Movie marketing Plan B: Take pity on the black actors of The Help!

Posted on August 12, 2011

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Hmmm. What to do, what to do.

Go see The Help for the stereotypical characters, or go see the The Help to watch good performances of  stereotypical characters?

That seems to be the new and improved marketing plan for the film.

Since being rocked by a number of unflattering reviews (now come on, they had to know there would be a few) I’m seeing comments around the internet grabbing at straws. Excuses like well, while the movie may be flawed, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis shouldn’t be penalized. Because this is an important subject.

Oh Please. The last thing any person, actor or no wants is to be pitied.

They knew what they were getting into when they took the parts. Octavia Spencer especially, since she was more than happy to promote the book with Stockett, even with all the offensive bullshit on the pages.

Spencer stood shoulder to shoulder with Stockett while the author took on a pseudo “black” sounding voice, while reciting the “spoilt cootchie” scene, which I don’t think they put in the film, thank god. Here’s the link to the post on Kathryn Stockett’s Magical Minstrel Tour, where the author can’t hide her amusement over her own words.

“Week after Clyde left you, Cocoa woke up to her cootchie spoilt like a rotten oyster.” (Pg 24, Minny)

Then Stockett goes on to claim Aibileen and Minny’s highly stupid conversation reminded her of the ones she’d have with friends.

Funny I don’t remember Skeeter and the gals discussing their delicate cootchies over bridge.

Hilly talks spoilt cootchies

 

According to Boxofficemojo, the film has taken in over 9 million in two days. Projected opening week gross should be a little over the studio’s estimate, which was around 20 million.

I believe it’ll do better than that, but then again I’m not going to see the film, having decided to boycott early on.

But I’ve been compiling reviews, and if anyone wants to post their own personal review in the comments section, please feel free to do so.

You know what the real problem is don’t you?

It’s the fact that there aren’t any good roles for black females AND black males (unless you’re a male named Will Smith or Denzel Washington)

But it’s not just African American thespians afflicted with this curse. And it is a curse, because this problem has been around for years. There just aren’t star making roles for minorities. Pickings must be pretty bad if The Help is being offered up as the best Hollywood can do this year.

Somebody needs to explain to me why and how cringing and cowering (Aibileen), or being quick with the tongue on screen (Minny) translates into an Oscar nominated role for either Davis or Spencer. Because the last thing anyone needs is a sympathy statuette.

Yes, let’s nominate and give them an award just because roles for black actors have been so slim this year.

OR

Those were really hard roles to play but especially hard for me to watch in certain scenes. So I know it must have been hard for the actors. It made me feel guilty over what black people went through.

 

Then imagine how bad it must have been for say, Hattie McDaniel. Because not only did she play a “sassy” slave on screen, but the times she lived in when winning her Academy Award weren’t that much better. It’s reported that Hattie was ordered to read an acceptance speech specially prepared by the studio she worked for.

Hattie McDaniel haunting Oscar pic. Hard not to wonder what she was thinking or going through

 
 
 
 
Here’s what she stated, in part:

“I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry. My heart is too full to tell you just how I feel. And may I say thank you and God bless you.”

Link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/jan/16/10-best-acceptance-speeches-film

But see, it shouldn’t be that The Help is rewarded simply because it makes a bunch of people feel bad about what happened to African Americans. Because if that’s the case, then doing something for those who are here right now may be the best way to assist. Like volunteering at a school to help with literacy or supporting worthwhile, non-profit minority organizations with a donation.

The thought did get me curious as to what they’d done in previous years, since some are  feeling so generous and already predicting Oscars for The Help.

The Academy gave James Baskett an honorary Oscar for Disney’s 1946 animated feature Song of The South

 

Actor James Bassett played kindly, lovable Uncle Remus from Disney's "Song of the South"

 
 
 
 
 
The first lines of the film are uttered by Uncle Remus:
 
Uncle Remus: There’s other ways o’ learnin’ ’bout the behind feet of a mule than gettin’ kicked by ‘em, sure as I’m named Remus. And just ’cause these here tales is ’bout critters like Br’er Rabbit an’ Br’er Fox, that don’t mean they ain’t the same like can happen to folks! So them who can’t learn from a tale about critters, just ain’t got the ears tuned for listenin’.
 
 
Uncle Remus: It happum on one ah dem Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Days. Now dat’s the kinda day where you can’t opem yo mouf widout a song jumpin right out of it!
 
 
Sally: Uncle Remus, I’m trying my best to bring up Johnny to be obedient and truthful. But you and your stories are making that very difficult. I think maybe it would be better if he didn’t hear any more for a while.
Uncle Remus: Well, Miss Sally, the stories ain’t done no…
Sally: They only confuse him. Now, I know you mean well, Uncle Remus, but Johnny’s too young.
Uncle Remus: Miss Sally…
Sally: I’ll have to ask you not to tell him any more.
Uncle Remus: Yes, ‘m…
 
 
 

Johnny: [on his sick bed from being struck by the bull] Uncle Remus… Come back, Uncle Remus… Come back…
 
 
 
 
And I’m thinking how this puts me in mind of Aibileen leaving Mae Mobley. . .
 
 
There was this description on www.imdb.com (internet movie data base) on why Bassett won an honorary Academy Award:
 
 “For his able and heart-warming characterization of Uncle Remus, friend and story teller to the children of the world, in Walt Disney’s Song of the South.”
 
 
“According to James Snead’s book, “White screens/black images”, p. 93: “At the film’s New York premiere in Times Square, dozens of black and white pickets chanted, ‘We fought for Uncle Sam, not Uncle Tom,’ while the NAACP called for a total boycott of the film, and the National Negro Congress called on black people to ‘run the picture out of the area.'”
 
 
 
“It’s alleged that James Baskett couldn’t attend the premiere of this film in Atlanta because there was no hotel that would give him a room due to his skin color.”
 
 
 
 
“In an article titled, “Disney’s Laughin’ Place” by Frank Stephenson, we read that, “Following its debut, the NAACP registered its official displeasure of what it called the film’s ‘racial stereotyping’ a charge echoed by the National Urban League.”
 
 
 
 
 
“On May 8, 2007, the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, which includes representatives from the Los Angeles Civil Rights Assn., the NAACP National Board, and the Youth Advocacy Coalition, sent out a press release denouncing Disney’s contemplation to re-release Song of the South.”
 
 
 
 
Now that last bit is interesting. Wonder if this is the same NAACP branch that okayed The Help?
 
And how come Disney is once again in the thick of a controversial movie dealing with racial depictions? Cracked.com has a great list on Disney’s most cringe worthy characters. Song of the South is listed as #2, and here’s number #1:
 
 
 

The 9 Most Racist Disney Characters

 
 
Thursday from Mickey Mouse and the Boy Thursday (Book)

In this forgotten Mickey Mouse bookfrom 1948, Mickey gets a crate full of West African bananas, and finds an African inside instead! Ha!” The savage soon is confused by Mickey’s human lifestyle and commits acts of random violence. 

 

See all nine nominees here:   

 
 
 
To be continued . . .
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