Lovin’ the stereotype while pretending to be “liberal”

Posted on August 14, 2011

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That’s right, teach ‘em early.

Train a whole new generation to wax nostalgic over how blacks used to behave, as opposed to now. The South has risen again in a piece of crap film by those bastions of good taste over at Disney and Dreamworks.

Ah, those were the good ole days when blacks knew their place and bigots knew theirs.

Young Actress playing Mae Mobley learning her "You is" isms, a contrived and condescending piece of dialogue meant to "inspire"

 
 

In the good old boy’s club of filmmaking, where it’s who you know, and not what skills you can bring, it’s a short film like Chicken Party and a female author with dreams of Hollywood grandeur who hooks up her “friends” while making the sole black one tap dance all over the country as she sells her novel’s premise to the masses.

Tate Taylor's Chicken Party, starring Octavia Spencer and Alison Janney

Kathryn Stockett, claiming in an interview that she’s from an old “liberal” family creates a book full of stereotypes, and those who also claim to be “liberal” while truly knowing nothing of the struggles African Americans faced (but they all had black domestics in Jackson, Missisippi so that should count for something), rely on each other for guidance and nepotism.

 

In the novel Martin Luther King Jr. is transformed into Martian Luther King. You heard me right. Stockett, writing as the stoic, regal Aibileen (I neither believe this character is regal or stoic. She’s a Tom and a Mammy) changes his name to ”Martian” as Aibileen is intent on making young Mae Mobley into a liberal even if it takes a Martian to do it.

From the novel (items in bold are my doing):

“Today I’m on tell you bout a man from outer space. . . One day, a wise Martian came down to earth to teach us people a thing or two,” I say.

“Martian? How big?”

“Oh, he about six-two.”

“What’s his name?”

“Martian Luther King” (wait for the chuckle of reader)

”. . . He was a real nice Martian, Mister King. Looked just like us, nose, mouth, hair up on his head, but sometime people looked at him funny and sometime, well, I guess sometime people was just downright mean.”

“Why Aibee? Why was they so mean to him?” she ask.

“Cause he was green.” (Pg 296)

 

Apparently this is one of the hokey scenes that early reviewers fell head over heels for.

But lets start at the beginning shall we? When the PR spin was that Stockett’s novel had been turned down by numerous agents, inferring that they simply couldn’t see how inspiring and wonderful the book was. Way to stick out your tongue and go“na na, na na na “ how ya like me now?

Later interviews by Stockett confirmed what most already suspected. That the book wasn’t ready for publication.

Editor Amy Einhorn, snaps up the novel and the author thanks her for helping to tirelessly edit the book to perfection. Einhorn now has the book to launch her publishing company.

Too bad even with a bevy of editors and the head of the publishing house working overtime to get the book out (Obama had just been elected Prez don’t you know. When opportunity presents itself, like ambitious Skeeter Phelan, self professed “liberals” have to jump on it)

 

Even with all this due diligence, the novel contains this error:

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)

 
More embarrassingly mystifying is Stockett’s three known audio interviews where she repeats the Evers was “bludgeoned” line, though she’d written about his shooting death in several pages of her novel.
 

From the novel (items in bold are my doing):

“Sit down,” Minny say. I set in a wooden chair. They all ghost faced, staring at the radio. It’s about half the side of a car engine, wood, four knobs on it. Even Kindra quiet in Sugar’s lap. . .

“I was just informed,” the announcer say, panting, “that Medgar Evers is dead.”

Oh. Law.

Minny turn to Leroy Junior. Her voice low, steady, “Take your brothers and sisters in the bedroom. Get in bed. And stay back there.” It always sound scarier when a hollerer talk soft. .

Minny’s hands is in fists. She gritting her teeth. “Shot him right in front of his children, Aibileen.”

“We gone pray for the Everses, we gone pray for Myrlie . . .” but it just sound so empty, so I stop.

“Radio say his family run out the house when they heard the shots. Say he bloody, stumbling around, all the kids with blood all over em . . .” She slap her hand on the table, rattling the wood radio. (Pg 195)

You can read the entire account with links to the audio interviews on this post:

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

 

 

No such worry for the movie though. Because they just show a report of Medgar Evers assassination on television, thus further distancing moviegoers from the horror that really happened vs. what has been re-imagined for the film.

Then in a recent interview, Tate Taylor, director and screenwriter of the film admits just what Stockett was up against with her NY editors (items in bold are my doing):

 

 “. . . she (Stockett) told me when she wrote the novel, her editors in New York – highly educated people – had no clue about Jim Crow Laws. I go, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I know, I swear! You think people know. They don’t. So she goes, ‘I’m telling you put it in,’ and I did. I thought, being a Southerner, it was too much. ‘Oh really? Of course there’s Jim Crow Laws.’ That was the one thing.”

Link: http://movies.about.com/od/thehelp/a/tate-taylor-interview.htm

 
 
 
 
 
Stockett may have educated herself on Jim Crow Laws, but she somehow forgot to filter out their negative influence in her own novel. And the movie when they weren’t appropriate.
 

Plenty of black men leave their families behind like trash in a dump, but that’s just not something the colored woman do. We’ve got the kids to think about. (Minny, 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.

Aibileen and Minny having a ball in the kitchen, as the whitewashing of segregation via films returns

 
 
 
 

“Frying chicken make you tend to feel better about life” (Minny’s highly offensive, stereotypical movie line)

There’s a long, degrading history of mocking African Americans via advertising. Pairing blacks with chicken is but one example.

 

It's Chicken Time! The stereotype of blacks loving chicken is resurrected in The Help

 
 
 
 

Now, cue the violins and pull on your long boots for this next bit of “liberalism” or PR to counter the bad press on the film.

Make sure you take note of how the filmmakers helped out the residents of the town they filmed in when you read the full article. Why, they even used locals and an actual domestic as extras for this farce of a film. Oh yeah, I guess it would help if I identified the narrator. But if you click the link for the full article you should see this truly humble individual’s name.

“When I attended the premiere of our film The Help, I thought about how our labor of love has turned into quite a journey. It’s almost as if the film had a touch of that Southern charm that typically involves generosity and helpfulness. It seemed like every time we needed something, we’d turn a corner and there were the answers, as if it were all meant to be.

Here are a few of the great moments that come to mind.

Finding The Help and Its Charmed Life

As you may have already heard, Tate Taylor, writer and director of the movie, was one of Help novelist Kathryn Stockett’s best friends. Tate and I had worked on several indie projects together and had been great friends for about 15 years. As soon as he read Kathryn’s manuscript, he immediately called me excitedly and said he had to make The Help into a movie. Little did we know that the book would become such an international smash. That posed some hard choices for Kathryn. Whether to go with her gut, or listen to everyone telling her not to sell the film rights to Tate. What were the chances that she would stick by us when everyone in her life told her not to? Fortunately, she went with her instinct, and the result has been a phenomenal one.

When I first read The Help, it was a hefty, six-pound manuscript. It was beyond massive. I was on a red-eye and stayed up the entire flight because I just couldn’t stop turning the pages. By the last page, I was smiling ear to ear and crying at the same time. The two folks sitting on each side of me must have thought I was nuts.”

Link: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/08/13/the-help-behind-the-scenes-on-the-movie.html

 
 
 
 
Let me interject some cold hard facts into this misty recollection.
 
 
Notice how he never says the black characters have some problems. Like THEY’RE STEREOTYPES.
 

Marching for Civil Rights. See all the BLACK MEN?

 
 
 

Notice also how, as a man himself, he’s just fine with the black males being called “no-account” and two of them depicted as absentee dads as well as the black brute trope for Leroy.

http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/the-help-useless-to-african-americans/

 
 
 
 
See the photo below? That’s what far too many southern males who believed in segregation were doing while African Americans marched for freedom and equality.

Rebel flag and marchers

 
 

The kick seen 'round the world. Alex Wilson is attacked by mob and the world finally sees what African Americans subjected to.

 
 

For more on how the novel and now the movie demeans the black male even though both males and females were the main targets of southern bigots during segregation, please read this post:

http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/the-help-useless-to-african-americans/

Stockett took care of her “boys” both inside the novel and her male childhood friends, by making them closet liberals and handsome pin up idols in the book. In checking out the movie’s early casting, I can see where the same thing was done. No, there was no way any of the principals behind the movie would dare tell the truth about their beloved Mississippi. After all, they, like Skeeter/Stockett just wanted to find a way into Hollywood. And they did.

 
But this is nothing new. You have to remember that Kathryn Stockett has a degree in English and Creative writing. And controversy sells.

There are enough literary examples which mix social causes with race to show this. Books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Showboat, Imitation of Life, Gone With the Wind, Quality (which became the movie Pinky), Kings Go Forth, The Confessions of Nat Turner, to name but a few and now The Help.

Thus, just like Skeeter, Kathryn Stockett found the best of “ideas” to get herself published. I do wonder though if Elaine Stein is a thinly veiled attempt at adding Amy Einhorn into the novel. Is it even possible that Johnny Foote is really supposed to be Tate Taylor, since the word is out on Stockett filling her book with real life associates?

Here are my character guesses with their real life counterparts:

Carlton/Robert Phelan – Stockett’s grandfather Robert Stockett, Sr.

Hilly Holbrook – Stockett’s grandmother, Carolyn Stockett

Skeeter – Kathryn Stockett herself

Celia Foote – Stockett’s mom

Minny – Octavia Spencer

Aibileen – Ablene Cooper

Constantine – Demetrie McLorn

Raleigh Leefolt and Elizabeth – reportedly Stockett’s brother and sister-in-law, and ABC.com alludes to them being behind Cooper’s lawsuit.

Stuart – I really don’t care.

What I would really like to know is why, whenever someone wants to portray themselves as “liberal” blacks have to be dragged into the process.

 

Because African Americans were in a sense “used” so that not only Skeeter could fulfill her dream, but also Stockett and co. There are a lot of well meaning people buying into the “idea” of what The Help represents. They bought into the book, even though Stockett swooped in to play omnipresent narrator, insulting the very culture she claimed to pay homage to.

Now they’re buying into the movie simply because, as scholar and historian Micki McElya writes in her book Clinging to Mammy: The Faithful Slave in Twentieth-Century America, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007“. . . so many white Americans have wished to live in a world in which African Americans are not angry over past and present injustices, a world in which white people were and are not complicit, in which the injustices themselves — of slavery, Jim Crow, and ongoing structural racism — seem not to exist at all.”

 
 

The touch Skeeter dared not do in the book during the daytime, but was created for the movie. Skeeter only touched Aibileen under the cover of darkness and rain in the book, when she was getting the hell out of Jackson

 
 
 
 
“If we are to reckon honestly with the history and continued legacies of slavery in the United States, we must confront the terrible depths of desire for the black mammy and the way it still drags at struggles for real democracy and social justice.” – Mikki McElya
 

The Asexual, supremely devoted, solitary Mammy

 
 
 
Ah, just found another self professed “liberal” this time its EW reviewer Owen Gleiberman who attempts to do point by point cheerleading for the film:
 
 
Excerpt: “Based on its smashing first five days, I’d say that The Help is fast on its way to becoming more than just a hit, more than a “chick flick” counterprogramming alternative like Julie & Julia or Eat Pray Love.”
 
 
 
“More than just a hit?” Dude, just because you like the movie doesn’t mean it’ll end all wars and bring about world peace. Trying make this turkey into more than what it is, (superficial at best) is yet another fallacy of some self professed liberals, which is how they like to equate profit with substance.
 
 
If a movie’s gross is all there is to prove its “more than just a hit” then The Hangover should have won Oscars for Best Picture, Director and Actors. A film that portrays the Klan as heroes, The Birth of a Nation was a rousing hit also, probably with a number of “liberals” back then filling the theater.
 

Birth of a Nation, where a black legislator is eating a piece of fried chicken

 
 
 

The love for this movie still hasn’t dimmed, as it’s now called a “classic”

Another excerpt:

“Why does this movie centered on black experience have so many white characters? Because it’s one of the rare Hollywood movies that begins to capture the extraordinarily complex black/white synergy of the Deep South. There’s a fantastic contradiction at the film’s core: The chatty, upscale Betty Draper-gone-Dixie housewives treat their maids as lowly, often invisible employees, yet they rely on them as nannies, and the children the maids take care of regard them as surrogate mothers.”

By deliberately making the women employers ditzy housewives, just as the book did, the movie attempts to lessen the sting of the power dynamics during segregation. Yes, moviegoers can look proudly at these women and laugh, apparently the same way you did as a reviewer. Why, they’re harmless. Just look at how silly they behave! Who’d ever take them seriously?

 
 

Shrieks and squeals from Skeeters pals

 
 
 
Even white women should be offended by the portrayals. Not all bigots were harried housewives. Some were just as cunning and cut-throat as their mates. Why get your hands dirty if you don’t have to? Just scream for the nearest white male that you believe a black man stared or whistled at you. A few of them even enjoyed seeing innocent black men lynched:
 
 

A lynching in Marion, Indiana 1930. The ultimate price black men paid during segregation

 
Take a real good look. See the women in front who don’t look the least bit horrified at what they’ve just witnessed?

You wanna know why? Because this was the mindset back then. That blacks weren’t human, so therefore killing us wasn’t something a good Christian should worry about

 
 Click image for larger view:
 

She had a name. It was Laura Nelson

 
 
 

“Most of them hold racist attitudes, but they fall along a subtle continuum of insensitivity inching toward decency”

And that’s where Owen’s “review” turned into toilet paper with his bullshit line ” . . .insensitivity inching toward decency”

Oh you mean if the roles were reversed, like if it was a “sassy”Jewish maid serving a Nazi commander’s wife some poop pie, and the Nazi commander’s wife merely insulted the maid instead of having her sent to the gas chamber?

Is that the kind of decency you’re talking about? How the film, just like the book apparently white washes a violatile, tragic and shameful time period in American history, just so some Americans can say to themselves, “see, it wasn’t that bad.” The film is simply Hogan’s Heroes of the South!

 

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

 

While blacks have been encouraged and in many cases brainwashed into identifying with the pain of other races, (like what the Jews went through during the Holocaust, and what their white “Massa” felt during slavery) somehow what we may hold sacred and painful is open season for jocularity?

Because really, that’s one of the major issues here. How the film is a Dramedy, when many African Americans are saying that time period and our lives were anything but.

Where’s our Schindler’s List? Because this sure is hell ain’t it. Figures it would be a bunch of southerners wanting to tell how much “affection” they had for their domestics and vice versa. That antebellum myth has been around for AGES.

Funny thing though, I haven’t seen as many domestics claiming they just “loved and laughed” ever so much with their overseers I mean employers as the comments from those who recall their former maids and nannies suggest.

Remember something Owen, we’re real people. Not characters in a movie. Therefore what you may find funny, some of us have relatives who never made it past a certain age simply because those “inching towards decency” weren’t quite there yet.

Here’s an actual, honest to goodness letter or plea from Black Baptist Ministers of Mississippi, concerning of all things, how black women and female children were being sexually assaulted:

 

A plea from baptist ministers

 
 
 
 
 
And here’s a few real life letters from some of the “inching towards decency”  Real Housewives of Jackson, Mississippi:

Ltr to the editor from a female resident of Jackson, Mississippi

 
 
 
 

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

 

Take note that Mrs. E A Copeland believes even little black kids are afflicted with disease and immorality.Of course there had to be a perfectly twisted reason why so many, like “Missus Jackson” were against integration.

WIMS or Wednesdays in Mississippi try to dispell offensive myths about blacks to female homemakers:

 
 

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

 
 

 

 

Oh, and Nice Mad Men connection there Owen, as it seems the new motto is “I wanna look as cool as Don Draper” which is another 60s revisionist kick writers seem to be on, what with the influx of new shows having Draper clones as leading men (saving that for another post).

“What matters, in the end, about the reaction against The Help — and what, at least to me, invalidates that reaction — is that it’s a case of people looking a little too hard for easy moral contradictions to skewer in a movie that, in fact, revels in its contradictions. As for the glib implication that the movie is basically “for whites” (i.e., not for African-Americans), that, to me, is nothing short of profoundly racist. I mean, seriously, who’s to say? Traditional liberal Hollywood message movies have taken tough, unruly subjects like race and forced them into reassuring, simple-to-read slots. But The Help, even though it’s a film that wants to move you in straight-down-the-middle ways, isn’t such a simple movie to read. This is one case where it may not be the film that’s sanitizing the messy issues of race in America so much as the people who are overly eager to beat up on it”

Link: http://insidemovies.ew.com/2011/08/14/is-the-help-a-movie-for-white-liberals/

 
 

Who’s to say?

Well how about starting with the people who’ve been patronized, mocked, maligned and insulted over the years in just about every way possible, even by well meaning “liberals.”

 
 

Hires ad, "Yassuh . . ." Black males were also required to grovel and give service with a smile

 
 
 
 

Using actual African Americans to mock themselves in ads

 
 

There was an old saying back in the day “that’s mighty white of you.”

And that’s what Owen’s piece reminds me of.

It’s the standard, “I don’t know why some black people are upset, because I’m not.”

Here’s some facts: Had Minny tried that little stunt with the shit in the pie (a just plain nasty and over the top rip off of Kizzy’s water cup scene in Roots and Celie spitting in Mister’s dad’s glass of water from The Color Purple) she’d not only be dead, but her home firebombed and her family missing. That’s how bad it was in Mississippi.

Then there’s the whole “blacker the better maids” or hadn’t some movie goers noticed that all the maids appear to be one shade fits all?

All the "blacker the better" maids in one room, as the film attempts to duplicate Stockett's words with heavy handed film shots

 
 

I mean, what did the people behind the film think lighter complexioned African Americans did for a living? Get shipped up North (Stockett’s far fetched rationale written for Constantine, because Lulabelle was light enough to pass for white. Black Americans who looked white were nothing new and the movie wisely dropped the “tragic mulatto” trope), or hide out in the house?

And what is it with the cinematography on this movie? Whenever the African Americans appear on screen everything goes dark, but when the white gals are playing bridge there’s floodlights galore:

 
 

Bright, Shiny bigots

 
 
 
 
I’m not finished yet, will come back later to complete this . . . 
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