So a while back Myne blogged about the movie The Help (View article...) and the fuss made by Black women historians about its inaccuracy. I don’t have their lived experience so I may not fully understand their view point but I can appreciate movies and The Help was a beautiful movie which DID NOT make light of the travails of the black nanny/housekeeper. Infact it highlighted the insensitivity of the white racist mistresses and masters in those terrible civil rights era (the 60s). For the maid trying to earn a living, what does she know about the big picture, it is the daily meanness of her employees that affect her more than the death of a Malcolm X (ask the househelp in a Lekki Town house in Nigeria what she cares about Goodluck).
They say why should a white woman write their story? And I ask why can’t she?
I also contend with the statement 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.
Racism includes insidious acts of ignorance and injustice which spiraled into a way of living for the society written into laws by government. The society/government/policy makers are in turn made up of individuals. Laws were written by mothers, fathers, wives, husbands supported by spouses, families, children who saw no wrong in their actions. Because if enough had cared enough to say ‘this is wrong’, maybe some stupid laws would never have been passed. It was a ‘harmless attractive well dressed society wife’ that pushed for separate toilets for the servants, far from the family house wasn’t it? Somebody thought, whites shouldn’t sit in the same bus with blacks and with the support of others wrote it into law etc. The Ku Klux clan were made up of men who had supporting families. It has always been about people.
My friend Chiz asked .…I don’t understand how these women think. The nannies carry, feed, hug, kiss, practically raise your most prized possessions - your kids but you deny her the toilets in your home??! Why weren’t they scared she’ll pass on her negro germs to their kids? Smh.
Then you compare the normalcy of Celia Foote's attitude (Johnny’s naïve new wife) and you wonder how it was easy for her to see Minny as a fellow human who could teach her a thing or two while another (Hilly Holbrook) needed a slap in the head.
Anywho, The Help was a peep into the lives of black maids in the 60s in America and in particular the lives of Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) her sassy outspoken friend. The white protagonist is Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan (Emma Stone) a young white woman who has just started off her journalistic career and wanted to write a collection of stories about family, housekeeping, being a nanny and cooking recipes as told by these black women who had done it all their lives. A perspective certain to be controversial if not dangerous for the maids.
The maids were at first reluctant because they were afraid to lose their jobs but Aibileen sets the pace, then Minny, then a murder occurs and these women realize that if they don’t tell these stories, it dies with them. The book becomes their voice...
It was a movie about the ignorance in racism, peer pressure, faith, strength of character, friendship, survival and humor. Mostly it was just plain heartbreaking.
Myne found the the scene where Minny was putting her 13 yr old daughter through her new duties as a maid heartbreaking, for me, it was when Skeeter’s mom baldly sacked Constantine(Cicely Tyson) her maid of 25 yrs old to satisfy the demands of her genteel society friends. The hurt and yet understanding in old Constantine's eyes touched me. When I asked myself, ‘Ginger, at that moment would you have done differently?’ I wept at the shame of my answer.
The performances of all the cast was outstanding, while the thread of humor saved it from being a Precious (but then again, maybe that is the problem critics had with ‘The Help’, the use of fecal humor to trivalise what was painful and evil). Nevertheless, I think Tate Taylor, the screen writer and director did an excellent job!
I also loved seeing the pretty new black faces. Aibileen wore the saddest face I have ever seen. But when she smiles, her face can light up the darkest tunnel. A reviewer gives her fulsome praise here:
Viola Davis’ Aibileen is sorrowful, exhausted, and wary. When she walks, you feel the rust in her back and knees; when she misses the bus home because Skeeter wants to talk to her, her eyes and shoulders tell you what it costs her to extend her day. Using her controlled physicality, her low voice, and her radar for realism, she quiets the movie down — which it desperately needs — and turns herself into the embodiment of the pain, compromise, and strength The Help otherwise struggles to get right.
Ginger scores this movie 8/10.