That’s a partial quote from Octavia Spencer, from this week’s EW (Entertainment Weekly) Magazine
“However beloved Stockett’s book may be, the subject of race — and of Hollywood’s complicated history with it — still hits a raw nerve in many circles. In fact, the film’s stars Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer often find themselves in the strange and unsettling position of having to defend their decision to play Aibileen and Minny, the proud maids at the heart of Stockett’s novel. “That’s what people bristle at: the maids,” Davis says in a no-holds-barred interview. “I’ve played lawyers and doctors who are less explored and more of an archetype than these maids.” Spencer is even more emphatic. “It should not be ‘Why is Viola Davis playing a maid in 2011?’ I think it should be ‘Viola Davis plays a maid and she gives the f—ing performance of her life.’ “
Sigh. And here I thought they were doing quite well with their interviews. Until this one.
Listen, if you’re black in America you play the fuckin’ greatest performance of your life each and every damn day. Hell, if you’re any minority in this country, like a white woman trying to hold it down with one job and kids and your man is out of work, you’re playing the greatest performance of your life each day.
Yes, even though the country is in dire financial straits, people are out of work (some of the hardest hit are minorities) it doesn’t figure that to part with hard earned money the picture would have to be something folks would like to SEE. I mean, call me crazy but a Dramedy on how a young white woman had to push a group of maids to their full “potential” is more like Blind Side Jr.
So excuse me if I criticize the film, and don’t care to see the dang thing. Not because two beautiful, brown African American females are portraying maids.
I just didn’t like the book. And I won’t go see the movie.
But that doesn’t mean it won’t be a smash hit. Even with the tasteless tie in with HSN
Pots by Emeril “inspired” by The Help movie.
Very bad form. Just not cool when dealing with segregation and how black women were tethered to southern kitchens for hours on end, and their kids had to step in and cook. From an actual domestic’s mouth:
“It is not only the long hours, the small pay, and the lack of privacy – we often have to share a room with the children – that we maids find hardest to bear. It is being treated most of the time as though we are completely lacking in human dignity and self- respect. During my first year at this work I was continually hopeful. But now I know that when I enter that service elevator I should park my self-respect along with the garbage that clutters it. Self- respect is a luxury I cannot retain and still hold my job.”
You can read more about Naomi Ward’s first person account here:
And please allow me paraphrase something Hattie McDaniel once said. Because “Playing a maid is a hell of a lot better than actually having to be one.” That job is and was no joke during segregation.
And I mean, WTF is up with the people behind the movie and their off beat quotes? Here’s one from Tate Taylor, dropping it like he’s some kind of writer covering the urban beat:
“My key objective was to give this movie street cred especially within the African-American community, to represent them and not sugarcoat it,” said Taylor.
LA Times interview By NICOLE SPERLING
Oh my heavens. What? WHAT? Where does “Street cred” even enter the conversation? Wait, don’t tell me, appealing to African Americans means using terms on our “level.” Because he sure wouldn’t have used “street cred” in trying to “represent” a group of Mormons.
No wonder he couldn’t point out to his childhood pal Kathryn Stockett where her depictions of African Americans veered into stereotype. Hell, he kinda sounds just like her.
You’ve got a producer of the movie posting on twitter hashtag #WhenBlackPeopleGetPaid They go see The Help (in all fairness, the twitter message has been deleted and a heartfelt, personal apology was issued I must add)
Tate Taylor giving another cringe worthy quote about of all things, fried chicken:
“About 20 minutes into the movie, you’re craving fried chicken,” says director Tate Taylor. That movie is The Help, the new film based on Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling novel . . .”
Obviously Taylor is unaware of how African Americans were ridiculed in advertisments during segregation, about eating fried chicken:
Or maybe he is, since he wrote and directed a movie about the fowl in a comedy:
A couple more ads featuring blacks and chicken:
More information on the misteps behind the scenes can be found here
“Spencer: There are a lot of people who don’t like the idea of us playing maids without knowing anything about the story. Not knowing how proactive these women are in their community and how they are propagating change.
Davis: They don’t care. It’s the fact that we are playing maids. It’s the image and the message more so than the execution.
Did that give you pause before signing on?
I’d assumed (but you know what they say about those who assume) they knew all about the role they were getting into. In fact I could have sworn I’d seen Spencer advocating for the book and the part of Minny, and I quote “Minny was my mother”
Oh yes, here it is:
Click image for larger view
And who, pray tell is “They?”
“They don’t care. It’s the fact that we are playing maids. It’s the image and the message more so than the execution.” – Viola Davis EW quote
Actually, I beg to differ. It’s the image, the message and the execution. But I don’t think Viola has any thing to worry about. At least I didn’t before this interview.
Segregation didn’t just pop up in the 60s when Stockett decided to write about it. Legalized oppression existed for well over a century.
And though the movie isn’t the book, the film never would have gotten bankrolled without the book. And quite frankly, the book sucked big time (a family member’s quote, not mine). But still, many loved it so. Only in America can a rich white woman pretend to channel a poor black maid. Gotta love the irony when some readers laud a stereotype as being “authentic.”
At its worst, Aibileen was a sniveling, cowering Uncle Tom/Mammy who played favorites based on race, crowing about another maid having “good hair, no naps” (Yule May), ignoring the abuse her best friend’s children witness and experience daily. A good example is Leroy waking up to rage at Benny, with Stockett writing Aibileen as too chicken shit to stay and help the boy. If that had been Mae Mobley she would have thrown herself in the line of fire.
Aibileen doesn’t cuddle or even speak to Minny’s youngest daughter Kindra in the book, the only scenes they have are when Aibileen hears her crying in the background when she’s talking to Minny (Minny has just been let go as Miss Walters maid by Hilly) when Medgar Evers is assassinated and Aibileen goes over Minny’s house (she doesn’t offer to coddle any of Minny’s kids) and when she turns judgmental, observing the now seven year old banging pans with this internal dialogue Kindra- she seven now-she sass-walk her way to the stove, with her bottom sticking out and her nose up in the air (Aibileen observing Kindra, Pg 396)
At its best, Aibileen’s scenes where she describes Mae Mobley’s affection for her is where Stockett’s writing shines. In a close second are the much too short scenes of grief Aibileen expresses over the loss of her only son.
The story could have done without the Uncle Remus type dialogue for Aibileen and her self loathing about her own skin color, as well as the denegration of the African American male (Stockett stepped over “the line” with her depiction of Leroy, Clyde, Connor and Minny’s father). Yet she practically canonized the white males who benefited from segregation, telling the reader “he’s is a good man” (Stuart) or “he’s an honest man” (her dad, Carlton Phelan) and having it appear that when Senator Stoolie Whitworth blocked James Meredith at Ole Miss, he was just doing the will of his constiuents. Yes, poor Stoolie was a politician who was trapped. He had to appear to be a staunch segregationist, but in his heart he was really a liberal.
And hey, is Aibileen still asexual and living alone in the film? Then why? That was something they definitely should have changed (or at the very least they could have made her a widow).
And Constantine, is she too still living like a hermit in the film, but able to exist on loving Skeeter and the rest of the Phelan family?
And is Leroy still an abusive man? Because in the novel he was pathetic and vile. Yes, the black males paired with the primary maids were negatively labeled with terms like “no account” and “drunk” and ” no good” as well as being absentee baby daddies. But I’m sure the movie corrected all of that.
Or either just left it out.
So if you’ve seen the film, please leave me a comment on some of my questions. I’ll be interested to know if the movie “fixed” all this.
Oh yeah, its nice to hear the movie has Aibileen and Minny embracing the civil rights movement and perhaps suporting it by Aibileen putting the college aged and teen non-violent protestors in her prayer book, just like she does with Mae Mobley. I mean, it’s the least she can do since she ignored them in the novel. I’m sure the movie fixed this.
I’ll find out on Wednesday when more reviews come in whether Minny disparages the church members for trying to join the Freedom movement, like she did in the book.
If they kept the scene where Minny runs after the naked pervert jacking off and calling her a “fat black nigger” I’ll be surprised.
But then, you never know. It could be as hilarious in the theater as some believed it was in the book to read about Minny chasing after the guy and screaming “I got me a knife!”
Yes, these are two wonderful roles that apparently needed no alterations.
And its swell that the book is still selling, with demeaning dialogue like “You saying people think I got the black magic?” (Aibileen, Pg 24)
Yes, the whole “cootchie spoilt like a rotten oyster” will have them doubling over with laughter in the theater, as both maids discuss Aibileen’s sacred ability through the power of prayer, to call down a venereal disease on her rival Cocoa. Riveting, highly intelligent, regal stuff on pages 23 and 24.
Another stellar piece of dialogue from the novel:
“I was in attic, looking down at the farm,” I tell her. “I could see the tops of the trees.”
“You gone be a brain surgeon! Top a the house mean the head.” (Pg 63) – Constantine’s reply to Skeeter
But wait, there’s more:
“Cat got on the porch this morning, bout gave me a cadillac arrest thinking it was Mister Johnny.” Minny (Pg 48)
Aibileen and Minny in one of their many, frankly dumb sounding conversations:
“You gone accuse me of a philosophizing.”
“Go ahead,” I say. “I ain’t afraid of no philosophy.” (Pg 311, Minny and Aibileen discuss Celia not seeing the “lines” between black and white)
Aibileen can say “philosophy” “congealed salad” “parliamentary” “conjugation””motorized rotunda” and “domesticized feline” yet can’t stop using “pneumonia” for “ammonia”. Yeah righhhhtttt.
Plenty of black men leave their families behind like trash in a dump, but it’s not something the colored woman do. We’ve got kids to think about – Minny Jackson (Pg 311)
Uh, no dear. This was how “Plenty of black men” ended up leaving their loved ones during segregation. And it wasn’t by choice.
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 does a color swatch test with a cockroach. Thankfully, the roach wins. (Pg 189)
Sometimes two girls from next door would come over to play with me, named Mary Nell and Mary Roan. They 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
Minny’s husband comments on her pregnancy (this zinger comes after having five other children) “You don’t get tired. Not till the tenth month.” Leroy (Pg 406)
“Martin Luther King dear. He just announced a march on D.C. and invited every Negro in America to join him. Every white person, for that matter. This many Negro and white people haven’t worked together since Gone With the Wind.” (Pg 159) - Elaine Stein, Skeeter’s editor for her book on the Help.
And Miss Leefolt come home with her hair all teased up. She got a permanent and she smell like pneumonia (Pg 94 ) – Aibileen
How his foot fell asleep and he say it tickle. I told him that was just his foot snoring. And how I told him don’t drink coffee or he gone turn colored. He say he still ain’t drunk a cup of coffee and he twenty-one years old. It’s always nice to see the kids grown up fine. (Aibileen, Pg 91)
To be continued . . .