September 12, 2011
Oscar performances for sure (the plus+), but as maids though (the D)? What the hell man? Didn’t we already do this once? Gone with the Wind? Hattie McDaniels as Mammy? Can’t we do better?
Why I don’t need The Help
Am I happy that Black women were in a movie that got significant attention? …No. Should I be? Do I feel some type of way toward the Black actresses who lent their talents to the film? No, because they need to eat and they were amazing and they deserve to play in movies where they get to display their talent, but I would happily go the rest of my life without watching an “Oscar worthy” movie produced in Hollywood where Black women play maids. That these roles among a few others (singers, dancers, and criminals) continue to be the only way that Black women can be taken seriously in Hollywood film is something to be angry about, not thankful.
The point is: Women of color, in fiction and in real life, continue to carry the burden of teaching white people about racism, or in the case of The Help, how mean they were back in the ’50s. Racism shouldn’t be reduced to mean girls and absent white men (did anyone notice that the white men in the movie always disappeared when the white women were doing something mean?). Racism was and remains structural, meaning it is violence built into law and practice and thought and action; it is terrorism. It is lynching. It is unlawful imprisonment. It is economic and labor exploitation. Matter fact, Melissa Perry-Harris says it better than I could ever.