The Movie vs. The Book. And why we shouldn’t forget

Posted on July 10, 2011

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As the opening date for the movie The Help approaches, excitement builds for many that the movie will do the book justice.

Keep in mind though, a great number of those anticipating the movie never thought there was anything wrong with the book.

As long as the movie doesn’t change significantly from the novel (which it won’t) then most viewers should be satisfied.  As the hype for the movie builds and the PR wheels spin, a curious thing is occurring (which may change after many get wind of this post).

Segregation again rears its ugly head.

Divided along the color line, the stars of the movie grace magazine covers. Here’s Viola Davis, looking simply fabulous on the front  of Essence:

Viola Davis on the cover of Essence

 
 And inside the magazine she says this (items in bold are my doing):

“Of course I had trepidations. Why do I have to play the mammy? But what do you do as an actor if one of the most multifaceted and rich roles you’ve ever been given is a maid in 1962 Mississippi?” Do you not take the role because you feel like in some ways it’s not a good message to send to Black people? No. The message is the quality of the work. That is the greater message.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Davis goes on to say “As Black women, we’re always given these seemingly devastating experiences—experiences that could absolutely break us. But what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly. What we do as Black women is take the worst situations and create from that point.”

 
 
 
 
 
  
In other words she didn’t read the book, and what she saw of the script was cool. So multifaceted for her means this:
 

Delilah (played by Louise Beavers) begging to stay in Imitation of Life. What a "voice!"

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Okay, okay I know that’s not her. Here’s Viola’s role that will earn her another Oscar nomination.
 

Aibileen and Mae Mobley. Black obedience means Oscar gold

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
And really, I know I shouldn’t dwell on this too much, lest some Oscar voter stumbles over here and realizes that not every black person is enamored with the book, or the maids. Wouldn’t want to blow anyone’s chance at Oscar gold. But would it really be so terrible if Viola didn’t win for The Help?
 
Morgan Freeman didn’t win for his turn as a “credit to his race” in Driving Miss Daisy, instead taking home the Oscar for a role more befitting his stature. He won the best supporting actor Oscar for Million Dollar Baby. It’s my hope the same thing happens to Viola, in other words that a role is being written for her which takes into account everything she can convey on screen besides wincing, cowering, rolling her eyes and finally crying at losing her “special baby” Mae Mobley.
 
 
 
 
 

Anyway, here’s Emma Stone, of course looking just as fabulous on the cover of not one, but several magazines.

Emma Stone on Vanity Fair

            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emma on Elle Mag

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emma gets Glamour cover May 2011

 

 

Recall that Vanity Fair proclaimed in March 2010 all these actresses were the ones to watch, including Emma:

Vanity Fair proclaims the fairest of them all on their March 2010 cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, just when will Viola get the cover of Vanity Fair? Or will she wind up inside, hidden away in the flip out section so the mag can claim but she was on the cover! You just have to pull the whole thing out (ain’t technology grand?)

I’d planned to do a post on how the movie marketing was faring, only not this soon.  I have to thank  AmethystNite on twitter for prodding me into action. Hopefully, if this post gets around it can shame some of the magazines and TV journals focusing solely on the white stars of The Help, while mentioning the African Americans in passing to ease up on their cover quota (you know, only Beyonce the first sixth months and then Rihanna the next) 

But really, all this is nothing new. It’s just history repeating.

From Showboat, to Imitation of Life, To Gone With The Wind, though a blockbuster novel may deal with how one generation dealt  with racial issues, it appears no lesson is learned. Because while many have pity over the plight of the maids in The Help, they don’t see how in the book itself, or in marketing of the novel and now the movie, the same issues crop up. The disparity in how minorities are treated, compared to white.

And while we can all agree the times have changed, in that time marches on and everything changes, things haven’t changed nearly enough in some circles.

And that’s why we can’t forget. And we shouldn’t forget, no matter how much money is donated on black “causes” since having positive word of mouth from African Americans is crucial right now.

The book, for all its good intentions was  “spoilt as a rotten oyster” at its core. There were so many things wrong with it, I had enough to create a blog and still keep going strong a year later.

YET THE BOOK STILL BECAME A HIT. A WORLDWIDE HIT.

Even with all the inaccuracies and insults about the black culture within its pages, many readers adored the black characters Stockett created, dismissing criticism or filing complaints under “dialect is the issue” for blacks.

When really, if they’d bothered to listen that wasn’t the only thing wrong with the book.

And now that the film is upon us there’s a move to pimp the movie so that we forget. And forgive.

If you do, you’re out of your freakin’ mind.

So let me remind those of you who want to pretend as if The Help movie will bring us all together in harmony and peace and make big money as long as you go along with the program. There is what really happened, and the fiction you’re being asked to celebrate as if it’s real:

They are scared, looking at the back door every ten minutes, afraid they’ll get caught talking to me. Afraid they’ll be beaten like Louvenia’s grandson, or, hell, bludgeoned in their front yard like Medgar Evers.  ——Skeeter Pg 277

The publisher was mum on this blunder from the novel, as if ignorance is bliss. That’s probably why Kathryn Stockett said in not one, not two, but three known audio interviews virtually the same thing:

“Medgar Evers the uh…who was with the NAACP, he was bludgeoned to death on his front yard in front of his children.”  (stated at 8:34 minutes into a 10:31 interview with Barnes and Noble in 2009)   

See the links to the audio interviews here:

http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/medgar-evers-error-in-the-help/

Keep in mind this man was a civil rights ICON. He gave his life in the pursuit of equality. Yet the publisher and the author of The Help remain silent on this error, as if it means nothing, and the book is being sold worldwide with the error intact. So in my mind, the early PR on the book being a “sisterhood” is a falsehood.

Because Stockett should have done her research, or at least looked at her notes or googled the man’s name to get it right.

Remember too, the author is a native of Jackson, Mississippi and bragged about getting on anyone who spoke ill of her state. Evers was also a native son, and that should be remembered. Yet many readers, as well as reviewers missed the error in the book, acting as if the novel was the closest thing to perfection they’d ever read. So much for racial nirvana.

Statue in remembrance of civil rights icon Medgar Evers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Famous Quote by Medgar Evers:
“We fought during the war for America, Mississippi included. Now, after the Germans and Japanese hadn’t killed us, it looked as though the white Mississippians would.”

 

Need more? Okay, how about what The real housewives of Jackson circa 1960s thought about African Americans in their midst. And the novel takes this skewed vision of blacks, delivering characters who embody that negative ideology spread about the culture.

Cocoa carries venereal disease (Pg 24, spoilt cootchie reference by Minny). A known slur used against blacks in order to block integration.

Women of Mississippi spread demeaning myths, scan from Clarion-Ledger 1963

 
 

wim-wednesdays-in-mississippi, residents talk about blacks having venereal diseases and that northern agitators are communists

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Another problem in the book is the character of Yule May Crookle, with her last name proclaiming what she will do in the novel (CROOK-le as in crook, behind bars for stealing). For whatever reason a black character needed to do something like steal from Hilly, only to end up in jail. Again, another slur cast on blacks was that we were prone to thievery, and Yule May CROOKLE does just that. Plus she writes a letter of confession addressed to Skeeter of all people, a woman she’s never met and who’s the best friend of the creep (Hilly) who put her in jail! It’s if Skeeter is somehow the Messiah of the Maids.  

Know this also, even if Leroy Jackson isn’t in the movie the black male is still being degraded by book sales in the millions, not just in America, but overseas, with a depiction of the African American male being “no-account” “a fool” “a drunk” and violently abusive to his wife Minny. But the mates of all three maids and even Minny’s dad are poor excuses for men under Stockett’s direction. Clyde,  Aibileen’s husband is called Crisco, as Aibileen plays a game with her son Treelore, having him refer to his father as cooking grease because as she reasons “He the greasiest no-ccount you ever known” (Pg 5)

Clyde is also linked with Cocoa in the sordid Cocoa Cootchie Clyde deal, where the reader isn’t told who gave who a venereal disease.

 All that’s known is Minny stating “Week after Clyde left you,  I heard Cocoa wake up to her cootchie spoilt like a rotten oyster” (Pg 24)

But it’s so offensive Stockett neglects to mention that Aibileen got a clean bill of health, since she was also sleeping with Clyde.

That’s not the end of the nightmare regarding this scene because Stockett adds in yet another insult about blacks. And she wrongly believes the scene is so hilarious that she goes on a book tour, voicing the part of Minny to complete her “Blackface” impersonation. For more on this affront, please click this post and this post

http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/2011/05/14/spoilt-cootchies-and-no-account-men/

http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/ten-issues-that-tarnish-the-help/

Stockett discusses Skeeter's "bravery" and voices Minny talking "spoilt cootchies"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s also this  blog post with links to the video of  Stockett voicing Minny.

http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/2010/12/04/stockett-voices-minny/

 

Connor, Constantine’s lover abandons her after Lulabelle is born. Minny calls her father a drunk and also refers to him as a “no-ccount”. No white male in the novel is degraded by the white females in this manner.  Not even the naked pervert who really has no purpose except to have Minny throw her life, and that of her unborn child’s on the line. Minny orders Celia to stay in the house and lock the door behind her while she takes a knife outside to confront a butt naked white male jacking off in Celia’s backyard. The scene is played for laughs at Minny’s expense, and its not pretty. Or funny.

Minny’s husband, the vile character of Leroy harkens back to books like Thomas Dixon’s The Clansman, where it warned that freedom for African American males meant they’d been unleashed on society.

Lazy. Shiftless. No good. Violent. Dangerous to all, especially white women. This was message in Dixon’s novel. Unfortunately Leroy Jackson truly personifies the stereotypical black “Brute”  in The Help.

Stockett may have created Leroy based upon a man named Clyde, who abused her real life grandparents maid Demetrie. Because as she reveals in Too Little Too Late, on page 447 of her novel:

“Demetrie was stout and dark-skinned and, by then, married to a mean abusive drinker named Clyde. She wouldn’t answer me when I asked about him. But besides the subject of Clyde she’d talk to us all day.” – Kathryn Stockett, in her own words

Oh by the way, here’s a picture of Demetrie:

Photo of Demetrie, Stockett's grandparents maid.

 

 Funny, but she’s hardly what I’d call “dark-skinned” or better yet, anywhere near the description of the maids or other black characters in the novel: 

Pascagoula is described as tiny as a child, not five feet tall, and black as night (Pg 59) – Skeeter

That night after supper, me and that cockroach stare each other down across the kitchen floor. He big, inch, inch an a half. He black. Blacker than me. Aibileen’s  battle of wills with a cockroach (Pg 189)

Constantine was so close, I could see the blackness of her gums (Pg 65) – Skeeter

The foreman drags a red cloth across his black forehead, his lips, his neck.  (Pg 239) Skeeter   

While visiting Constantine, this character talks about playing with two little girls  who were “so black I couldn’t tell them apart and called them both just Mary.” (Pg 62) – Skeeter

The women are tall, short, black like asphalt or caramel brown. If your skin is too white, I’m told,  you’ll never get hired The blacker the better. – (Pg 257) Skeeter

I clear my throat, produce a nervous smile. Minny doesn’t smile back. She is fat and short and strong. Her skin is blacker than Aibileen’s by ten shades, and shiny and taut, like a pair of new patent shoes. –  Skeeter’s first impression of Minny (Pg 164)

 And those considered African American could expect to be persecuted for it, or worse . . .this:

 

She had a name. It was Laura Nelson.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The kick seen 'round the world

 
 
 

Photo by Charles Moore. Two African American women being attacked with fists and a bat

 
 

So while you’re in the theater laughing over how funny and cute Celia is, or how hilarious Minny’s jokes are (because remember, it’s all about the “performances” and Oscar validating them) you’re doing just what the marketing and PR departments predicted, as they’re counting on moviegoers apathy, indifference and ignorance about segregation and how it divided America to sell tickets. And it seems they’re WINNING:

Celia Foote gets the squeals as the movie amps up the happiness factor during segregation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Celia gives Minny a hug, which is supposed to make moviegoers chuckle and go "Awww"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let the brainwashing and revisionist history begin. Sort of like going backwards in time to this on screen:

Ethel Waters gives comfort, just like Aibileen in The Help

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more on Jackson, Mississippi in the 60s, click here:

http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/real-housewives-of-jackson/

 

And for more on the mistakes in the novel:

http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/ten-issues-that-tarnish-the-help/

 

This post is still being developed.

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