and it may help many U.S. youth and some immigrants understand why they should not take equality for granted.

Also, the movie is about how much women have changed in the U.S.

White rich women are presented as bad mothers, bad wives, superficial and evil people, except for the sweet and free spirited wife who was considered “White trash”. Meanwhile, Black women are shown as oppressed, fearful, traumatized servants but always ready to smile. All of them are extremely submissive to their husbands in the story.

The only reference to African American men are the blurry and forgettable characters of an old gardener, a preacher, a waiter and an abusive husband.

Black and White

Sadly, “The Help” reinforces the historical misrepresentation that the United States is a White-Black country, where Brown people (indigenous communities) are non-existent. So a film that is intended to protest racism, promotes a racist concept itself.

There is not a single reference to Native peoples of Mississippi in the whole film. I asked my friend who has Black and Native roots, and he said that Native people didn’t interact much with White folks those days, and most of Jackson was biracial back then. This has changed a lot now with more Mexican indigenous who have moved to the area.

This is bad, because many U.S. people ignore our Brown communities for that matter, and Black people live today with a sense of entitlement because they think they were the only racial community who suffered racism and slavery. Again, the film reinforces that idea by ignoring Native peoples.

A racist nation

We must remember that even though the U.S. has outlawed racist practices of discrimination against non-Whites, but this is still a very racist country. Even today, there is not a U.S. federal legislation that protects the rights of domestic workers for instance, and the capitol city of this country has a football team named Redskins.

Racism today is more visible against Brown peoples. We face discrimination in a daily basis, especially our women who are the maids of today and get mistreated and abused often, but the mainstream media seem not to care.

This is important to mention, especially when we are witnessing the first Black president of this country becoming the most xenophobic and racist of this generation. Barack Obama has incarcerated and deported one million undocumented migrants (79% of them did not have any criminal records) most of whom are Spanish-speaking indigenous peoples.

This human displacement has destroyed hundreds of thousands of Native families across the country, and many of the workers deported were maids and blue collar workers, abused by a nation that continues its racist practices justified by obsolete laws.

Go see it

The film “The Help” is a good exercise to remind people of the stupidity of racism, the tragic consequences of the obsolete White supremacist mentality, and the importance of people organizing against the abuses of the rich.

But not by coincidence, this film will also promote a temporary sense of compassion and pity towards Black people, one year before the reelection attempt of Barack Obama in 2012.

At the end, “The Help” will leave you with a very uncomfortable feeling of anger, frustration and/or guiltiness. It might even convince you of that big lie that says racism in the U.S. is over. But go see it.

If you are White you might be so embarrassed that you will feel obligated to cry in public. If you are Black, be ready to be upset and ashamed, as many stereotypes about Black women are shown in the film -some of them are seen in today’s media.

If you are Brown or any other racial minorities, this film will make you understand the struggle of our peoples today.

Finally, if you watch movies without paying attention to race, this film will change that, probably forever.

Maids of today

I recorded this video by December 2010 with a group of domestic workers who are abused in the U.S. This is not fiction.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. John S permalink
    October 29, 2011 12:58 pm

    The reactions to this film have been as predictable as day following night. Broadly speaking white people like it (Oh its the best movie, and funny, I recommend it wholeheartedly) and black people curse under their breath “not another DAMN mammy film again”.

    Lets be clear, simply liking a film does not make you a racist. BUT, fawning over it and saying its the best movie you have seen, funny, witty etc and FAILING to notice the repetition of the same old tired stereotypes and themes DOES suggest that you are perhaps too “comfortable” (and thus not challenging enough) of those images and the status quo.

    That unfortunately DOES make you complicit in maintaining the veneer of living in a “post racial” world despite the glaring inequalities (if you care to look) that still exist.

    Its been done … nothing new here. A movie purportedly about racism afflicting an oppressed community, but actually about the experience of the affluent white person defending that community. “To Kill a Mocking bird”, “Cry Freedom.” “Mississippi Burning.”, “The blind Side” the list goes on …

    To see why white people tend to like these films see these links:

    http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2010/07/warmly-embrace-racist-novel-to-kill.html
    http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2010/07/force-non-white-students-to-read-great.html
    http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2010/05/rewrite-us-history-so-that-white-people.html

    You will find a few eye openers there that may help take off the blinkers most of us have on, when we choose to fail to see what is happening around us.

  2. Auachtli permalink
    September 18, 2011 11:18 pm

    Incarceration is the new slavery!!!! And guess who they sending to prisons the most?????

  3. Auachtli permalink
    September 18, 2011 11:16 pm

    Si, y de que les sirve que se sientan culpables si ni hacen nada de cualquier manera. Mas que culpables deben de ser responsables, claro que si responsables. Si tu hijo/a hace algo que daña al vecino claro que haras algo para componerlo verdad? Este es un trabajo de siglos y mas siglos, ni aunque lloren oceanos o rios compondran lo que decicieron sus antepasados. Y dejame desirte que el racismo reversible no existe querido, los de color no podemos ser racistas por que tenemos los mismos privilegios, no hay balance pues. Es sierto que la culpabilidad no es tan buena herramienta, la responsabilidad lo es. Enseñale a tus amiguitos blancos que muevan su wuerito trasero, que si muy culpables se sienten que se enfrenten a sus otros compañeritos blancos para que entren en razon de que estas tierras no nos pertenecen no son propiedad de nadie, como nunca lo fueron nuestr@s herman@s afro y nosotros los nativos. Pero los enfrentas ok, no sientas miedo en el fondo, tampoco te sientas inferior, aunque seas tambien un wuerito latino o españolito no quieras ponerte a sus niveles o asimilar esta culturita destructiva. Animo hermano, que cuando los bajes de su nube no sabran que desirte.

    Tiahui

    ~Auchtli Atocktli

  4. Juan Luis permalink
    August 22, 2011 6:25 pm

    Peruanista: “This film will be a favorite for those who enjoy crying at the movies, and those experiencing the “White guilt” (look it up). Among the movie goers who packed the DC’s Chinatown theatre (full house) where I was last weekend, the most crying were White people — some of them seating close to me, made sure everybody around were aware of their painful guiltiness.”

    ¿Te parece bien que los blancos de hoy se sientan culpables por lo que hicieron otros blancos en el pasado?, ¿crees que la culpa se hereda?, ¿te parece correcto un joven blanco se sienta culpable de su abuelo fuera esclavista por ejemplo?

    Despues no estes quejandote de que haya racismo.

  5. August 19, 2011 1:28 pm

    Just a reminder, read the amendment about slavery, slavery still up and running in the USA. When you go to jail for any reason, you become a slave, is USA law(check it out), so you can be used as cheap labor, lots prisoners are being used as almost free labor. Think about how many people are in jail in the US …more than 3 million people, 1% of the population, nice cheap labor force, cheaper than a Chinese worker in inner Mongolia.

    Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

    ===
    About US Black and white, sometimes is pretty interesting to see how the 2 groups have erased the American people the real one(so called native American including “latinos”), since “white” are EUROPEAN Americans, and “Black” are AFRICAN americans. I have no idea how they were able to make Native Americans to be the foreigners. But when I listen to people they really say it with conviction.

    Mexicans are quietly repopulating the continent of North America with the Native DNA. If you want to double check the numbers just go to this website is the 2010 Census is the USA:

    http://www.nclr.org/webstats2011/map2/StatPlanet.html

    Is quite confusing how black and white in the US call native Americans (so called LATINOS) the outsiders, making AMERICANS the foreigners when the first 2 groups are the foreigners(1 from Europe the other one from Africa), one invaded and the other group was brought to the country as slave to serve the first group.

    I was listening to the radio about the creation of the museum of migration in DC, and they keep calling Americans …. “latinos”, when “latinos” bether say Americans ain’t migrating no where, Americans are just moving in their continent as they have done for milenia before invasion. Some values and concepts are upside down and some people just dont see the connections.

    Later.

  6. Anonymous permalink
    August 17, 2011 10:40 pm

    What does our president have to do with a film about racism in mississippi that took place and thousands of african americans were killed because of their skin color. Why add other races to the equation when the film was based on 2 groups of people. Nothing was over exaggerated in reality that was minimal abuse that was shown. I’m pretty much sure this has nothing to do with Obama’s campaign. Your issues are deeper than this movie an you needed to vent.

  7. August 15, 2011 8:52 pm

    – Barack Obama has the Executive power to STOP all deportations right away, but the Wall Street / Military machine puppet would never prevent the prison industry from growing, it’s a lot of money!
    –> So it’s a corporate systematic thing then… good.

    – Of course, the author thinks the southern U.S. in the 1960′s was Black and White only.
    —> I disagree. We simply don’t know. All we know is that it wasn’t part of the narrative.

    – No I am not mourning, I am calling the attention of a country that is completely sleepy and can’t see that human rights are being abused in the “leader of the free world”, and that racism is repulsive in all cases, not only when it affects Black people.
    —> So you agree that you shouldn’t mourn those cases, so why do you mourn The Help? What makes that book different than the others I have listed above?

  8. August 15, 2011 8:41 pm

    – Barack Obama has the Executive power to STOP all deportations right away, but the Wall Street / Military machine puppet would never prevent the prison industry from growing, it’s a lot of money!

    – Of course, the author thinks the southern U.S. in the 1960’s was Black and White only.

    – No I am not mourning, I am calling the attention of a country that is completely sleepy and can’t see that human rights are being abused in the “leader of the free world”, and that racism is repulsive in all cases, not only when it affects Black people.

  9. August 15, 2011 12:52 pm

    “Barack Obama has incarcerated and deported one million undocumented migrants…”
    -he has? he must have a lot of time on his hands to drive around and lock up that many people, shouldn’t he worry about policies and such?

    “There is not a single reference to Native peoples of Mississippi in the whole film.”
    -That wasn’t the focus of the book now was it. I agree with you that the narrative of race relations often gets marketed as ‘the relations between whites and blacks’ and everyone else is ignored. however, the author dealt with a particular setting in a particular way, one that was historically accurate for her.

    inherently stories will leave out things and peoples for the clarity of the narrative arch. they will be told from a particular biased slant. this shouldn’t be surprising. to anyone. ever. the Iliad won’t cover the feelings of the Trojans. The Help isn’t going to deal with natives. The Rez Road Follies by Norhtrup didn’t deal with race relations other than with whites. Should we mourn that? No. i don’t think so.

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