Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Sony Hack Reveals the Insufferable Whiteness of Hollywood Sony Hack Reveals the Insufferable Whiteness of Hollywood '106 & PARK' Says Goodbye Today, Dec 19 at 6pm, w/ Live, 2-hour, Star-Studded Finale! '106 & PARK' Says Goodbye Today, Dec 19 at 6pm, w/ Live, 2-hour, Star-Studded Finale! First Image of Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith in Upcoming HBO Biopic First Image of Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith in Upcoming HBO Biopic Review: Chris Rock's 'Top Five' Took Me Places I Wouldn't Expect a Chris Rock Film to Go Review: Chris Rock's 'Top Five' Took Me Places I Wouldn't Expect a Chris Rock Film to Go The Gift That Keeps on Giving - Leaked Sony Email Challenges Denzel Washington's Overseas Box Office Appeal The Gift That Keeps on Giving - Leaked Sony Email Challenges Denzel Washington's Overseas Box Office Appeal Backlash Against New VH1 Series 'Sorority Sisters' Backlash Against New VH1 Series 'Sorority Sisters' Tessa Thompson Books Female Lead Role in Ryan Coogler's 'Creed' Opposite Michael B. Jordan Tessa Thompson Books Female Lead Role in Ryan Coogler's 'Creed' Opposite Michael B. Jordan Samuel L. Jackson Has His Own Challenge for Other Celebrites in Reaction to "Racist Police" (Watch) Samuel L. Jackson Has His Own Challenge for Other Celebrites in Reaction to "Racist Police" (Watch) Why Aren’t We Talking About the Sexual Assault in 'Beyond the Lights'? Why Aren’t We Talking About the Sexual Assault in 'Beyond the Lights'? Page to Screen Possibilities for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'Americanah' (Lupita Nyong'o, David Oyelowo Starring) Page to Screen Possibilities for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'Americanah' (Lupita Nyong'o, David Oyelowo Starring) David Oyelowo Joins Lupita Nyong’o in 'Americanah' Film Adaptation David Oyelowo Joins Lupita Nyong’o in 'Americanah' Film Adaptation Leaked Sony Emails Reveal Interest in Destiny's Child Biopic + Immersive Kanye West Feature Film Experience Leaked Sony Emails Reveal Interest in Destiny's Child Biopic + Immersive Kanye West Feature Film Experience What Sony Pictures Chief Amy Pascal Should Do if She Sincerely Wants to Make Amends What Sony Pictures Chief Amy Pascal Should Do if She Sincerely Wants to Make Amends Woody Allen Says He Won’t Hire a Black Actor Unless the Role Calls for One... Whatever That Means Woody Allen Says He Won’t Hire a Black Actor Unless the Role Calls for One... Whatever That Means My MoviePass Experience - What Works & What Could Be Improved (The Movie Theater Subscription Service) My MoviePass Experience - What Works & What Could Be Improved (The Movie Theater Subscription Service) Co-Screenwriter of 'Noah' Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film Co-Screenwriter of 'Noah' Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

Thinking Of "The Help"... Films Exploring Black Maid/White Employer Relationship (Survey)

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act April 22, 2011 at 4:34AM

Hmmm... the hullabaloo over the film adaptation of The Help, starring Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and others, since its trailer was released earlier this week, inspired the content of this post - specifically, it all got me thinking about films in cinema history that have dealt directly with the tenuously symbiotic, strained relationship between black maids and their white employers, which goes back centuries and crosses borders.
9

Hmmm... the hullabaloo over the film adaptation of The Help, starring Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and others, since its trailer was released earlier this week, inspired the content of this post - specifically, it all got me thinking about films in cinema history that have dealt directly with the tenuously symbiotic, strained relationship between black maids and their white employers, which goes back centuries and crosses borders.

Note, I'm not talking about films in which there are black maids as peripheral/supporting characters, but rather films that, again, deal with that specific relationship, and/or the effects felt by the maids especially, or that tell the story from the maid's POV, not from their white employers. So, I wouldn't necessarily include many of the films that feature Hattie McDaniels' sassy, bossy maid roles, because I don't think they fit the above criteria; while she was certainly a presence, the films were never really about her, or told from her POV, becoming essentially a cinematic caricature and stereotype. I haven't seen every single film she's played a maid in, so there might be one that does fit. If so, I'm sure someone will say so.

However, Ousmane Sembene's La Noire De (aka Black Girl) most certainly does belong on the list; although I'd say the film is about more than just this deceptively simple story of a Senegalese maid; it's rich with symbolism and complexities that are essentially reactions to, and analysis of, the cultural legacy of colonialism. But I'll put it on the list. It really captures her everyday mundaneness and monotony, and the resulting mental anguish she suffers, leading to its fatal conclusion.

So, chime in folks... the subject is, again, films in cinema history that focus specifically on the black maid/white employer relationship, told intentionally from the maid's POV, or, at least, give us a complete and complex representation of her. Let's see what kind of list we can come up with here. We might actually come to find out the The Help may be one of the more revolutionary examples in the group, as hyperbolic as that might sound; because I don't believe that particular relationship, despite how present it is in real life, has ever really been examined and explored in front of a camera lens.

This article is related to: Things That Make You Go Hmm...


Shadow & ActNewsletter