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Five Reasons to Not See The Help: A Round-Up of Responses

a scene from the move the Help where Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis, who play the housekeepers, speak with Skeeter, the young white protagonist at a tableOkay, I haven't seen The Help, which hit theaters yesterday and web banners way before that, nor have I read the book by Kathryn Stockett it's based on. But based on the critical reviews it's gotten, even prior to the film release, I don't think I'll be checking out either. Here's why...

1. The Help is about two black domestic workers (Aibileen and Minny, played by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, respectively, in the film) and a young white woman (Skeeter, played by Emma Stone in the film) living and working in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s. Skeeter, an aspiring writer, decides to write a book about the lives of black domestic worker and begins interviewing Aibileen and Minny in the midst of class and racial tension (very shortened version! Again, I haven't read it). There are a bunch of issues at play here, and the interwebs have documented what's problematic, condescending, and inaccurate about a white woman taking the liberty of telling a black woman's story ("The Help: A Feel-Good Movie for White People" by Valerie Boyd, via AfroLez), and the damaging effects of centering white people when re-writing the Civil Rights movement ("The Truth About the Civil Rights Era" by Martha Southgate, via Colorlines). For more reading, you can browse this entire website devoted to sharing critical responses of the franchise.

2. There are plenty of other fictional and non-fictional accounts of black domestic workers written by black women. At the Ms. blog, Jennifer Williams include several suggestions in her response to The Help. In addition, the Association of Black Women Historians have also included a short list of recommended reads at the end of their recently released statement (links to PDF) that takes the film and book to task for whitewashing the 1960s.

3. Both the excellent play-by-play Twitter takedown and MSNBC re-cap by Melissa Harris-Perry are no doubt more entertaining and informative than all 140 minutes of the movie.

4. Ablene Cooper, a former maid for members of Kathryn Stockett's family, is taking the author to court—days after the movie is released—for the strong resemblance the central character, Aibileen, bears to her. Hmm.

5. And finally, Tyler Perry is a fan.

Why aren't you seeing The Help? If you did see it, what did you think?

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Comments

62 comments have been made. Post a comment.

I spent a couple hours

I spent a couple hours yesterday reading around the web about The Help, and that was enough to help me realize that this is not a movie that is going to raise national consciousness about the Civil Rights movement in a way that is healthy. Instead, it's racist and reeking of white privilege. No thanks.

from the moment i saw the

from the moment i saw the trailer i kept calling it 'that movie about that white girl who writes a book about black women.' thank you ladies for being more intellectually scathing than i.

seems that's a book genre,

seems that's a book genre, Erin (see The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot)
i've read the book and something about it rubbed me wrong. you were able to articulate it well here.

I had a conversation with my

I had a conversation with my mom about this yesterday. She just finished the book, loved it, and was pretty excited about the movie. Having seen the heavy-handed, feel good trailer, I share a lot of the same apprehensions presented here. (The Blind Side was another movie I was completely turned off of for similar reasons.)

But I'm more shocked at the suggestion that it's somehow more noble to opt out altogether, rather than investigate and develop an informed opinion. It's one thing to criticize the promotional machine, but you're judging something based on superficial representations and the opinions of others. Aren't we trying to combat that kind of behavior as the forward-thinking feminist we're trying to be?

Point taken, but...

I see your point about not dismissing something before you see it, and in many cases I agree. However, when it comes to a problematic movie that deals with racial politics like The Help, I think there's a difference (as a non-black woman) between looking to the opinions of black scholars and writers to inform your decision to see it or not vs. opting out because other people didn't like it. When the Association of Black Women Historians tells you not to see something because it's inaccurate, offensive, and racist, I think that's advice worth considering. Just my two cents.

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

A little self-scrutiny might be revealing

I like what both are saying but, Ms. Wallace, when you use The Association of Black Women Historians as the main authority to defend your point, I wonder if you have the grace and fortitude to ask yourself why, then, you put it second on your list of reasons, and then only after the Ms. blog. This might seem trivial and bitchy, but it stood out to me, just as the white girl in the center of the movie poster, looking at the poster viewer, stood out to me. That was all I needed to know I won't be seeing this movie.

Kelsey didn't write this

Kelsey didn't write this post, I did. I didn't put my points in any sort of hierarchy, except maybe starting off by sharing some of the general critiques of the movies first and adding the Tyler Perry one last as kind of a joke/punchline. The Ms. post and the statement from the ABWH are both excellent reads on the movie itself but also provide reading resources, which set them apart from my first "reason," which are mainly movie critiques. There was nothing intentional about what order I placed them in.

Also please refrain from questioning Kelsey's grace and fortitude, thanks.

____________
Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

Hi Ms. Johnson. Yeah, I saw

Hi Ms. Johnson. Yeah, I saw that after it was too late to unpost it. But you last comment was unnecessary and a little less than helpful. I still think it is the kind of question we should all ask of ourselves, there are always reasons for placements of things and the fact that I am a reader of your writing, which (limited to the initial piece and not your defensive and unpleasant responses to comments) I think is good, means it's in your interest to listen to how it struck me. My wondering about self-questioning did not demand an explanation or any answer.

Two more cents.

I never claimed that "opting out" was somehow noble. After reading reviews and coming to an informed opinion based on said reviews and responses, I wanted to highlight some more informed and critical responses of the film than I could provide.

"Judging something based on superficial representations and the opinions of others" is kind of vague, so I can't speak to feminism's role in combatting it, but it's not like I combed the comments of Rotten Tomatoes. The opinions that informed my own are those of some incredible women (Boyd, Williams, Harris-Perry, the ABWH, Southgate)--women whose advice, as Kelsey noted, is definitely worth considering.

____________
Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

I just think that kind of

I just think that kind of attitude--of taking others' word for it (regardless of which "side" they stand on)--is just a dangerous behavior to endorse if you're really trying to elevate the conversation. Why not add to the discourse and conversation already in play with an informed opinion rather than a presumption?

If, as feminists, we don't want other's to speak for us, we should be doing the digging ourselves to ADD to the discourse, not just adopting the opinions of others and dismissing the conversation before it's even begun.

This film has only been

This film has only been released in theaters. That means if someone goes to see it for "research", they also just voted for it with their money, no matter how problematic they deem it later. These opinions have been presented to provide a counterargument to the marketing of the film as feel good sisterhood lovefest. It's a warning to women who consider it important to put their money where their anti-racist mouth is. Many feminists/womanists are saying the same thing about this film- how many people need to pay $10 to see it before you consider their points valid?

Why because it had a white

Why because it had a white woman in it? The Blind Side was an amazingly inspiring movie. It's not our fault a black woman didn't step up and take care of her son so a white woman did.

Thats exactly why these

Thats exactly why these movies are celebrated in the white community. If these films were acurate or reversed, I doubt you would be playing the new race card.

I haven't seen or read it yet

I haven't seen or read it yet but I plan to listen to the audiobook so I can have an informed opinion on the matter. If I feel like it is racist garbage, I will turn it off.

As a reader of the book, and

As a reader of the book, and not yet having seen the movie.. I would like to point out that the author's note tells us this is written from the perspective she had as a child. From what I read, she seemed to idolize her maid. ...and as many with children may understand, most kids don't "get" or see racism. I personally think this story came from the heart of a woman (child at heart) who idolized the person most influential in her developmental years: her nanny. We are all well aware of Hollywood glossing over things, and choosing to show what they wish. The book does show racism.. And it also explains why Skeeter was so slow to try and speak out: she's a white woman, who has been berated into a position of obedience her entire life... While being spoon-fed rasist ideals... And feeling like she was never enough. Peer pressure can still hold many of us fast (I know at times, I was so angry at myself for holding my tongue due to fear of that hatred on me..), but eventually she stood up any way she could. AND in the book, she does offer (and if I remember correctly, pay) Aibileen for telling her how to clean things. No, it isn't enough, and yes the book could have added more horrific truths to the story... But once again, it was based of a white child's idealic view of her black nanny.

That's very nice and all, but

That's very nice and all, but from your description, the book takes the issue of civil rights and puts a *white woman's* struggles at the center of the story, and makes her the heroine. Adding "horrific truths" to the story wouldn't make me want to read it. I would rather read and watch stories with black protagonists written/made by black artists.

I find it problematic that

I find it problematic that people seem to be arguing against the right of this book to exist at all and for the author to tell a story of these experiences from her own point of view. Every person has a story to tell that is inherently valuable because it touches on the real experiences of a person's life. What is problematic is not that this is a story about civil rights from a white woman's point of view--but that the white woman's point seems to be the only time that the topic hold's much interest in mainstream media. The article itself makes the point that there are many accounts of black domestic workers written by black people--and its worth criticizing publishing, hollywood and the public for not showing more interest in them. it isn't worth criticizing an author for writing about her experiences.

Very well put

Thank you for this comment. I agree completely. There are faults to find in this situation, but not with the author writing about a topic (any topic) from her point of view.

She's not just writing about

She's not just writing about her experiences, though. She laughably writes about the experiences of Black women, through her own deluded eyes, and uses Black women as a sounding device, to express her narrow viewpoint. White washing at it's best. Not to mention, she actually uses the likeness of her brother's former maid (who tried to sue her for said offense) to do it.

I also wanted to add that the

I also wanted to add that the author was born in 1969, one year after the Civil Rights movement. Again, how is the book representative of "her experiences"?

The book actually alternates

The book actually alternates narratives between the three women, Skeeter, Aibeleen and Minny. I wasn't at all left with the impression that it was Skeeter's struggles that were the central narrative.

We don't have to hate white people in order to love black people

So a woman's personal experience and point of view become totally invalid because she is white and wealthy? She was born into it, and I think it is very important to have many honest points of view. She even writes in her book as a foreward or afterward or something, that she knows she may have missed some things since she was not a black nanny, but as an author writing that type of story, she had to try. She did as well as she could. I loved the book.

As a feminist in the South, I

As a feminist in the South, I railed and railed against this book until my sister pointed out that I couldn't argue about something I hadn't read. So I read it. As an unthinking consumer of light, summer reading, I enjoyed it. As a feminist, I did not. As a Southerner, I was torn. I have not yet seen the movie (going tonight actually) but something the book touches on is the complex relationship between the black maids and the white children they raise. Aibileen loves the two-year-old girl she cares for while totally aware that the child is being raised in a racist environment and could someday come to hate her. She also teaches and raises the child more than her own mother does. This stuff happened, and still does happen (the black woman who stayed with my sisters and I after school growing up while my parents were at work knows my favorite foods; my grandmother does not), and it's interesting to read about.

Yes, I think The Help has a LOT of problems. Black women's voices being taken on by a white writer, huge problem. White women at the center of civil rights movement action and issues, huge problem. And I may have even more issues after seeing the Hollywood version. Probably will, actually. But I have to agree that choosing not to see it may not be the best way to handle it (however, a case could be made for not wanting to add to the box office money made by this film; this is actually giving me pause right now...). But I'm going to see it with three other Southern women tonight, who are all prepared to enjoy it without question. And I'm interested in analyzing it over the drinks/dinner that will (hopefully) happen after the film. After all, how can we, as Southerners, combat stereotypes and still-pervasive racism if we don't discuss how we are represented in popular culture and how we handle that representation?

For those of you who are

For those of you who are interested, I tracked down a link to the statement from the Association of Black Women Historians referred to above: http://newblackman.blogspot.com/2011/08/association-of-black-women-historians.html  

I was very interested in what they have to say, and I guess this is where I get a little stuck: what they say in conclusion is accurate. The story IS the story of a White woman. It makes no bones about that, that I know of. It is the story of her interactions with Black women, but is in fact the story of a White woman. She is the protagonist, she is the narrator.

I think some valid points there are made inasmuch as the dialects may be overdone/simplified, and the depictions of Black men (at least in the book, I haven't seen the movie) are somewhat flat, or even flat-out wrong.

However, it makes sense to me that, while serious and pervasive in the lives of the Black "domestics" of this era, the issues of sexual assault/harassment/victimization are not ones that these women would have chosen to discuss with a White woman, and therefore, being as it is a story of one, not highly visible in the book. Their lives were not safe in the racist, sexist, classist world they inhabited; as has long been true of disenfranchised women everywhere, these issues were serious and pervasive, but terribly unsafe to point out or verbalize. They underscore this point themselves when they point out that Rosa Parks herself apparently chose not to discuss the very real ways in which her life had been affected by this.

And while their calling upon the spectre of the "Mammy" is topical and perhaps appropriate, I think it also lacks a little depth; for instance, I think the struggle of these women to prioritize, even to feed, their own families is treated with more complexity than the "Mammy" character typically reflects.

Finally, their point that the story does not reflect much of the Civil Rights struggles as they really were is accurate; it is also true that the KKK and many of the important Civil Rights organizations were led by and focused on the needs of men first or exclusively. (See Stoke Carmichael's statements about "the position of women" in this struggle.) As the story of women, this exclusion doesn't necessarily seem out of place, since, as they themselves point out, many of these women were, of necessity, struggling to feed their own families and to just survive by working way too many hours a day under sometimes appalling conditions for way too little money; the hours they had left in the day to focus on the lofty and admirable struggles of the era were understandably minimal.

I do think there are legitimate and important critiques to make of the story, and I would love to see some smart, well-done ones.  I would hope that at least some of these would not fall into the ages old trap of minimizing or neglecting a sex-based critique in favor of a race-based critique, as both can and should be done, and can and should be done simultaneously.  However, in order for this to happen, smart people would have to actually consume the media in question and reflect on it critically.... rather than just reporting that, meh, it's too much work to do all that, so I'll just opt out and grandstand.

I read The Help, because my

I read The Help, because my stepgrandma suggested it to me and let me borrow it. I thought it was...okay... 3 out of 5 stars at best. The story wasn't that new to me, and Skeeter wasn't that interesting.

Why We Should Wait

To take a cue from Civil Rights leaders such as Ida B. Wells and Rosa Parks, I think the idea of boycotting The Help is an excellent one. There's no need to watch the entire movie to see how its racism functions; the trailer makes that clear. Also, there's no need to see the movie on opening night in order to promote thoughtful discussion of it. It is likely to be available on Netflix before Thanksgiving.

The considerable negative attention The Help has received may encourage otherwise uninterested people to see it. Nothing drives ticket sales for a mediocre movie than controversy. For that reason, a modest and well-supported call to boycott the movie is a sound counter-balance to the tempestuous debate pushing people to "see for themselves" how offensively Hollywood has rendered race relations in the United States.

I admit my own curiosity. As a student of the Civil Rights Movement, a fan of summer feel-good movies and an advocate for more and better representations of the South, I look forward to seeing The Help so that I too can stake out an informed position. Like many Bitch readers, I am curious to speculate about the "work" it does in our supposedly post-racial society. However, thanks to Bitch, I will avoid validating whitewashed depictions of the struggle for civil rights as a lucrative form of entertainment. I hope other readers will also take up the challenge to wait for the rental.

Please don't compare to Henrietta Lacks

I am writing just to object to the mention of Rebeccal Skloot's Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks here. I have not read the Help but I did read Skloot's book. I also read many critiques of the Help. I don't think there is a lot more to compare other than the fact that both books are written by white women. Skloot's book has more themes than just racism or civil rights. She handles her position as a privileged white person rather carefully. In fact one of the main themes of the book is precisely this. It's a brilliant nonfiction work and because of her work we are talking about Henrietta and her family today.

I SO loved the Henrietta Lacks book!

and was so thankful that it was written in the tone of Skloot's awareness of her white privilege. I completely agree that it must not be compared at all to "The Help."

I didn't read your whole

I didn't read your whole article, just a few sentences. But now I'm going to comment on it and dismiss it, all the while reminding readers via parentheticals that I haven't read the entire entry. I'm also going to try to persuade others not to read this piece, without knowing with absolute certainty that I should because I didn't even read it myself.

It seems silly even on such a small scale, doesn't it? It's more than a little insulting to anyone who read your piece (as you're insulting anyone who took the time to read the book) to think I can make meaningful contributions without doing at least as much homework as they did. (Even middle schoolers will at least watch a film in lieu of reading the book to complete an assignment).

I spent my last year in college failing math twice and filling in gaps in my schedule with African American studies classes, so I consider my awareness heightened (VERY SLIGHTLY: I am a white woman and still write from a place of privilege). I didn't find the book as "problematic" as I expected.

When my friend chose it as her book club's first selection, I was expecting a tale of "great white hope" and was pleasantly surprised by the agency and voice with which the black characters were written. It was definitely a light read, a far cry from something like "Beloved," but I thought it was at least great for starting a dialogue among women who passed math the first time and didn't bother with the rigors of academic ethnic and women's studies. The book compelled my friends and me to ask ourselves what I think were important questions about what our lives might have looked like at time, how our attitudes would have been different, and most importantly, our roles in how racism and sexism are still pervasive forces in our culture.

While not wanting to trivialize the often impossibly conflicted position of women of color (as members of two marginalized groups), I think some credit is due to a story that prominently features all-women (and isn't a Sex and the City sequel). I appreciated the attempt to examine their friendships and relations completely apart from males.

Ultimately, the book proposes the idea that things can change and that we can change them. I'd hate to slap the academic sweetheart "problematic" label on that idea, especially if I haven't done my research.

I have to agree with this

I have to agree with this comment. Normally I'm 100% with Bitch blogs, but the dismissiveness of this post is really insulting. I did see the film tonight and I didn't hate it. Sure it has lots of problems, but those problems raise interesting questions and start good conversations. Do I think we should read other accounts of racism in the South written by black women? Of course! Do I think that The Help might allow some white people to pat themselves on the back for having come so far from those horrible racists in the 60s? Very possibly. But I also think that this film just might raise some interesting questions in the minds of people (yes, especially Southern, white people, the people I've grown up with) who wouldn't normally ponder questions on the idea of racism.

And if nothing else, this film is worth it for the performance of Viola Davis. Her pain, her exhaustion and her conflicting feelings about white families are felt and seen in every moment on screen. Her performance is absolutely beautiful and should not be missed.

And come on, if you are going to write a blog post about why the movie is horrible, racist garbage, great. But back it up with examples from the movie which you have taken the time to watch. Otherwise, you're insulting those of us who want to read an actual critical analysis of one of the summer's biggest films.

"I spent my last year in

"I spent my last year in college failing math twice and filling in gaps in my schedule with African American studies classes, so I consider my awareness heightened"

Ha ha this is like the white publicist in Spike Lee's Bamboozled who defends herself by saying she has a degree in African-American studies

I qualified it as "very

I qualified it as "very slightly" in all-capital letters with the mistaken hope that this wouldn't be a talking point. I'm just saying that in addition to reading "The Help" I've also read many important novels in their entirety and countless excerpts from the African-American canon (instead of you know, skimming reviews on the internet).

The point of bringing it up is that I read "The Help" AND Ivory-Tower approved selections, so I'm in a better position to at least make literary, thematic and conceptual comparisons and distinctions. Not because I completed some AAS courses, but simply because I actually READ all of the material being discussed.

Wow, way to smack someone

Wow, way to smack someone down for making a thoughtful comment without actually addressing the content of what was said. Do you want to have an actual conversation, or snipe at people who are trying to contribute? "HA HA. YER STOOPID" isn't really adding much.

Nah I'd rather keep calling

Nah I'd rather keep calling people stoopid. Taking some classes in African American studies in no way brings a white person closer to understanding black experience and it's such a superfluous thing to mention that it holds nearly no bearing on the situation. Like the only reason I can think one would mention it is as some sort of white liberal back-patting.

I explained why I brought it

I explained why I brought it up and it wasn't a superfluous gold star or to better levy my opinions. The original poster cited more scholarly works and black voices who've written on the subject, and I was trying to point out that rather than dichotomizing the "good, scholarly" black literature and "bad, fluffy racist beach-reading" that has to do with mid-century racism, a person can (and should) actually read BOTH before crafting an opinion.

You cited your studies and

You cited your studies and then followed it with your opinion that you didn't find The Help problematic. This is only a few steps removed from those "I have many black friends" statements people like to trot out to excuse racist comments.

Ultimately when it comes to black issues, black voices are more valuable and deserve a much bigger space to talk, certainly more so than that of a white person.

Since when ...

was feminism and social justice movements were more about a certain group's opinions being more important than any others??

REMINDER: FEMINISM IS ABOUT EQUALITY. SOCIAL JUSTICE IS ABOUT EQUALITY. it is not about black issues being more important than anyone else's and I am speaking also of white privilege, native americans, other native cultures, asians, latinos, etc. WE ALL deserve having as large as spaces as possible for having our conversations.

MY BEING A FEMINIST AND SOCIAL JUSTICE ACTIVIST IS ABOUT HAVING A MAIN GOAL OF MAKING SURE THAT EVERY VOICE HAS AN EQUAL IMPORTANCE IN ANY CONVERSATION. PERIOD. Otherwise WE WILL NEVER MOVE FORWARD and continue HAVING THOSE PERSISTENT PROBLEMS THAT CONTINUE BEING PROBLEMATIC in ensuring that "feminism" continues being the "dirty word" that MUST NOT BE.

Sorry if this is shouting out or reeking of egotism.

Yeah I never said any of

Yeah I never said any of that. I said that black voices matter more than the voice of white outsiders when discussing black issues.

I feel like you're acting

I feel like you're acting obtuse on purpose and trying to make me as a person feel bad, so I will try to clarify one more time only: I never in my original comment said I found the novel in question was problem-free.

The whole point of my comment wasn't to embrace, defend, or attack the novel, it was to point out that I am not interested in reading any published writer's opinion on something they refuse to familiarize themselves with. I love Bitch as a "feminist response to pop culture," and my hope is this post is an isolated incident instead of a trend of its writers becoming so complacent, petulant or lazy as to become "a feminist response to the academic/scholarly/feminist-safe response to pop culture." I have read some really wonderful pieces about something like Twilight (am I "allowed" to remark on that?) by writers who took the time to read the book and/or watch the movie instead of crossing their arms and pursing their lips about it's "too problematic" for their time. You can't attack an enemy you don't know.

But now that you mention it, I feel like it's really unfair to paint anyone who enjoyed The Help as racist, especially since there ARE women of color who enjoyed it. It seems unnecessary and counterproductive to alienate the women who enjoyed the book instead of using it as a tool for conversation and reference point for "further reading."

I thought the book was fantastic

I actually read the book and I loved it. Skeeter was not at all the heroine of the story, I thought the author made is obvious that the main protagonists were the maids. Every chapter I looked forward to hearing more from Aibileen. There was so much depth to her character. And the story ends with Aibileen deciding to write stories of her own, the author is not at all romanticising Skeeter's position in the story telling portion of it.

I really really enjoyed this book and I look forward to more best selling books about women of color written by women. Why do we liberal women always have to tear each other down for not being "enough" . I am glad that a book about women of color written by a woman is being read by thousands of readers. This is what is wrong with liberals. We tear each other down constantly, even when people are on our side and writing about issues that are important to us.

Exactly

Well said. The women's movement would be much stronger if we pooled our resources as opposed to tearing apart someone who may look at, hold, and express views from a different place. Especially without reading/or watching said view.

Maybe if white feminists

Maybe if white feminists actually tried to listen to non-whites and checked their privilege, instead of casting off their concerns as frivolous and only keeping them in mind as a second thought to appear inclusive, perhaps the feminist movement might be in a better place.

Respectfully Concerned

I feel a bit uneasy commenting on this page, but I love these blogs. I am a white woman. I grew up with an African American best friend, but I don't think that allows me to put myself in her shoes or anyone else's shoes for that matter. I also loved The Help (the book) for reasons that have little to do with it's historical accuracy and more to do with the development of character I see within it.

As I read it, I didn't feel as though Abileen and Minny were stupid, pitiable or less interesting than Skeeter. Perhaps it's just what I bring to the novel, but if anything I felt as though all of the maids in the book were honored for their struggles and acknowledged as strong women to be admired. While Skeeter was the main character, she was weak, naive, and uninteresting in comparison. Her problems were petty, and she focused on them with the naiveté of a child. I don't see Skeeter as a participant in civil rights. She wrote a book for herself. Despite the anonymous authorship (or perhaps because of it), her motives were selfish, and that shines through. She doesn't suffer in order to write the book.

Abileen was the character I admired the most, and the one who seemed to be the most important in the end, despite the focus on Skeeter through the central portion of the novel. Abileen is the one who ends the novel. We know that Skeeter's story has resolved itself, as has Minny's for all intents and purposes, but Abileen's story stops before the happy ending.

As a feminist, I didn't have a problem with the book either. The women who were admirable in the book stepped outside of the traditional roles over the course of the story, while those who were clearly unsympathetic characters idolized those traditions. Stereotypes become such because enough people believe in them to make them seem true. Most people don't read outside of their comfort zones. Many people don't read for pleasure at all. Isn't it a good idea to get some forward momentum into the white middle-class population?

Perhaps I am not educated enough on the subject to find the negativity in the story, but I felt that the point of the book was the love and friendship that can grow between women. Not between Skeeter and the women whose stories she writes, but between Skeeter and Constantine, Abileen and Minny, Abileen and all the other maids, Minny and Miss Celia, and between Abileen and Mae Mobley.

It is probably my own naiveté, but I would like to believe that we could overcome all the barriers that stand between humanity if people would fear less and love more.

Thank you.

Thank you.

we did it

Can't believe with the release of this movie, racism will cease to exist in America. Thanks, Hollywood! Ayo but seriously if we continue to go to these movies like Crash and The Blind Side and The Help (by the way, please ask all the black women you know if they're going to see this movie this weekend LOL no), then these types of movies will continue to be made. It is a numbers game, and no studio executive is going to care if it's a pandering, broad-stroked jag piece. If we don't go to these movies, they'll look for other points of view. In this case, if we're talking about giving real life to a black woman's story in the 1950's south, and without the guarantee/sales of a Sparks-eqivalent viewpoint on race, things have opened up enough (Jumping the Broom) that they'll give a black woman a chance at hitting a mainstream audience.

Every word that comes out of Melissa Harris-Perry's mouth is creed, so she's right, this article is right, burn the movies down.

Anything that makes you laugh

Anything that makes you laugh and cry and clinch your teeth scene by scene is going to get two thumbs up from me. Everyone can go on and on and on about the story but the truth is, it teaches to lesson to anyone, of any color that you should stand up for what's right. Plain and simple. If it's so wrong and so wrongly portrayed then write the real story.... But see! Everyone one will bash this story, that was one story and instead of taking the love that came from it, they will create a ISSUE. You know what? I loved the story. I hate the painful things I heard and saw. Im sure there is so much worse to be told. However, I will say, yesterday I was thinking about what kind of color to paint my bedroom, today I saw something that caused me to come on Internet and try and read about that horrible time of ignorance. You see.. The book did it's job, it made you obviously think and even better, remember a piece of history. If it didn't none of you would be on here now discussing it. :) great debate, but honestly you can't make everyone happy, someones always gonna find a way to complain.

Just a thought...

I think my feelings about The Help can be summed up by a conversation I had about it with someone else who had read it. I said "I don't know how I feel about a white woman being all-consumed with her slightly less-important problems and those overshadowing the stories of a black woman." She said "A less important problem? Like a dying mother?"

Everyone has problems. As a counselor, I always tell my clients that it's important to consider your problems at the same level as others'. Just because you're not dying in a ditch does not mean your issues don't matter. It's unfair to say that one problem is not as good as another. Just a thought to keep in mind...

But white women DID play an important role....

I don't know how you all missed this, but white people did play a role in the civil rights movement. A lot of white people helped out because they believed it was the right thing to do. And while a Hollywood version of this story might over-simplify things it is still true that white people fought for their black friends and even gave their lives. I don't think it is damaging to tell a story about this. Most people aren't going to come away from the movie thinking white people make the civil rights movement happen all of their own. It sort of looks like people are looking for a reason to hate this movie.

And, please understand, I have a degree in women's studies and have taken tons of classes about race and class. I am not saying this isn't problematic in some ways, but what do we gain by insisting white people didn't play an important role in this or in claiming men don't play an important role in the women's rights movement? No much.

There might be other stories written by black women and this is a time to promote them and study how they are different, but it's not a time to discount this story which celebrates how a white girl was able to break away from the sort of hate that surrounded her and see the good in the black people around her. That HAD to happen in real life. People had to learn not to hate. And don't forget that this story shows how brave the black women had to be to agree to be a part of something like this. I don't think it really sends the message that all the good that happened rested only on the white shoulders of a pretty, smart, white girl.

I would love for a story about a black woman's impact on the civil rights movement to become a hit movie, but I can't hate this movie just because it is not that thing.

I saw it, it really wasn't

I saw it, it really wasn't that bad. I was afraid it'd be another 'angry black people movie'. It wasn't
No one's white-washing anything, its just not portraying all white people as demons.

It's...

FICTION. fictionfictionfiction. Not history, not feminist criticism, not anything except light beach reading. Literature is not responsible to tackle and answer every social issue every time. A feminist critique of popular culture is certainly valid; however, the book and/or movie does not necessarily fail simply because it doesn't meet the expectations of a scholarly tome. It may fail as a serious insight into the historical struggles of the Civil Rights movement; it may fail as an investigation into racial/cultural/gender identities--but that's not the intent of the author. The author intends to deliver a work of fiction that entertains while presenting characters who engage the reader, and she does. And frankly, although it's told from a "white woman's" point of view, at the very least it is a white woman who has some awareness of the realities of the world around her. It's FICTION; the central character could be the family dog whose main concern is where the bone that was buried in the yard has gotten to.

Thanks for the link to the ABWH statement

I've been hunting down copies of a bunch of the fiction they list and wanted to give a shout-out to Blanche on the Lam by Barbara Neely - it's well-written and exciting, and has made me remember why I loved mysteries as an adolescent. I've got the second book in the series lined up next. I've also started dipping into Ann Petry's The Street and it seems amazing too. 

I have been hesitant to read (and now watch) The Help, though it was strongly recommended to me by a few friends. I had told myself it was just that I have a super long to-read list already, but you've articulated some unconscious discomfort I had really clearly.

 

So thanks, both for that articulation and for showing me a pipeline to a whole new literary world.

While I understand the racial

While I understand the racial issues at heart across concerns addressed by many, I also think it's important to note that a) I don't believe anyone is taking this book to be a historically accurate story on racial equality issues during the 60's or even now any more than Dangerous Minds was to be the gospel of inner city life in schools; b) if you were to take all the color away, these are stories about women who are suffering independently, all needing someone to look at them and say "you matter". As women, we should be supporting each other but, even more than men, we cut each other down, criticize each others clothes, hair, speech, financial status, job/housewife status...right down to our shoes. The movie, more than the book, seemed to me to pit everyone struggling to find belonging and meaning was struggling against Hilly, who represents the worst in everyone. Why not just take this book as it was meant to be: a simple book that tells a story that might just get you thinking about how you view yourself, other women and what you do to contribute to that. Do you let the ignorant, dominating people win while you cower, or do you do what you believe is right even if it's not popular or could be harmful, even life threatening? What do you do to contribute to the problem or to help rid of us of it? If we want racial and sexist issues to go away, we need to see each other as human, fallible.

The reactions to this film

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”.

The fact that the majority of African Americans feel uncomfortable with the "The Help" whilst the vast majority of white Americans LOVE it (calling for an Oscar and describing it funny, witty etc) shows the reality of race relations in America couldn't be more different from the rosy veneer that the Obama presidency would have us believe.

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.

The book (and the movie) "The Help" is nothing more than a self congratulatory, patronising (and possibly misandric) work of fiction that tells us nothing new, other than panders to old stereotypes.

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, and noe The Help.

Don't get me wrong, I fully expect "The Help" to receive at the very least, an Oscar nomination or similar accolade. We've been down this road sooo many times before.

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

http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2010/07/warmly-embrace-racist-nov...
http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2010/07/force-non-white-students-...
http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2010/05/rewrite-us-history-so-tha...

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.

If I didn't get distracted, I would have a point...

First, let me preempt my thoughts with a little personal information about me as a person because I feel that every opinion formed comes with the originator's bias. I am no different: I am a twenty-something black woman who usually doesn't involve herself in forums such as this; not because I don't have opinions but usually because most comments I would consider posting seem tedious to try to explain (hint my disclaimer). This post is an exception because I just couldn't keep my opinions bottled as usual. I could be described as a cynic if I ever spouted what I really feel and think on a regular basis, but usually I try to take life and our society for what they are and leave them at that.

That being said I found the book insightful, considering the author's biases...of course I have read many stories like it and there were some parts that were riddled with stereotypes but in the end I couldn't put it down until I was finished (and in my world that is hard to do especially since it started as such a slow read). What I probably appreciated most was that fact that it didn't try to fit into a cookie cutter plot; and on the other end of the spectrum, that it didn't try to overly compensate that this was white author trying to write with a black point of view. I will not say that I completely agreed with some of the decisions on trying to pretend that the South wasn't worse than it was portrayed or that it all went so smoothly after people started to realized who had written the story (but like I said everyone has some bias).

What I didn't appreciate is the Hollywood corruption of this book. With any transformation from novel to script there will be some omissions and rewrites, but this specific conversion left a bad taste in my mouth. After I realized that they changed the story to highlight the white character, even though it presented itself as a dual-sided amorphous figure (maybe even more a black story), I understood that it needed to be adjusted for the demographic. (Spoiler Alert, my bias is about to slip). Let's be blunt, Americans, or at least the prominent figures in America, aren't able to handle having a strong leading black cast especially when there are white characters they could highlight - unless they are in a comedy, they a playing a stereotypical role, or they are playing a role in American history where they can be portrayed in a diminutive position ...it just wouldn't sell. However, stupid me, I had hope about this film or at least the fact that since they were basing it on the book that they wouldn't need to stick with most of what was written. But it didn't seem like the same story and the only reason I continued watching was for the hope that there would be some redeeming qualities, there weren't any. They couldn't allow more than one white person to be portrayed as a racist, when I am sure Jackson, Mississippi during that time wasn't all rainbows and sunshine (each character was just a victim of circumstance, not some deep-seeded hate); they changed the pivotal moment of Constantine's true dismissal into something perverse because they refused to let it be shown that a black woman could mother a white child (I don't know, maybe it would have been to much to explain); they basically ignored all the instrumental moments that could have made this a good movie (the little girl's ability to love herself was more important than expressing her ability to see past color and learn about equality).

I could on and really I should but as I said before I am not one to express my opinions beyond this point, it feels too much like preaching. I know it seems like I am going on about biases and it might seem like I am ashamed of my thoughts, with so much disclaimer, but honestly I am proud I think this way. Some of you might be thinking "who is this girl," "why does she think she could pass judgment." And I don't, I am just giving my opinion.... take it or leave it.

P.S. Sorry about any grammatical errors or typos, I didn't proofread.

Dictated but not red.

So basically what most of you

So basically what most of you are saying is you dislike it because it has a white person in it. A reviewer also disliked the Blind Side because a WHITE woman helped a BLACK man. This book was written from a child's point of view and she LOVED her maid. But all you seem to care about is that it's written by a white woman. It seems to me that you forget that a lot of white people also marched on Washington with Dr. King. A lot of white people also fought for civil liberties and still are. I guess the real reason racism still exists is because you WANT it to be there. Why else would you feel offended that a white woman wrote a book about black women's struggles during the Civil Rights? During this era black people couldn't speak out or write a book. She did it for them so everyone would know just how unfairly they were treated. BASH ON though! Heaven forbid a "white" try and help you without you turning us into a protagonist. Tyler Perry likes it because he is a good christian man that can see through color. You obviously can't. Also, why would you pass judgement on something you've never seen nor read? Haven't you heard to never judge a book by it's cover? Obviously not because you judge an author by her color. How terrible of you.

You seem to be the one locked

You seem to be the one locked on the race issue. How dare you challenge a black person or anyone, disagreeing with the direction a story or book takes, when it is written by one who has NEVER walked not one step in their shoes. And NO not all us colored folk need white people to lift us up. So quit patting your arrogant self on your pious back!

The Help is a book that pacifies the white liberals(white guilt) and the racist conservatives(longing for the good ole' days)...simple as the pie Minny baked.

Five Reasons to Not See The Help: A Round-Up of Responses |

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Strange days indeed

I can't help but note that we (me especially) are now talking about the real because the fake has gotten so much attention. Sometimes people think they are doing one thing, but another things happens - like the truth comes out for a walk because someone makes money off a series of loosely related fabrications and near-truths. I guess some in "white" America are ready to rewrite history now that we have a "black" president. Personally, I try to look at what people do as individuals, as Dr King said I try to see their character, not the shade of pink their skin might appear. I put the code words we use for "too busy to be accurate" racial titles in quotes because I have never met an actual white person or an actual black person. But I have met a whole lot of pink ones. Just because I am naive does not mean I am incorrect.

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