Will Black Folk Complain If Viola Davis Wins An Oscar?

Features
by Sergio
November 27, 2011 8:17 PM
41 Comments
  • |

So according to industry insiders and Oscar procrastinators, there are three actresses right now who are, for sure, a lock to get an Oscar nomination for Best Actress next year -. Michelle Williams for playing Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn, Meryl Streep for her performance as Margret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (though advance reviews for the film have not been good, calling it "dull" and a total softball whitewash job about one of the most divisive politicans in recent British history), and Viola Davis for The Help. And what people are saying is that it's Davis' Oscar to lose; that you can bet the farm she's going to get it, not only for her performance, but also because she's been in the busniess for a long time, doing consistently solid work, and has paid her dues.

But that got me wondering - considering that her role has both its defenders and critics (and that's certainly true, judging from the comments we've gotten on S & A), I suspect that there will be some black people who will be upset if she wins the the Oscar for what they see as a demanding "subservient" role as a maid. It reminds me how some people complained (and still complain) about Denzel Washington winning the Best Actor Oscar for playing a corrupt evil cop in Training Day, saying that it was a demeaning and (dare I say it?) "negative" role and he was awarded for it.

I always thought that criticism was totally unfair and unwarranted anyway. Washington, like any other talented actor, is always looking to stretch himself, expand his range and do different things. And considering that he's mainly played heroes - from private detectives to Civil War Union soliders, to submarine commanders, to cops, to teachers, and even an angel - what's the problem with him playing a bad guy once in a while, like in Training Day and American Gangster?

And, of course, let's not forget that people are still upset about that Halle-Berry-got-nekkid-and-had-raw-sex-with-a-redneck-white-guy Oscar.

So do you think some people will get upset if Davis gets the Oscar for The Help, playing a maid, instead of for a performance in some movie where she plays, for example, a defense lawyer, or an inspiring teacher?

Features
  • |
You might also like:
Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

41 Comments

  • anon | February 21, 2012 2:07 PMReply

    SWhe wont get an oscar. Meryl Streep is guranteed one for playing maggie so nobody needs to get theuir knickers in a twist!

  • Shanika C | December 10, 2011 6:19 AMReply

    I definitely will not be mad if Viola Davis wins the Oscar. She is a great actress and The Help was a good movie. Any movie like this is going to have its critics in the black community because it's so hard to get it exactly right. It's a touchy subject with us still and with good reason but I feel like it did a good job, she did a superb job in it and I hope she wins.

  • geoffrey thorne | November 30, 2011 11:42 PMReply

    Hollywood always applauds black women for playing roles like this. And, sometimes, black men too. She's a gifted actress in a thankless, ugly part, written by people who either don't know, don't care about or wish to modify the truth of our collective past. Actors are not responsible for the words in their mouths. They interpret the words of others. IF she gets it, she deserves it for her ACTING, not for the crappy role she was required to play.

  • Reneenix | November 30, 2011 12:10 PMReply

    ‘The Help’ is a period piece and should be looked at from that point of view. Viola Davis' character represents what a lot of African American women did and still do, work as maids. I really hope that she is nominated for her performance and that the movie is nominated for best film.

    As for Denzel Washington, for me, it wasn't that he was playing a bad guy; it just wasn't the best part for him. It wasn't his stellar work that we had seen in the past. Basically, people are still mad that he didn't win for 'Malcolm X'. But that's another story and another theory! Halle did her thing in 'Monster's Ball' but the sex scene over shadowed everything else in the movie. Again, another story and a theory.

    But I have high hopes for Viola, but the sad thing is that with the movie coming out in August, it's a chance that it might still be forgotten. Sad to say.

  • Emmanuel | November 30, 2011 10:54 AMReply

    Even though I didn't care too much for the premise of "The Help", I still support Viola Davis' work, and hope she wins if nominated.

    When she was nominated for "Doubt", she played a black mother who looked the other way amid suspicions that her child was being abused by a white man. That, to me, is a worse character than a mere maid. And we all rooted for her to win then, so why not now?

  • ScriptTease | November 30, 2011 10:16 AMReply

    Regardless of what her role was in the movie, if she played the part well, then she deserves an Oscar. Black folks would have been more upset if they took a few popular white actresses and painted them black to play the roles. So for the movie to have been made, somebody had to play the part... and she wins Good!

  • artbizzy | November 30, 2011 7:45 AMReply

    @Sergio I find the title of this post lazy and irresponsible. That said, who cares? Signed, another lazy, whining complaining black folk person who hasn't watched the Oscars since Halle Berry won.

  • Michele Shay | November 29, 2011 8:51 PMReply

    I hope people might think about how much work it might have taken Viola to not only create but to both protect and illuminate her character. She is an actress's actress in terms of her skill and transcends the limitations presented by the context of the story as well as the limitations in the script. The humanity of those who serve others is most often greater than that of the ones being served. The empathy that got generated in the audience through her craft is not a small matter and will last long beyond the Help's impact as a film -and to produce that affect- that took real skill on her part. The politics of winning is something most movie goers may not think about. Be mad about her later movies- not this one. This one positioned her here she can now really do something in the Industry- hopefully. It would be really great if she became an actress that could win more than one Oscar because of the body of her work not just one role.

  • Jacetoon | November 29, 2011 1:04 AMReply

    A lot of people have benefited from "complaining" African Americans.

  • ScriptTease | November 30, 2011 10:19 AM

    Thank you.... and we still need to complain about a lot of little things that black folks have become so laxy-daisy about. Sometimes it ain't about the big things!

  • sandra | November 28, 2011 11:04 PMReply

    What LOGIC said!

  • Logic | November 28, 2011 2:22 PMReply

    Will I complain if Viola wins? No. The Oscars are just a laughable Hollywood circle jerk that I don't watch anyway. If an Oscar for that role in that dreadful movie has meaning to her, then good for her if she gets it.

    Lesson for black actors: if you want an Oscar win, or at least a nod, you should probably play a mammy/maid(Hattie McDaniel), a slave(Denzel in 'Glory'), a downtrodden black woman(Gabourey Sidibe in 'Precious', Halle in 'Monster's Ball', Whoopi and Oprah in 'the Color Purple'), a pimp/crook(Morgan Freeman in 'Street Smarts', Denzel in 'Training Day', Whoopi as the psychic scam artist in 'Ghosts', Terrence Howard in 'Hustle & Flow), an abuser/monster(Mo'Nique in 'Precious', Forrest Whitaker in 'Last King of Scotland'), a magical negro who exists only to make white people's lives better and or illuminate their stories(Sidney Portier in 'Lillies of the Field', Whoopi in 'Ghosts', Morgan Freeman in 'Driving Miss Daisy', Morgan Freeman in 'the Shawshank Redemption', Morgan Freeman in 'Invictus', Morgan Freeman in...everything, basically).

    Think about it, how could Denzel win for 'Training Day' and 'Glory' but not win for 'Malcom X'?
    I hope Viola puts her Oscar in her bathroom because the Academy is clearly full of shit.

  • Peggy | December 2, 2011 2:58 PM

    Jamie Foxx-"Ray": Drug addicted wife abuser. MF-"MDB": Exists to help white folk find themselves (which is what a supporting actor does). Deep complicated roles in dramas win Oscars and those roles tend to be "negative" which is what the Academy likes. However, roles that AA actors get do tend to play out stereotypes moreso than regular "roles with dramatic license" type roles that whites get. Perhaps we can play a "thought" game. Just replace each of those black actors with white actors. Would they have still won the Oscar or been nominated? Or were those roles too stereotypical for whites to play? Think about Christian Bale for the "Fighter". If that wasn't a black role, I don't know what is. As many white meth (or crack) addicts that there are in the US, he wasn't criticized for playing one. Of course he gets to play DIVERSE roles like Batman. He's also played a racist (Shaft) in a black movie. So I guess the answer is black actors need more diversity in their role choices. But remember, good drama has darkness in it and we (AA) are saddled with darkness (evil) due to our history, so it will always be a part of any role we play, even if it's Disney (frog princess). Maybe we should just deal with it and move on. Sorry if I rambled. Just some thoughts on something I've been observing since the 70's.

  • down | December 2, 2011 4:55 AM

    where does jamie foxx in ray or morgan freeman in million dollar baby fit in? i'll wait...

  • Micah | November 29, 2011 5:47 AM

    Co-sign.

  • Neziah | November 28, 2011 5:53 PM

    Yeah, I've always found that to be odd; black actors only winning for negative roles, or roles that have a certain negativity to them.

  • Tamara | November 28, 2011 11:49 AMReply

    She could play deaf, dumb, blind and mute all at once AND a maid...she's a great actress and deserving; as are so many of our other overlooked actors.

    I won't get mad if she wins. I'll be happy for her. I was happy for Halle, too. Didn't get the fumes of hate over her performance until after the award. She was simply Leticia in that role to me. Sometimes hoo-manz get bucky-nekkid and have degrading-sex (or freaky circus-sex) with questionable characters because they are feeling bad about themselves or are incredibly horny or whatever. Halle played that danggone role and folk who got so mad about it? Yeesh. Let it go. She deserved an award for other roles too, as did Denzel... Until black folk make their own Black Academy Awards, well... Let me get offa this.

  • Geneva Girl | November 28, 2011 11:14 AMReply

    I will be delighted for her! I do hope that she wears a killer gown that shows off her terrifically-toned body and erases everyone's thoughts about her playing a subservient role. Her arms alone should get her a role in an action flick.

  • Laura | November 28, 2011 5:29 PM

    Your Comment
    I've always saw Viola Davis as an action heroine. She got the body for it. She is intense as hell and can make any script believable.

    Yeah, Viola Davis action herione. I love the sound of that.

  • Keepingitreal | November 28, 2011 10:58 AMReply

    Black folk will complain about anything. Its just their nature! Especially black women!

  • eshowoman | November 28, 2011 10:35 PM

    Then get yourself a white woman. Post on white sites and get the hell away from here. There is nothing as pitiful as black woman hating black man.

  • Lindsay | November 28, 2011 9:52 AMReply

    Did you all see the letters written in Variety by Julia Roberts and Patrick Dempsey in support of Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer? I thought the letters would be posted here on Shadow and Act, but I don't see them. I had my issues with the movie, but Viola Davis get a great job in her role and deserves to win for her performance, even if I wasn't crazy about the source material.

  • Orville | November 28, 2011 9:50 AMReply

    I think black people won't be upset IF Viola wins which I doubt she will. I actually think Michelle Williams will win for the Marilyn Munroe movie. One of the things I have noticed is the best actress winner tends to be a young actress age 35 or younger the first time she wins the statue.
    I like Viola but I don't like the role she had in the help. People keep on saying well it is just acting but it is more than that. Don't people notice, the kinds of roles BLACKS win for Oscars. It is like a role call of stereotypes.
    Halle Berry was the slut in Monster's Ball, Whoopi Goldberg was the mystical black woman, Hattie McDaniel was mammy although she was a product of her time, Jennifer Hudson was the angry black woman singer, MoNique was the crazy, welfare queen. When will a black woman win an Oscar for a more positive role? Something people can be proud of. The same things are taking place a black actress wins for playing a slut, a maid, or a crazy black woman.

  • stars | November 28, 2011 2:33 AMReply

    I know.....if the Angela Bassetts and Viola Davis' of the acting world could get Oscars for the playing the roles that usually go to Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, or Angelina Jolie......we'll be in good shape! The key is balance. White actors have a balance of representation. America actually thinks we as black peeps are bad, dangerous, poor, low quality, lazy, uneducated, diseased etc. We need a balance in roles and /or a balance in being in great films particularly with great black film directors.

  • Cordell | November 28, 2011 1:05 AMReply

    I think Viola definitely deserves to win the Oscar. But unfortunately, I think it would be for the wrong role. I think her winning for The Help would be more of a "pat on the back" Oscar for her body of work. Although those types of Oscars have been given to mainly the black actors & actresses like Morgan Freeman, Whoopi Goldberg and Denzel Washington who deserved wins for previous nominated performances imo. The same can also be said for white actors like Sean Penn, Kate Winslet & Al Pacino who win their Oscars for not so great performances. At the end of the day it's just an award and life goes on. Now if only Chiwetel, Jeffrey Wright, Sophie Okonedo and Don Cheadle can get their Oscars then we'll be in good shape.

  • CareyCarey | November 28, 2011 12:19 AMReply

    Viola Davis should not have won an Oscar for doubt, period. Meryl Streep carried that movie and SHE did not win. Heck, personally I would have chosen Taraji (The Curious Case Of Benjamen Button) over Viola. Listen folks, truth be told, there are several "black" roles that many would consider "undesirable" and plenty of black actresses who has played them, and they will not get an Oscar nod. On the flip side, there's a gaggle of white chicks playing despicable characters, yet, they too will not get nominated. Look, it's all about the actor's performance - PERIOD (Viola just won an Tony for her performance in Fences)! Again, top awards are given to the best performance. Seriously, what fool sits around creating roles - Oscar worthy roles - solely for the purpose of demeaning a whole race? That's a fool's errand and poppycock for fools to wallow in.

  • k | November 28, 2011 12:12 AMReply

    Will SOME black folks complain? Yes. And rightfully so. It's nothing to do with a lame overgeneralization that black people are miserable and never satisfied or ready to complain about the most minute issues. It has everything to do with Hollywood and resultingly the Oscars rewarding putting incredible black actors in the positions of only having these types of roles to choose from. It seems the most Oscar hype for black actors/actresses comes from the roles that require the least amount of acting efforts, and how important and believable, (read: true to stereotype), White Hollywood deems the movie/roles.

    White actors have the luxury of playing criminals and serial killers, because their pool is large enough and not clouded by stereotypes to box them in. We hate it, but black folks are looked at as some monolith. ONLY receiving high praise/acknowledgment for the roles of those who are maids, crooks, and sexually expressive beings is damaging to black people. It encourages white folks in Hollywood to continue funding and producing the same mess.

  • CareyCarey | November 28, 2011 8:38 AM

    "It seems the most Oscar hype for black actors/actresses comes from the roles that require the least amount of acting efforts ~ K " REALLY!? Okay, don't pass GO and don't collect 200 dollars.

  • Akimbo | November 27, 2011 10:44 PMReply

    I won't complain. This is just her first Oscar, it would obviously a make up one for "Doubt," and there are more to come for her.

  • Micah | November 27, 2011 10:31 PMReply

    I'll be torn between being happy that a extremely talented actress won and being upset over the role see won for. Hopefully it will lead to even greater things for her.

  • Ghost | November 27, 2011 10:27 PMReply

    Will they complain? YES they will. Should they? NO. Because guess what when we show up in droves for films like the Help and others that seem to showcase our "negative" side or something we are stereotyped as doing (like singing and dancing-as one person on a local radio show said).
    Yet we ignore and don't bother with films that don't like Remember The Titians and probably Red Tails-why wouuld the Oscars or anyone else care to nominate the acts in those. We represent tha min reason those films don't get made because we trash them before they get into theaters.

    Davis might want to WORRY about winning that Oscar because it hasn't bought bigger and better roles for the previous black women that won them (excluding Whoopi). The guys have fared better-even if most of them headlined tv series or direct to DVD films in recent years.

  • Orville | November 27, 2011 10:19 PMReply

    I like Viola Davis but even if Viola did win an Oscar it would just prove blacks consistently win Oscars for racist stereotypical roles.

    Let's see Halle Berry won for Monster's Ball her character was a whore.
    Hattie McDaniel won for being a maid, although McDaniel's win was a product of its time in 1940 America.
    Whoopi Goldberg won for being the stereotypical mystical black woman.

    Not much has changed for black women in Hollywood since McDaniel's time black women in Hollywood get roles as either maids or whores.

  • Lady | November 27, 2011 10:11 PMReply

    also just dawned on me viola will probably win for this and not for her moving portrayl as a mother that loves her son and will do anyting for him in Dobut. see what i mean how they like to see us. only negative. screw the Oscars.

  • Neziah | November 27, 2011 9:59 PMReply

    I thought her and Spencer were easily the best things about that film. Without them, I probably would've hated it. I would definitely be happy for Viola if she won, not only because we need a black actress of her caliber to win the award (no offense to Halle Berry), but because she's given other great performances in the past without getting recognition for them (Antwone Fisher). Denzel's performance as Alonzo Harris was great because, as you said, he played only heroes before that, so that was a great and memorable role for him, especially coming right off 'Remember the Titans".

  • Miles Ellison | November 27, 2011 9:54 PMReply

    It is way past the time when anyone, particularly black people, should care about the Oscars.

  • CareyCarey | November 27, 2011 9:31 PMReply

    WILL BLACK FOLK COMPLAIN???!!! Would a person in hell desire a glass of ice water? Will some white folks vote AGAINST President Obama simply because he is a black man? Somewhere in America will a stripper pole get greased tonight? Seriously? Come on, black folks will complain about being black, and then argue over rather or not it's true that the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice. Are you kidding me, some of the most intrinsic natures of black folks is that they will jive & bullshit, cuss, argue and fight amongst themselves about the most insignificant/trivial/willy-nilly BS in the world. I'd bet my left nut to a bag of frog spit that some black folks are going to cry like someone slapped their momma if Viola Davis wins the Oscar.

  • ScriptTease | November 30, 2011 10:29 AM

    Too Funny... but I also agree. :)

  • that dude | November 27, 2011 9:20 PMReply

    Will some black folks complain? Ab-so-lutely! Will some black folks be happy and cheer for her? Ab-so-lutely! Will some people do both simultaniously? You got that right!

  • KL | November 27, 2011 8:53 PMReply

    Anthony Hopkins and Charlize Theron won Oscars playing serial killers. Jane Fonda and Elizabeth Taylor won their first Oscars playing prostitutes. Nope, I don't have a problem at all with Viola Davis getting an Oscar playing a maid, especially if it will lead to her and other women of color playing roles other than a maid. Hattie McDaniel couldn't say this in the 1930s but Viola, Octavia, Aunjanue and others are saying and working for this today.

  • Clo | November 28, 2011 3:58 AM

    The difference is that Hattie McDaniel played that role as a "normal" thing in the story, she was black, therefore she was supposed to be the maid, or viceversa. And those were the only roles a black actress was supposed to hope for. Now, The Help denounces the same thing we're criticizing here, so the role is not the same. In Hattie's case, we were looking back but not judging that much. In Viola's case, we're looking back and denouncing that society was, once, like that. And how a maid made a difference. So, yeah, I don't have a problem either.

  • Lady | November 27, 2011 10:08 PM

    umm, i'm sure ms mcdaniel and other black women thought by now black women would be playing other than maids. come on 2011 a black woman in the the white house. and hollywood backs a film about a black woman that's a maid. if ms davis wins i won't be mad or happy. i've long caught on to hollywoods inside joke on black folks (denzel wins for gansta/not malcolm, robert downey nomiated for blackface role, halle berry wisn for doing porno, jhud wins for being a angry black woman, monique wins for being a loud angry black woman 5x) blah.

Follow Shadow and Act

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • Taraji P. Henson Drama 'From The Rough' ...
  • Interview: Marlon Wayans Talks Career, ...
  • Electro (Jamie Foxx) Faces Off Against ...
  • Watch Omar Sy In Action As Bishop In ...
  • Black Movie Trivia - Congrats to our ...
  • Interview: Chatting with RZA About Paul ...
  • Sidney Poitier Made Oscar History Today ...
  • Watch TV ONE’s Fascinating & Informative ...
  • Critically-Acclaimed Doc 'The Trials ...
  • The 1st Black "Mad Man" Addresses The ...