Right now our country is facing another period of political and racial unrest due to centuries of racial injustice. However, this time feels a lot different to the times prior; so what are Americans watching on Netflix? None other than The Help; please pick your mouth off of the floor ma’am. People’s confusion on why it was trending became it’s own trending topic, so let’s the address the elephant in the room: Is The Help an okay movie? Sure. Are there better shows/movies that discuss race in America more accurately? Definitely. Even Viola Davis herself regrets her part in the film. Let’s dive into this dicey topic and have a real conversation.
Now I won’t act like a hypocrite, when I was quite young I read the book (and cried) and watched the movie (cried some more); I love Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, and Bryce Dallas Howard. Now that the formalities are over with let’s just be honest: The Help isn’t the best movie because of it’s white savior trope. Ultimately, the story is supposed to be about the life and struggles of black women who are maids; who get their stories out there by an aspiring writer named Skeeter. It had potential to tell the hardships many African-American women faced as help in this country; which would’ve been moving since black women’s voices are too often pushed aside.
Instead, we focused on Skeeter’s love life, how much she differed from his racist society girlfriends and Celia’s several attempts (plus failures) to fit in. The black maids, who were the premise of this story, overshared the spotlight with their white counterparts. Skeeter is given a halo for illuminating racism in her town, but do any of the proceeds go to the maids? No. Aibileen’s story about her deceased son could’ve been better flushed out; as with Minny’s abusive marriage.
It’s Skeeter who gives hope to these women (I wish I was making this up); often times people confuse being an ally with a savior, you see this clearly in The Help. Movies with the white savior trope don’t add anything to the conversation of racism, instead they hurt and undo what movements like Black Lives Matter are trying to do. Black people don’t want a savior, we want an ally, someone who’s willing to do the work with us. The Help isn’t the only movie guilty of this, we saw this again in Green Book. These movies with the white savior trope are usually very ‘comfortable‘ or ‘safe‘ to watch; now this doesn’t mean I’m asking to see violence on the scene. A movie that deals with this subject matter has a responsibility to be uncomfortable, to provoke thought; whether that means starting a ‘hard conversation’ or forcing you to confront your own racial biases. Keeping it safe isn’t helping the black community; it’s only helping other races. Usually my honorable mentions are for books, but if you want better shows and movies to educate you, look no further.
When They See Us– Netflix
American Son– Netflix
Dear White People– Netflix
The Hate U Give– Hulu
Selma (Free to rent for the month of June)
Straight Outta Compton– Amazon Prime
Just Mercy (Free to watch for the month of June)
I’m happy people do want to research and better themselves; that’s the only way we’ll overcome all of this. However, there are better, more moving and educational works that people of all races can learn and grow from. Happy watching and black lives matter.