Same as it ever was. . .

Posted on October 4, 2010

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The characters in THE HELP are re-cycled images.

Louise Beavers and Fredi Washington in the film "Imitation of Life"

Much like my lead-in sentence for this blog post has been copied from another post on this site, when reading Kathryn Stockett’s novel, I had a serious case of Déjà vu while getting to know the characters of Aibileen, Minny, Constantine, Skeeter, Hilly and Lulabelle.

It’s no wonder many readers feel by the end of the novel that they know these women. They’re familiar images, and in the case of the black characters, stereotypes of the “good” negro, blacks who were supposed to be a credit to their race by being agreeable, affable, docile, humorously cantankerous, but more important, that they be able to put the needs of their employers above their own. I should also add, this character usually put the needs of their own family second to those of their white charges.

Their reward in many of the movies and novels written by white authors, was to have the reader either feel sympathy or admiration for their sacrifice. The end result was that the black character would be tolerated for being what he or she was, and hopefully, acceptance would follow.

As for the white characters, one had to be the liberal hero and the other the unyeilding villain. Skeeter is the heroine of The Help, and Hilly is the shrewlike villain.

So for everyone thanking the author for writing The Help, and exposing a slice of life they never knew existed, I’m listing a number of other movies and books that dabble with racial storylines.

POP QUIZ

This story is about black domestics, and the white families who employ them.

 
 
Their relationship is a blend of humorous, touching and sad events. The times are turbulent for both racial groups, and the story has secondary characters, like other black domestics who provide laughs and there’s a handsome love interest for the white leading character. The black character has a compelling storyline, but the story is really about the white characters

The choices are:

a) Imitation of Life

b) Gone With the Wind

c) The Help

d) Beulah

e) Gimme A Break

f) Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Gimmee A Break leading lady Nell Carter

 

      

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This story has  a tale of a tragic mulatto.   

Pinky Promo poster, starring Ethel Waters and Jeanne Crain

 A black woman light enough to pass for white interwoven, once again during a turbulent time period:

a) Pinky

b) Showboat

c) Kings Go Forth

d) Night of The Quarter Moon

e) Band of Angels

f) The Help

g) Imitation of Life

h) Uncle Tom’s Cabin

i) Queen

Showboat starring Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson and Ava Gardner

 

This story has an unhappy ending for the African American character:

a) The Help

b) Showboat

c) Imitation of Life

d) Uncle Tom’s Cabin

e) Kings Go Forth

f) Pinky

1950s Tan magazine asking a question that's still relevant today in Publishing

While the white characters either had a love interest or a happy ending, the black character (s) didn’t fare as well.

a) Gone with the Wind

b) The Help

c) Showboat

d) Imitation of Life

e) Porgy and Bess

f) All the Fine Young Cannibals

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

UK Book Cover of the Help

 

These famous, but cringe worthy lines were uttered by minority characters, true or false:

a) “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies!”

b) “Now, let’s see now. Where is we figurin’ on goin’? How can we be goin’ someplace if we don’t know where we’s goin’? ” 

c) “I’m white… white… WHITE!”

d) “Say maybe she getting mal-nutritious.”

e) “Fetched y’all up a mess ‘a crawdads… fo’ you an’ yo’ friends!”

f) “You can’t run away from trouble. There ain’t no place that far.”

g) “Holy Mackerel!”

h)”How do you tell a child she was born to be hurt?”

The answers will be provided shortly…

Night of the Quarter Moon poster

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