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