This weekend, I saw the much criticized/acclaimed movie The Help. I had planned to keep this a secret, to never tell a soul, and pretend this never happened. But, I wanted to have an opinion about the movie so I bought a ticket to The Smurfs and saw The Help instead (I wanted to see it, but not support it). I refrained from reading any reviews, or any synopses of the book or the film. I wanted to go in with an open mind, and an open heart. But I couldn’t.
Something just wasn’t right. From the moment I first saw the preview, to the moment I walked past the movie poster on my way into the theater. I knew that something wasn’t right. I have slowly begun to build defenses against the biased, narrow and sometimes problematic ways Black women are portrayed in the media but I wasn’t ready for this.
There are some elements of the film more fantastical than some elements of the Smurfs. In fact, I’d be more apt to believe in small blue creatures than I would in believing that a group of Black women openly discussing matters of race and oppression with a young White woman. My grandmother grew up in the South, the granddaughter of sharecroppers, and she is the first to tell me which topics of conversation are appropriate for “mixed” company. Even today, let alone in the setting in which the film takes place.
The racism is presented in an awkward manner that, as the ABWH puts it, “limits racial injustice to individual acts of meanness”. There are those that will argue that the medium isn’t complex enough to unpack the racial atrocities that rocked Mississippi’s past. Then why include the scene regarding Medgar Evers’ assassination?
What Hollywood continues to do effectively, is allow those with the money and the clout continue to create historical fiction that enables them to view matters of race and sexuality in a vacuum.
Same tired old story. I should have read Summer’s piece before seeing the film. Then maybe I would have just gone to see The Smurfs.