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Octavia Spencer On Criticism Of "The Help": "We've Gotten So PC..."

by Tambay A. Obenson
July 11, 2011 3:59 AM
36 Comments
  • |

We've read Viola Davis' take on the project... some of it anyway. Go HERE if you missed that post. Today, we've got her co-star, Octavia Spencer, who plays one of the film's lead characters, the bold and cantankerous maid Minnie.

The question asked by Rebecca Murray of About.com was: "There was some criticism about a white woman writing about African American characters, and then you’ve got a white man directing a movie about women of different races. What's your take on the issue?"

And Octavia Spencer's response: "We’ve gotten so PC and we’ve gotten so weirded out. We start labeling. You have to be a black person to write about black people. You have to be a white person… But when you think about the dialects - I love to read. I was an English major and I remember re-reading Wuthering Heights and their broken English dialects, and they are Caucasian people. And Huck Finn is written with a strong dialect from Louisiana – a Southern white boy. I love it - and either you love it or hate it. As a black woman, I grew up in Montgomery, Alabama and I had relatives who were much older in rural Alabama and a few of them had this dialect. A lot of them didn’t. But if she wrote every black character with the same exact voice, then there would be like a cause for concern, but she didn’t do that and I think that gives it authenticity. It made me feel that I was walking in someone else’s shoes... I have a problem with the fact that people are making that an issue. 'Oh, a white girl,' and then they read the book and they say, 'Oh, it's not Mamie.' I did it too. I was like, 'Oh, this is Mamie from Gone with the Wind."

Still working to get my opportunity, so that I can speak to these actresses, the writer and director myself. But since y'all have been so mean to them about the film, they may not grant me any access now :)

I'm kidding... I'm kidding...

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36 Comments

  • howie | August 22, 2011 3:03 AMReply

    I saw the movie at a pre screening and never considered that the controversy would be in this direction. I actually thought the film would take more criticism from conservatives complaining that there was only one positive white character in the entire film.

    Instead the criticism is exactly the reverse; a complaint that the author dare include one non-evil white person. I don't think her presence as a
    Vehicle for the women to get their stories out detract from those stories one bit.
    The truth is that there were some whites supportive of civil rights. So including one isn't a crime. I can also understand the detached approach taken to the murder of Medgar Evers because the movie wasn't about the bigger struggle, it was about this smaller one.

    Would the story be more complete with the inclusion of white men who didn't seem so passive toward the situation or supportive black father figures? Sure, but that wasn't where the focus was placed in the book or movie.

  • Crystal Marie | August 17, 2011 5:05 AMReply

    So many people are seriously mislead.

    This book did NOT portray all Blacks as uneducated and all Whites as educated. It showed a diversity of education backgrounds for Whites and Blacks.

    Read the book. Then comment. Thanks!

  • S. Jones | August 10, 2011 6:55 AMReply

    I refuse to see yet another movie in which the black characters are all in lower stations in life while the white characters are educated, angelic and/or enlightened. There are tons of attractive educated in shape beautiful black women. Why is tv and hollywood always so willing to potray us either in lower stations in life or fat and loud while standing next to a educated slim trim white person. Its racism by comparison. What are the chances that a movie about educated black folks with a white maid gets made? How about a movie centered around a fat white women who gets abused (Precious)? Its always showing the worst of us and the best of them.

  • CareyCarey | July 13, 2011 11:04 AMReply

    "We should have a film review show where we tell each other off every week, then make up. Even better if we critique movies ain’t neither of us seen yet!!-LOL"

    Tell me about it. *LOL*

    I’d bust up in the show doing my best Fred Sanford... talking a bunch of junk. Or rolling my eyes and rubbing my chin like Kingfish, aka, George Steven... "Blu, you ain't talking about nothing. You wanna see papers, I got papers, but I ain't seen the damn movie"

    You walk out with a big black iron skillet. "Carey, you's a bigger fool than chicken little and he thought the sky was falling down. If you don't sit yo ass down, I'm gonna bust you upside your damn head"

    "Okay Blu, but can I call you Sapphire?"

    Blu: "Sure, go ahead, if I can call you Buckwheat?"

    Carey: "See, there you go with that bullsh*t. Let's just talk about this here movie"

    Blu: "Okay, have you seen it?"

    Carey: "NOPE! Have you?"

    Blu: Nope.

    Carey: "Then baby, what are we going to talk about?"

    Blu: "Shiiiiiiiit, as much as you run yo damn mouth, I'm sure I can follow your lead"

    Carey: "Holy Mackerel, Sapphire... I mean Blu, am gonna be a gentlemen about this and not talk about your one day hair long, and the next day hair gone and your bald head buck tooth ass. I'm gonna stay focused on the task at hand"

    Blu: "Ooooh! It's that kind of of party huh? Okay, I'm not going to talk about yo momma when she was a 2 dollar ho, with a crack habit and nowhere to go. Nope, I'm not going to do that. I am going to remain a lady and stay focused on these movies I came here to discuss"

    Carey: "Okay, let's get down to business. What movie do you want to start with?"

    Blu: "You call the shot"

    Carey: "Okay, I want to start off with The Help because I am tired tired tired of negroes waving their black power flag every time a white women writes a book about black folks"

    Blu: "Damn man, if you don't stop crying like a bit*h, we ain't gonna talk about nothing because you're making me sick with that simpin' sh*t"

    Carey: "See, there you go again, and close your legs, don't nobody wanna see that. All I was trying to say was although I have not seen the movie..."

    Blu: HOLD IT! Stop right there. That's right, you haven't even seen the movie so why should I listen to anything your dumb has to say?"

    Carey: "Nawl, you hold up. Your Hutu Voodoo Woman ass ain't read the book or seen the movie, so why am I even talking to you?"

    Blu: "Oh baby, you know how we do it. We shake it up and breakup, only to make up. You know I love you"

    Carey: "Now you're talking about something". "Hey director, turn out the lights and go to commercial so I can put this bug in Blu's ear"

    Blu: Oh Carey, you're making me blush. After the commercial break, what movie should we talk about?

    Carey: "No baby, you pick it"

    Blu: "Well, you know there's talk about Spike Lee coming out of his semi-retirement with that Japanese thing , so let’s talk about that”

    Carey: “Japanese thang? WTH are you talking about now?”

    Blu: “you know, that Hellboy thing”

    Carey: No, I don’t know, you brought it up, but are you talking about “oldboy”?

    Blu: “Stop playin’... you knew WTF I was talking about so why are you comin’ at me like that?”

    Carey: “My bad, but do you know anything about the movie or the character?”

    Blu: “NOPE! Not a damn thing. I don‘t do Japanese”

    Carey: “GREAT! Neither do’s I, so we have a lot to talk about.

    ** fade to black**

    The Blu Topaz and The Black Hick show: Kicking ass, calling names and a deep discussion on movies. :-)

  • BluTopaz | July 13, 2011 8:48 AMReply

    (((((Hugs to CareyCarey))))))--thank you, I appreciate that. We were only going at it because we both care.

    We should have a film review show where we tell each other off every week, then make up. Even better if we critique movies ain't neither of us seen yet!!-LOL

  • CareyCarey | July 13, 2011 7:59 AMReply

    "[CareyCarey] It ain’t that kind of party neither, man"

    Blu, you are my kind of women. When you smile, I smile with you. We are in there. We are kuul. I stand accused. ** I bow **

  • BluTopaz | July 13, 2011 4:40 AMReply

    @ CareyCarey--

    "In short, pick an issue/position from the following and stand on it. As it stands, I am SMH in confusion as you muddle the playing floor."

    "so now you argument is about the unfair treatment of the former maid? Okay, riiiight"

    "(which you‘ve changed, redefined, and never said in the past/beginning) "

    **********************************************************
    You are incorrect.

    I mentioned the issue of this "writer" swiping the story from her former maid in that other post from a few days ago, which I know you read because you replied to me, in regards to another topic. There is no muddling the floor on my part, as my comments have been consistent throughout. It's interesting your encyclopedic memory of so many threads on this blog has failed you now:

    http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/archives/viola_davis_on_her_role_in_the_help_of_course_i_had_trepidations_more/#comments

    And even if this was the first time I mentioned it, what is the problem of clarifying a position about something that's not a secret to begin with? You can call someone a fake militant , but if I mention another aspect of this nonsense after a few posts I get a side eye? It ain't that kind of party neither, man.

  • JMac | July 13, 2011 2:08 AMReply

    Guess this is just another agree to disagree argument. Let's get back to happy (or to optimistic) and hope this film is better than what everyone expects.

  • brainchild | July 12, 2011 10:07 AMReply

    I stumbled upon this article.
    http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Talking-To-Viola-Davis-And-Octavia-Spencer-On-The-Mississippi-Set-Of-The-Help-25649.html

  • ced | July 12, 2011 10:03 AMReply

    Ever notice that when someone complains about "PC" they usually say something racist, homophobic or just plain stupid?

  • CareyCarey | July 12, 2011 8:30 AMReply

    Well Blu, as I noted in my previous comment, your basic complaint is that you would like the rest of the story to be told. So don't get mad at the players that do not get all upset at history and how this one movie depicts black folks. You have noticed that there are many brave souls that disagree with you?

    And in reference to my comment on Angela Davis, although it implied a sort of militancy, it was in response to those who misguidedly accuse those that view and understand the movie for what it is, as some sort of sell-out or less-informed negros. Nawl baby, it’s not that kind of party. We are just identifying what others are obviously missing, and are unafraid to voice a view that might not be popular.

    But it’s always nice to see people come to an agreement. I was overjoyed to see that you agreed that this is only one story among many.

    “And it’s the only story that’s ever given the spotlight, your “facts” reinforce that. Period”

    Yes that’s true, and as noted before, that seems to be the strength of your argument and the fuel to your frustrations and disdain. And as I also said before - go at it. But don’t convolute the issue or get it twisted. It’s yo thang and many will agree with your take, but that certainly does not make it right. You’ve presented an argument all your own (which you‘ve changed, redefined, and never said in the past/beginning) but everybody’s eyes ain’t closed, and subsequently are not going to hang on that ass.

    In short, pick an issue/position from the following and stand on it. As it stands, I am SMH in confusion as you muddle the playing floor.

    You wrote: “One of my main points [ MAIN POINTS?! when, where, now?] (which is available for anyone who can Google) is that even this author’s family is agreeing with their former’s maid’s assertion that her likeness, mannerisms, basically her life was used by this woman without her permission. And has she received one dime [so now you argument is about the unfair treatment of the former maid? Okay, riiiight] . This is acceptable to many people, for some reason. Some Black folks want to feel like the existence of these women is somehow validated by being on the big screen, regardless of who put it there. So many of us love to fall for the okey-doke—did you know there is a fundraiser for this movie that is hosted by ‘Ol Miss Gov. Haley Barbour? He probably hasn’t seen it either, but I’m sure the images warm his klan heart”

    WTH, what’s your real bone of contention? What, “Some Black folks want to feel like the existence of these women is somehow validated by being on the big screen “ ? Please Blu, who in the hell said anything about validation? Validate what? These women? And fall for what okey doke? What are you implying? Damn, you’re drifting from whatever central point you’re yet to establish.

    It’s time to say, “see you later alligator and I bid you adieu"

  • writer | July 12, 2011 7:17 AMReply

    JMAC your post was on point!

    I live in Europe. It's better for my mental health after living/working in Hollywood for over ten years.

  • BluTopaz | July 12, 2011 6:31 AMReply

    One of my main points (which is available for anyone who can Google) is that even this author's family is agreeing with their former's maid's assertion that her likeness, mannerisms, basically her life was used by this woman without her permission. And has she received one dime? Nope. This is acceptable to many people, for some reason. Some Black folks want to feel like the existence of these women is somehow validated by being on the big screen, regardless of who put it there. So many of us love to fall for the okey-doke--did you know there is a fundraiser for this movie that is hosted by 'Ol Miss Gov. Haley Barbour? He probably hasn't seen it either, but I'm sure the images warm his klan heart.

    "I say move around, and ask somebody"

    Many of us don't need to ask anyone a damn thing. We've already had these discussions with elders and know there are other sides we mysteriously never see in the movies. I'm sure there are Black servants who loved their White families and loved being servants, it was all they know and it sure wasn't their fault. How about a heartfelt, warm family story about the ones who did not live to suckle White babies, and where there's no purty White missus in the center? Ever ask yourself why we never see those?

    In the James McBride novel Song Yet Sung, there's a character of a Black man who (SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!) who is the town jester, he's always a-grinnin and a-pickin, bending over to get kicked in his ass. While White folks are bent over in laughter, he straightens up right quick, runs around the corner and takes part in an intricate underground network that's helping his own people escape. That's the kind of stuff I want to see because as you and i both know, those countless stories exist as well. And unless The Help does have the kind of more obsure stories of Black maids who weren't thrilled to be there (is that who Octavia is portraying as the "bold, cantankerous maid Minnie"?-so she's the angry Black maid-lovely!) then I don't need to see it.

    No one said the history of Black domestics should be swept under the rug as you and others are implying. I'm not ashamed of that history, if anything when i think about women like my grandmother that I posted in that other thread, it makes me proud that many of us have persevered under bitter ugliness with our dignity intact. I don't know how they did it back then, but having heard these kinds of interactions has helped me personally. So many times I've reacted to other kinds of ugliness with the same 'hand them their hat & smile' demeanor I've been taught in order to keep a job or keep from going off. And folks wonder how we do it, sometimes it makes them angrier and it's good to sit back and laugh at them.

    So no, I don't need to ask anyone to get schooled on the sad, true stories that they have endured to survive, thanks for suggesting it.

    "and this movie is one story among thousands that speak to the existence and history of black maids. "

    And it's the only story that's ever given the spotlight, your "facts" reinforce that. Period.

  • CareyCarey | July 12, 2011 5:26 AMReply

    Blu, you know I always appreciate your candor. It’s a quality that I admire in you and we will never draw a scratch line, so let me state my position. I am sure you know that I am not blind to the subtle messages in this movie, but it is one movie, centered on one household (and community) in one place of time, told from the voice (“viewpoint” /perspective and for the most part, perception) of a white person. Okay, I get that.

    If your objects to the storyline centers on that point alone (which it appears to be) and you’re using that argument to voice your discontent, go at it. But only a special kind of fool would say it’s not “our” story. My question is why not? It may not be told from the viewpoint of a suffering maid, or written by a black person, complete with every story of a maid’s life, but it is a moment in history in which “we” were an integral part.

    Besides, what story/movies do/has captured every element, nuance, hardship, joy and pain of “our” existence, or any race, culture or place? It simply can not be done in a 2 hour movie nor a 600 page novel. Consequently, your objection are valid, but don’t take this wrong, they are somewhat narrow in focus.

    And let me make something perfectly clear, for those that believe maids did not fall in love with their employer’s, their lifestyle, their children and their home, or step n fetch and giggled and grin like a Cheshire Cat, I say move around, and ask somebody. Also, on the flip-side, some maids took care of the husband, wife and/or children better than the immediate family, so there was a bond that some might call and could be considered love. You know how that goes, love the one your with and love the one who loves you back. That’s human nature and it can not be denied that it did happen between the employer, their family and the servant. You know the story and we laugh about it... “our house sure is looking good maam”. What about the lonely wife that had only the maid to befriend and share her pain with? And what about the maid that loved the comfort and living conditions of her employer, more than she did her own meager existence. Blu, small, sad, but true stories... our stories. In fact, I personally know of a young lady (23 years old right now) whose grandmother was a live-in maid (except on weekends, see lived with her daughter) who frequently lived with her grandmother in the white folks home. The granddaughter loved the life and the neighborhood to a point that she didn’t want to return to her mother’s home. The employer’s family bought her clothes and let her drive their cars and she loved it. However, she lost her identity and her transition into her “real” life has been a hard adjustment. Just another small story of “ours”.

    You wrote: “And do you all realize how difficult it is for a Black writer to get the funds to make well written films that show us in depth”

    Okay, I agree with that but who’s arguing against that point, I’m not. What’s your point?

    If I am defending anything, I am defending facts. Nothing I’ve said is not true, and this movie is one story among thousands that speak to the existence and history of black maids.

    And remember, in one of my comments, I said I will not be running out to see this movie.

  • Tamara | July 12, 2011 5:05 AMReply

    I think this debate/discussion needs to be had once the movie comes out and those who want to see it, see it.

    Many are coming from the point of view of having read the book and judging it within that particular medium/context.

    Many are coming from the point of view of not having read the book but seeing the trailer and drawing conclusions from there.

    Many are coming from the point of view of having read the book and having seen the trailer.

    Two other viewpoints remain: 1) read the book, saw the trailer, saw the movie 2) didn't read the book, saw the trailer, saw the movie. And I guess there's the option of didn't read the book, didn't see the trailer, but saw the movie, that can be added to the mix.<---but no one's seen it yet, right? So all this postulation is in some part moot. My comments included.

    Go ahead and flame if you like. Or ignore. See you after seeing the film. lol

  • Melissa | July 12, 2011 4:25 AMReply

    WHAT EXACTLY IS THE MESSAGE OF THIS MOVIE? WHAT'S ALL THE HYPE ABOUT?

    BLACK WOMEN BEING PORTRAYED AS FAT MAIDS IN A FILM FULL OF ATTRACTIVE WHITE WOMEN IS NOTHING NEW, IT'S ALMOST EXPECTED.

    SO WHAT'S SO DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS ONE? LOL!

  • CareyCarey | July 12, 2011 2:40 AMReply

    "Please give me a list of all these wonderful colorblind stories written or filmed by white people? I am sure you could fit it on a post-it"

    Slow your roll cranky film critic, your back door is wide open as you drive-by which such an ambiguous statement. As it stands, your statement/question implies there are NO wonderful stories - period. I mean, are all stories written with "color" being a central element to the storyline? So I am suggesting that the best stories focus on the art of telling a good story. What are you trying to say?

  • Orville | July 12, 2011 2:39 AMReply

    But the Help is NOT a great story it is basically a movie to help white people feel better about themselves. This is the problem I have with these so called civil rights movies.

    Of course, the white actress Emma Stone's character in The Help is the white saviour. It seems to me that SOME white people prefer civil rights movies where white people LOOK GOOD but they don't want the ugly side to be exposed. The Help is a work of fiction. Another side of the black female domestic life was being raped by white men which The Help doesn't really address. The Help engenders all kind of racist and sexist stereotypes about black women. The black female characters are depicted as being happy to be servants. I hate the line in the trailer "we love them and they love us." Really? Somehow, I doubt black women LOVED working as domestics for rich white folks in the south. Black women had to take on domestic jobs because they were blocked from obtaining higher education due to racism and sexism.

  • JWinbush | July 12, 2011 2:31 AMReply

    I don't get it. A great story is a great story. Why does it matter who writes it? Are we saying a Black writer can't write about "White subjects?"

    Think about this: what's one of the "Blackest" movies this summer? Not "Thor." Not "Transformers." Not "Cars 2" Damn sure not the last "Harry Potter."

    Try "Larry Crowne." You got Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson, Pam Grier. Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Who knew Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts were down with the chocolate?

    Don't like "The Help?" Don't watch "The Help." Problem solved.

  • CareyCarey | July 12, 2011 2:26 AMReply

    Here she goes again, talking silly.

    Lynn said: "smh @ the deluded people defending this film. How does this film tell our “story”?"

    But wait, it get more outrageuosly It gets “more” outrageously stupid.

    Lynn continues: “It sugar coats everything” “Why do the whites speak perfect English while, the Blacks speak like uneducated nobody’s?”

    WTH is “everything”? That's a child cry akin to "everybody is doing it". Everything?!! And, maybe the author was sticking to the vernaculars specific to the characters in this story during that time period -duh. I could be wrong but I do not believe most domestics in lower Mississippi during the late 50’s and early 60’s had PhD’s, nor were many Rhodes Scholars.

    Deluded? Yeah, lets talk about something that you know. Who’s “defending” the movie? I think most of us are just being adults and addressing the issue that some are crying about. For instance, this question of yours “How does this film tell our “story”. Okay, DOUBLE DUH? If you don’t know that answer, I have to ask who’s living in self delusion? But your question does explain this... Lynn: “This film is so sad I am appalled by Viola Davis accepting this role” So sad? And you haven’t even seen the movie? And you’re appalled by Viola Davis accepting this role?! Woman, if you’re going to come up in here and call yourself pimp slapping folks, I would suggest that you pickup your game. Although you’re wearing your black glove in your black power salute, Angela Davis you are not.

  • eshowoman, the cranky film critic | July 12, 2011 2:21 AMReply

    Please give me a list of all these wonderful colorblind stories written or filmed by white people? I am sure you could fit it on a post-it.

  • BluTopaz | July 12, 2011 2:16 AMReply

    ITA with JMac. Too many of ya'll like to act like you're so enlightened and far beyond what we've been through-- instead of seeing ish for what it really is.

    I can think of a few films where "they" have told our stories and were truthful. Say, George Lucas wanting to make the Tuskegee Airmen film--he's a great filmmaker and the story of those heroic men needs to be told as it actually happened because most people don't know it. Another one i can think of is the excellent Ballast---i was shocked to find out that movie was written by a White man but the story in that movie was universal, it wasn't even about race. Another is Fresh which we talked about a few weeks back, beautifully written film with deep characters who were not cliches. Also Something the Lord Made with Mos Def, very unique in that it showed his White mentor for who he truly was, and not just a benefactor hero.

    Those are exceptions. Tambay posted an upcoming Robert Redford biopic about Jackie Robinson that will center around his friendship with a White man who helped him. Sure The Blind Side is a great true story, but does anyone think there are no Black families who have adopted marginalized Black kids and helped them achieve great success? And i get that The Help is from a bestseller book so it's an easier sell, i also wonder who bought most of those books.

    And do you all realize how difficult it is for a Black writer to get the funds to make well written films that show us in depth? A Black male filmmaker who directed a rom-com a few years back had Angela Bassett in mind for the lead role, and it was a totally different story than what he was forced to come up with to keep his financing. He was instructed to change the story, and voila Angela's character became Renee Zellwegger in yet another ditzy blond flick-sure don't have enough of those. If you have any info about a film that was forced to switch from an attractive White women to a Black actress who becomes the heroine no matter how stupid and self centered she is, please do tell. So stop acting brand new, like there are NO Black filmmakers who want to tell engaging, intelligent stories about us and Black militants just want to raise a ruckus. You see enough really good Black indie films on this blog and they are not getting the shine The Colored Help is getting, wonder why.

    And can any of ya'll defending this explain what's so unique & "compelling & truthful" about this story? You don't have any older Black women in your family or communities who can talk to you about dignity, survival and hardship of people who were in these situations--you need a Hollywood movie (written by a White woman WHO USED HER FORMER MAID'S LIFE STORY) to fill that void for you? And you can't wait to stand in line and make her richer, so what will that mean? Even more flicks with fat, happy Black maids luvin up some of their beloved White folks and their babies, yay! I think if the movie was about Black male servants there would not be all this enthusiasm amongst Black people, Driving Miss Daisy still provokes ire several decades later.

    and CareyCarey, calling people fake militants because they are tired of the same 'ol is totally not cool. And yes, you all ARE defending this movie because we've seen enough of it to know what it's about.

    If you want to spend $$ to hear Black characters talk about how much they loves dey White folks and they chilrens have fun, don't complain if variations of this is all you see when you help make this movie a hit.

  • Miles Ellison | July 11, 2011 12:57 PMReply

    Good storytelling is colorblind. However, bad storytelling is tone deaf, dumb, and unseeingly blind.

  • Lynn | July 11, 2011 12:42 PMReply

    "Kathryn Stockett because the white characters speak perfect English while the black characters do not! Why can’t the black characters speak in proper English? People can rationalize all they want but the subliminal message the author is sending is white folks are better than black female domestics. I have a serious problem with a young white female writer writing about the civil rights era in which there is a white savior in the film"

    Yes. I agree with you on this one Orville I asked myself this same question when I read part of the novel. Why do the whites speak perfect English while, the Blacks speak like uneducated nobody’s? Many people have been defending this film I don’t know why it has no real message or substance. It is just another inaccurate Hollywood film portrayal of the Civil Rights era shedding light on upper middle class elite whites who lend their helping hand to poor uneducated African-American maids and become best of friends. Huh?? Did I miss something? This film is so sad I am appalled by Viola Davis accepting this role. I have enjoyed every single film she has ever starred in except for this one. I know Viola & Octavia are ONLY defending this film because it pays and they have already signed on to it.

    I guess the main reason why I am not pleased with this film is the portrayal of the time period. “The Help” looks like a TV film that you watch on the Lifetime network not in theatres. It sugar coats everything and it looks almost as if the maids love their “white bosses” in the trailer you see rich young white housewives giggling with their African-American maids acting like life is sweet and like they actually care about Black issues. Oh, boy oh boy when will Hollywood get it right?

    “These women take care of our children we love them and they love us” smh @ the deluded people defending this film. How does this film tell our "story"? If you ask me this film showcases white people as "helpers" good people who are interested in Black issues and who are willing to help us. LOL

  • dcmoviegirl | July 11, 2011 12:35 PMReply

    Just speaking for myself, my issue isn't with the subject matter, the accents, or even the occupations of the characters.

    No, that story NEEDS to be told.

    My issue is with who's the main point view this story is told from.

    ...The fact that yet again, our story needs that 'white buffer' to safely translate for everyone.

    It's insulting to black audiences and patronizing to white audiences.

  • JMac | July 11, 2011 12:17 PMReply

    I know of a great complex pre-civil rights era black maid story and it's autobiographical too. It's about a racist old white man knocking up some po' black child maid who keeps the illegitimate baby girl's existence a secret so he can fulfill his self righteous hypocritical goal of being one of the longest serving segregationist U.S. congressman in American history. Only problem is this story is written by a black woman and we all know niggas don't read, niggas can't write, niggas don't research, and those that do have absolutely no idea how to produce quality work. Just look at the DVD section of your local video store.

    Here's what needs to be done: get a white relative of the aforementioned congressmen to write about her experience learning of this black child after decades of silence. Just to keep it modern and PC, she should paint the black/white affair as a torrid romance, strictly forbidden in that racially biased era. Romeo and Juliet couldn't hold a candle to this story. Then as soon as she publishes the book, Hollywood would take immediate notice and turn it into a Oscar caliber movie in the space of a year. Of course, black people -well the best kind of black people - will go gaga for it because they remember the story even if they didn't read black chick's book, and they can all pat the white woman on the back about how great, emotional, timeless, and thought provoking her story is. "It'll show us another equally valid perspective of a period in our history that we can all learn so much about and who cares if we read and acknowledge the superiority of literature from people of other races and cultures than those written by our own because" blah blah blah blah crap.

    Where did the black militants go? Are they all in jail or did they flee to Europe and refuse to come back?

    *thinks about throwing the microphone to the floor but changes her mind because she doesn't like destroying property needlessly*

  • Orville | July 11, 2011 12:02 PMReply

    Look, Octavia is not going to bash The Help because this is probably the biggest role she's ever gotten in her career. I can see part of Octavia's argument because Zora Neale Hurston wrote in the southern dialect BUT she wrote the black and white characters in the same dialect! Zora Neale Hurston was an anthropologist and she studied African American folk cultures. I would rather read Zora's work than some young white female author that doesn't know a lot about southern African Americans.

    People criticize Kathryn Stockett because the white characters speak perfect English while the black characters do not! Why can't the black characters speak in proper English? People can rationalize all they want but the subliminal message the author is sending is white folks are better than black female domestics. I have a serious problem with a young white female writer writing about the civil rights era in which there is a white saviour in the film.

    I think the reason some of us are upset about The Help is the best roles for middle aged black women are still the category of the maid. It seems to me Hollywood places black women into two categories as either maids and whores.

  • Tamara | July 11, 2011 11:49 AMReply

    good storytelling is color blind.

    The end.

  • Ourstorian | July 11, 2011 9:35 AMReply

    @LvFlg the narrowing isn’t on the part of African-Americans…..

    I teach African American music to undergraduate students. I'm speaking from my experience. Perhaps you know some other young people.

  • CareyCarey | July 11, 2011 9:34 AMReply

    "I agree with Octavia Spencer on this issue. If I find a story about “black” people compelling and truthful in its depiction of our lives, I don’t care who wrote it or filmed it. In fact there are many African American writers, filmmakers, artists who don’t speak to me at all given the subject matter they’ve chosen or their methods of storytelling"

    For me, Ourstorian said it all. There is one basic rule that I believe most writers should adhere to and believe in, “Write about something that you know”. Now, knowledge is received by various means which has little to do with a person’s skin color. In reference to writing books and storytelling, it has more to do with the subject matter, storyline and the central characters. And how and where the author receives their knowledge of/on said subjects.

    It’s only reasonable to believe and has to be understood (as Ourstorian noted/implied, “there are many African American writers, filmmakers, artists who don’t speak to me at all given the subject matter they’ve chosen or their methods of storytelling”) good storytelling is color blind.

    If the argument is centered around "white folks ain't telling OUR stories" or "are not telling our stories correctly", there are several lingering questions on the table.

  • R.J. | July 11, 2011 7:27 AMReply

    @Other Song: I want the story to be told well...period. Of course it's great to see black people telling our own stories, but even we get it wrong a lot of the time - just look at the abundance of crap that hits the direct-to-DVD racks every week.

    @Vanessa: The writer oft he book is close friends with Octavia Spencer, the character that Spencer portrays was modeled after her.

  • other song | July 11, 2011 6:34 AMReply

    y'all are acting like there are so many black writers and directors out there working in the industry producing content.

    at the end of the day, do you really want White folk to be telling YOUR story? Let's be real - we certainly aren't telling theirs.

    I agree that a great writer is a great writer. I love the Wire. That was written by David Simon and his crew. I'm not sure how many Black writers (if any) were on that show, but the show is stone cold genius. You can tell Simon did his homework.

    But the problem is that Simon's the exception to the rule. Most of the time, we get these movies written by others that portray us in ways we'd rather not be viewed in.

    and besides, back to my original point, would you rather someone else told your story or you did?

  • Vanessa | July 11, 2011 6:19 AMReply

    I read an article about the author of the book, Kathryn Stockett. The book was based on some of her life experiences growing up. She also said she modeled one of the character's speech, mannerisms etc.. after a personal friend who is black.

    Why should writers stick to creating characters of their own race, ESPECIALLY when they've had close relationships and experiences with people of other races that they would like to talk about?

    If you're a good writer, know how to develop complex characters and you are passionate about a story, then nothing else should matter.

  • JMac | July 11, 2011 5:20 AMReply

    Thank you LvFlg.

    I'm gonna skip that part regarding rap and hiphop because it depends on which young generation of black folks you're referring to.

  • LvFlg | July 11, 2011 4:43 AMReply

    the narrowing isn't on the part of African-Americans.....

  • Ourstorian | July 11, 2011 4:38 AMReply

    I agree with Octavia Spencer on this issue. If I find a story about "black" people compelling and truthful in its depiction of our lives, I don't care who wrote it or filmed it. In fact there are many African American writers, filmmakers, artists who don't speak to me at all given the subject matter they've chosen or their methods of storytelling. As much as I care about and support "black" artists, I don't do so without applying certain standards in selecting the books I want to read or the films I want to see--none of which have to do with skin color.

    We can't allow ourselves to narrow our thinking and thereby deny our exposure to voices we need to hear and stories that tell us something about ourselves. This is what has happened to an entire generation of young "black" folks who have narrowed their interests to only hip hop and rap and dismissed or ignored the immense repertoire of jazz, blues, and other forms of black music that inform all contemporary musical styles.

    http://ourstorian.wordpress.com

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