“The black people do not sing but stand respectfully in the hot gallery, mouths agape or with sloppy uncomprehending smiles, shuffling their feet. Suddenly they seem to me as meaningless and as stupid as a barn full of mules and I hate them one and all.” (Pg 103)
Styron further assured the book would be mired in controversy with the character voicing inner dialogue like this:
“a few of the crouched men and boys without shirts, picking their noses and scratching, sweat streaming down their black backs in shiny torrents, the lot of them stinking to high heaven. I sit down on a bench near the window in an empty space between Hark and an obese, gross-jowled, chocolate colored slave named Hubbard, owned by the Widow Whitehead, who sports a white man’s cast-off frayed multicolored vest over his flabby naked shoulders, and whose thick lips even now, as he meditates conscientiously upon the sermon from below. . .I can see around me a score of faces popeyed with black nigger credulity, jaws agape, delicious shudders of fright coursing through their bodies as they murmur soft Amens, nervously cracking their knuckles and making silent vows of eternal obedience. . . Ooooh yes! he groans, a fat house nigger, docile as a pet coon.” (Pg 97)
“a negro, in much the same way as a dog, has constantly to interpret the tone of what is being said. If, as certainly possible, the question was merely drunken-rhetorical, then I could remain humbly and decently mute and scrape away at my rabbit. This (my mind all the while spinning and whirling away like a water mill) was the eventuality I preferred-dumb nigger silence, perhaps a little scratching of the old woolly skull, and an illiterate pink lipped grin, reflecting total incomprehension of so many beautiful Latinisms.” (Pg 61)
It always tickle me how these babies believe anything you tell em. Tate Forrest, one a my used-to-be babies long time ago, stop me on my way to the Jitney just last week, give me a big hug, so happy to see me. He a grown man now. I needed to get back to Miss Leefolt’s, but he start laughing and memoring how I’d do him when he was a boy. How the first time 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)
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)
“I told Shirley Boon her ass won’t fit on no stool at Woolworth’s anyway.” Minny speaking of a person holding a community meeting concerning the Woolworth sit-ins (Pg 217)
And I know there are plenty of other “colored” things I could do besides telling my stories or going to Shirley Boon’s meetings-the mass meetings in town, the marches in Birmingham, the voting rallies upstate. But truth is, I don’t care that much about voting. I don’t care about eating at a counter with white people. What I care about is, if in ten years, a white lady will call my girls dirty and accuse them of stealing silver. Minny (Pg 218)
The character most readers and probably moviegoers will identify with, Skeeter Phelan, voices her impressions of the black characters like this:
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
Pascagoula is described as tiny as a child, not five feet tall, and black as night (Pg 59) - 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)
My people, my people. Falling for the hype over the movie, this I can understand.
But not bothering to pick up the book it’s based on, so you won’t be embarrassed should things be pointed out to you is CRITICAL.
“I didn’t have any great expectations for a movie based in the ’60s about domestics…I thought it would be a heavy, dark movie that would bring to mind segregation. After seeing the film, though, I felt so proud. My grandmother was a domestic in Florida, and when she passed, almost two generations of families whom she had taken care of sent condolences saying what an important part she was to their family. And it never really connected with me until I saw this movie….I ask each of you: Tell your friends, your family, your co-workers, your church. Organize screening parties. Go see this movie.” -Representative of a local NAACP chapter who shall remain nameless in this post
Yes, go see the movie.
Plan parties even though there are black writers languishing for lack of sales and support. Why, I’ve got an idea! Throw a party using cookware by Emeril because the studio has a product deal with HSN. Read all about it here. Now you too can be reminded of how black women slaved in a hot kitchen from generations upon generations. And why not fry some chicken while you’re at it, because as Minny states in the movie:
“Fried chicken make you tend to feel better about life”
Remember to pass that wisdom on to your children.
All this talk of food is making me hungry. Guess it’s just like director/screenwriter Tate Taylor said:
“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 . . .”
And he should know. He just loves black people and fried chicken (why yes Virginia, that’s a pic of Octavia Spencer. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you):
Great segue into Tate Taylor, the director of The Help’s first movie, called Chicken Party. Find out more here)
“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
Is writing and directing a short movie enough “street cred” to get picked as the director of a major motion picture on black maids during segregation? Especially since blacks and fried chicken were one of the most demeaning and mocking advertising ploys repeatedly used in America. Well I guess it really is all about who you know in this case.
Yes, throw your support behind a book, and now a movie that had to purge most of what was offensive and then some, because it actually dogs the black culture, and is still being touted as our next bible.
Once you wake up (and you will), remember that if Dreamworks and Disney had pulled this little bait and switch with any other historically maligned culture, there would be hell to pay.
As it is, this whole situation for lack of a better term, is so utterly f ‘ed up.
Only in America. Only in America can a rich white woman pretend to channel a poor black maid and have some people claim it’s “authentic”
Here you have a book that clearly demeans the black male. The studio knows this. The author and director now know this. Yet because there wasn’t much of an outcry from the black community (meaning not enough black males read it, because many of the sistas who did failed to say anything. Which would have been a whole different story if Stockett had skewed us.
Hold that last point, because Constantine, Aibileen and Minny are serious stereotypes in the book. But since this is the movie, why even bring up the book? I mean, the film’s different from the book right?
If you want to know why I’m pissed off, it’s because my dad was in the Navy during the Korean War. They made him a cook, because this was segregation after all. For the rest of his life he’d watch war movies, loving Richard Widmark and anyone else who looked heroic in battle. And I’d wonder why. Now I know.
Four African American males are in the book, who have some relationship with the primary maids.
Clyde. Leroy. Connor. And Minny’s father.
Clyde is paired with Aibileen. Here’s what she trains her son to say about his father:
We start calling his daddy Crisco. cause you can’t fancy up a man done run off on his family. Plus he the greasiest no-count you ever know (Aibileen, Pg 5)
No sooner than you get over the shock of that bit of negativity, check out Aibileen and Minny’s conversation. And remember, they’re supposed to be church going women, devout Christians. Minny speaks first (items in bold are my doing):
“You know Cocoa, one Clyde ran off with?”
“Phhh. you know I never forget her.”
“Week after Clyde left you, I heard that Cocoa wake up with her cootchie spoilt like a rotten oyster. Didn’t get better for three months. Bertrina, she good friends with Cocoa. She know your prayer works.”
My mouth drop open. Why she never tell me this before? “You saying people think I got the black magic?”
“I knew it make you worry if I told you. They just think you got a better connection than most. We all on a party line to God, but you, you setting right in his ear.”
Yes, these two black women are discussing Aibileen’s power, via prayer to call down a venereal disease on her rival. How black magic and religion combine to make Aibileen all powerful is another slur, as in even though we (blacks) profess to be Christians, we still revert to the practices of our Motherland which is “black magic.” Also, guess what bigots liked to say about blacks during segregation?
Why that we were immoral and carried venereal diseases. Even our children:
WIMS stands for Wednesdays in Mississippi. This organization sought the participation of upper class women of both races during the early 60s. The book is called Mississippi Women: Their Histories , Their Lives by Elizabeth Anne Payne, Martha H. Swan, Marjorie Julian Spruill and Brenda M Eagles. The publisher is University of Georgia Press.
Shout out to Liza Cowan for leaving this message about WIMS. ” These are two websites about a real- life activist group- Wednesdays In Mississippi – in which Black and White women from the north and the south worked together in Mississipi at the exact same time as the fictional activities in The Help. http://wimsfilmproject.com/ http://www2.vcdh.virginia.edu/WIMS/ ”
Many Thanks Liza!
But if you think what Stockett wrote about a black woman having a “spoilt cootchie” was cold, you haven’t read anything yet.
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)
What “plenty of black men” in 1962 Mississippi were doing was trying not to get killed just because of the color of their skin.
“Plenty of black men” left the south for the north, in order to find employment, a more hospitable place for their families to stay and because the north was thought to have opportunities that weren’t available in the south.
“Plenty of black men” were being called “Uncle” and “Boy” yet they fought for the right to become soldiers and die for a country that didn’t see them as equals or even human.
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.”
“Plenty of black men” were husbands, brothers, sons, and fathers working for little pay with no benefits and pensions. And “plenty of black men” went missing during segregation, not because they abandoned their families, but because they are presumed dead at the hands of those who followed segregation to the letter. Many cold cases are still unsolved. There’s an organization headed by famed journalist Jerry Mitchell (http://coldcases.org/) that’s dedicated to seeing many of their disappearances solved.
From the website:
“Today in the American South, scores of civil rights murders remain unsolved, uninvestigated, unprosecuted, and untold. Those two legacies of violence and silence still haunt the region and continue to damage race relations in the United States.”
But the hits just keep on coming. Leroy is Minny’s pathetically violent and brutish, as well as not too bright husband:
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 )
He terrorizes his entire family and beats Minny almost daily for any perceived slight. Yet Stockett crafts Minny as an abused woman who’s somehow able to perform stand up comedy routines at the drop of a hat, thereby making her a medical miracle. Because she’s loud, crude, rude and at times a bully.
Stockett even has this abused wife (for over fifteen years Leroy has been beating her) smack her own child in defense of Celia Foote, a ditzy, color blind white trash but oh so lovable character that’s in the movie:
The Ugly Truth Hurts
The Citizen’s Council, formerly known as the White Citizen’s Council isn’t mentioned in the novel. Yet this organization was influencial in publicizing their opposition to integration and the pending Civil Rights Legislation. Stockett not only omitts this from the book, but crafts the husbands and suitors of the main white protags as if they’re going along with segregation just to get along.
Much like the book’s U.S. cover masks the subject matter on the pages (the Disney-esque three birdies), Stockett skillfully diverts who the real villains of segregation were. Many of the white males who had power and control, like some prominent businessmen and politicians are given a pass. Even though Stockett has her characters married to the movers and shakers in the community, she only uses Hilly to crack the whip so to speak, in order to keep everyone following segregation to the letter. No, the only one Stockett reserves most of her scorn for are African American males. You can read more about how Stockett demoralized the black males in the novel here:
Connor is another absentee father. All that’s known about him is what Aibileen tells Skeeter, who by the way has become the Oprah of the maids in Mississippi, because not only does Aibileen fall under her spell (giving her only deceased son’s idea for a novel to the journalism grad who cares not a damn thing for actual historic breaking news, case in point the protests at her Alma Mater Ole Miss)
Anyway, Aibileen tells Skeeter Connor was “black as me.” How’s that for a ringing endorsement?
Minny is not only saddled with the abusive Leroy, but she says this about her father: ” . . .my no good drunk daddy”
Understand that not one white male, not even the naked pervert is labeled negatively. The perv comes out of the woods, jacks off, calls Minny a “fat black nigger” gets a beat down from Celia Foote’s fireplace poker and is on his merry way.
Yet he’s never called “no account” “no good” “Crisco” “dickhead” or any name. Only the black males earn these dubious dishonors (thankfully none were called “dickhead”)
Moving right along, earlier in the novel Skeeter receives a letter from a maid she doesn’t even know.
This maid’s name is Yule May Croo- . . .wait for it CROOKLE. Yes, Stockett gives this black maid a last name befitting what she’s in jail for. Guess it was an inside joke at the publishing house.
Yule May confesses her crime to Skeeter (she stole a worthless ring from Hilly Holbrook, the Queen B of Jackson after Hilly turned down her request for a loan)
‘Cause that’s how black folks do don’t cha know. Stockett includes one of the main slurs of segregation, that blacks steal. Hilly runs all over town, telling all the good white folk this myth, and Stockett creates a character who does just that.
But don’t tell anyone at the NAACP. I mean, if anyone should know the history of segregation and what negative ideology was spread, I’d think they would.
But then, I could be wrong after reading that glowing statement on The Help movie from one of their reps. I do have to remind myself that the NAACP has independent branches. So what one branch does may not be what another will do. I truly hope someone will read the book first, which might save face later, you know in case they have to answer questions regarding their support for the movie versus the book.
And didn’t Detroit’s NAACP just give Kid Rock an award, even though he’s got a Confederate Flag draped on the stage during his shows?
Not to say I don’t enjoy Kid Rock, but an NAACP award?
Well, I’m sure they had a good reason and did some research before coming to their conclusion. Just like the branch that’s advocating this movie without knowing diddly about what’s in the book.
That should be a new motto. Why read books? Just go see the movie instead.
That way you won’t know about the Medgar Ever’s error in the novel, and also how the author did PR for the book repeatedly saying that Evers was “bludgeoned”. In one of the three known audio interviews Stockett also claims Evers was bludgeoned in front of his children in the front yard of his home. Full story with excerpts and links to the audio sites can be found here:
But in case you don’t get the memo and you pick up the book from a friend or the library (don’t pay for it, I beg you) If you love the movie, You’re sure to scream over the book, just like Hilly: