THE HELP: Rant Two

Although based on a novel by Kathryn Stockett, the screen version of The Help was written & directed by Tate Taylor, so it doesn’t fall into the “women filmmaker” category (which requires a woman either directing &/or writing the screenplay). So it’s not in Penny’s niche, & she’s not obligated to write a review of it here. But some men are so stupid that I’ve decided to rant a bit. Here’s “Rant Two.” (Click HERE for Rant One.)

In the middle of his very long essay in Sunday’s issue of The New York Times (called “Black-and-White Struggle With Rosy Glow“), Nelson George writes: “The maids who tell Skeeter their stories speak of the risks they are taking, but the sense of physical danger that hovered over the civil rights movement is mostly absent.”

But my heart was in my throat and my concern for these women–as they cowered in corners and met in secret–sometimes subject to physical abuse and sometimes “merely” verbal abuse–was intense.  In fact, I think the genius of the plot is Minny’s understanding that their lives depend on white men having so little regard for their wives that they will allow them to be viciously mocked as long as all the women (black AND white) basically remain in their accustomed places afterwards serving yummy dinners, tending messy children, and literally keeping their bathrooms clean.

While it’s certainly true that black men were lynched and murdered, while black women were “merely” beaten, jailed, and tossed from their jobs at will (threatening the economic bedrock of entire families), does that really mean that physical danger was “mostly absent” from the lives of black women living in the Jim Crow South?

Shame on you, Nelson George!

Futhermore, while acknowledging that “the film opens and closes with voice-over narration by Viola Davis’s Aibileen, and her voice is interspersed throughout the film,” Geoge still concludes that “the narrative is driven by Skeeter’s journey.”  This is just dumb!  If Aibileen didn’t speak and convince others to speak, then Skeeter would have no story to tell and her journey would be very short: The End.

The central presence in this film is Aibileen’s and she is depicted by one of America’s greatest actresses with courage, compassion, and gravitas.  As I left the theatre on Saturday, I was already campaigning for Viola Davis in Oscar’s Best Actress category come January.  If you are a “woman in the audience” who “supports women artists now,” then please join me.

"Aibi" (Viola Davis) observes the Bridge Club.

Click here for our FF2 Haiku.

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