Director of The Help claims all criticism is because “I’m not an African American director”

Posted on October 20, 2011

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“. . . All of the criticism we’ve been facing is based on the fact that I’m not an African-American director and that Kathryn is not an African-American writer”  – quote from Tate Taylor, director and screenwriter of The Help

Quote is from an article by Xan Brooks of the Guardian UK titled Is The Help helping? Domestic servants on film in today’s Hollywood

Read it here:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/oct/20/the-help-domestic-servants-on-film

Gordon Parks, famous African American director and award winning photographer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me see . . .how do I respond to this earth shattering news.

BWAHHAAAAAAAA! Sorry I couldn’t resist. Taylor’s playing the “race” card.

A bit more of his reasons why there’s criticism:

“All of the criticism we’ve been facing is based on the fact that I’m not an African-American director and that Kathryn is not an African-American writer,” Taylor says. “It suggests that race relations in my country are still very black and white. But outside of a small academic elite, it doesn’t matter. The Help has been playing to all four quadrants. All races, ages, sexes have gone to see it. The most profitable theatre of its run has been in Jackson, Mississippi, with a completely mixed audience. And afterwards people stop in the parking lot and talk about the issues.”

AND

” . . .Civil rights is just the backdrop. I’m not qualified to make a film about civil rights. People say to me: ‘Why wasn’t there a lynching? Why aren’t there houses burning down?’ But that’s not what this story is. For me, the most horrific moment in the film is the scene where the maid is sitting with her panties round her ankles in a three-by-three plywood bathroom, like a cat in a litter-box, while an impatient white woman is tapping her foot outside. If people need to see blood and gore and can’t see how horrific that is – well, I don’t have answer to that.”

Link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/oct/20/the-help-domestic-servants-on-film

Understand this is the same guy who claimed he was trying to give the movie “street cred” (yes, he was quoted as actually saying that too) Here’s the quote and link (items in bold are my doing):

“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

Reprinted by http://www.kansascity.com/2011/08/05/3058228/the-help-actresses-talk-roles.html

 

Street. Cred.

A film with black maids toiling under segregation and being lead by a spunky college grad from Ole Miss needs “street cred” in the African American community.

 

This is the same screenwriter who deviated from the book, because he  realized which sections of the novel were offensive enough to lose all support for the movie. It was the ol’ bait and switch, which left out:

Minny chasing the naked pervert with a knife. Stockett created this highly offensive bit of slap-stick where Minny, a victim of abuse decides to play the “noble savage” and tell Celia Foote to lock the door while she goes out to confront a butt naked white guy who’s jacking off. The guy manages to get in a few more good licks by telling Minny “Why you’re a fat black nigger” and “Nigger can’t catch me.”

Sure enough, Minny can’t. She runs out of breath (cause she’s so fat you see, and even black readers are supposed to howl with laughter over this turn of events)

The scene was uncalled for. As were many others in the book, which Taylor wisely cut out of the screenplay.

Not to worry. As a son of the south and the director/screenwriter of the award winning short film Chicken Party Taylor manages to find a way to keep the insensitivity intact while retaining the “spirit” of the novel.

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

Moviegoers were on the edge of their seats watching Minny fry chicken while reciting these soon to be Oscar nominated lines:

“Frying chicken make you tend to feel better about life” and  “Minny don’t burn no fried chicken”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And how about this one, which may be the name of the newest hit song on Broadway “I loves me some fried chicken” because  we’re talking about making The Help a franchise, baby. People will be milking this sorry cow for years to come.

“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 . . .”

Article link: http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/the-help-southern-food

Maybe the stage version will restore the deleted scene of Minny smacking her teen daughter Sugar for gossiping about Celia, and giving the girl this Mammyish, life altering advice:

“Don’t you never let me hear you talking bad about the lady who put food in your mouth, clothes on your back! You hear me!”

 That’s right. Don’t thank your parents. Thank the white lady she works for.

The Help musical poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the scene from the novel:

I looked up from my sink and saw Sugar headed straight for me with her hand on her hip. “Yeah Mama, she upchuck all over the floor. And everybody at the whole party see!” Then Sugar turned  around laughing with all the others. She didn’t see the whap coming at her. Soapsuds flew through the air.

“You shut your mouth Sugar.” I yanked her to the corner. “Don’t you never let me hear you talking bad about the lady who put food in your mouth, clothes on your back! You hear me!”

Sugar, she nodded and I went back to my dishes, but  I heard her muttering “You do it, all the time.”

I whipped around and put my finger in her face. “I got a right to. I earn it every day working for that crazy fool.” (Page 334)

 

But the whining about not being an African American director still doesn’t top Taylor’s number one verbal blunder (items in bold are my doing):

“The scene where Viola Davis is sitting on a toilet in a garage in 108 degrees, and then a white woman comes out and tells her to hurry up was visually brutal. To me that’s worse than seeing a lynching. It just is.”

For more on Taylor’s seriously messed up priorities, see this post:

 

I’m not done yet, but I’d like to say ‘ello to those from the UK and Ireland who are reading this post. 

In the meantime, here’s an oldie but goodie from Cilla Black (yes, some of us knew of and enjoyed Cilla over here in the States back in the day. And Shirley Bassey, Dusty Springfield, Lulu, and Marianne Faithful, Cleo Laine . . .)

 

 

 

 

Okay, update time. Here’s what I posted on the site in rebuttal to Tate Taylor   **UPDATE ON THE UPDATE** the comment I posted below was removed on the UK GUARDIAN SITE:

First, let me thank Mr. Brooks for this article.
Second, I need to disclose that I created a site in 2010 to counter the misinformation about African Americans in the novel and the movie.

http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com

I’d like to address Tate Taylor’s assertion that “All of the criticism we’ve been facing is based on the fact that I’m not an African-American director and that Kathryn is not an African-American writer,” Taylor says. “It suggests that race relations in my country are still very black and white. But outside of a small academic elite, it doesn’t matter.”

When Minny utters the lines “Frying chicken make you tend to feel better about life” and “Minny don’t burn no chicken”

UK moviegoers need to realize that during segregation, African Americans were paired with this bird in unflattering and mocking ads, much like blacks were paired with watermelon. There was a sad, disturbing history of using us for mirth in ads during segregation, at the expense of showing how “funny” we were simply for being “different”.

This is but one example of why the film, like the book has its critics.

And like Tyler Perry, who has had his share of critics and happens to be an African American director, there is division over the merits of Stockett’s novel and movie in the black community.

For example, in the novel Aibileen voices inner dialogue which has her self loathing over her dark skin, as well as telling a well known joke. The character has reared one of her seventeen white charges with the warning that he not drink coffee, lest he turn colored.

I remember this, and others. And I can recall what my southern born parents, who worked as domestics for a time would tell me, in order to instill the desire to gain a college degree. NEVER FORGET WHERE YOU CAME FROM, AND WHAT WE WENT THROUGH.

So to say that I was shocked to read some of the things coming out of the black characters mouths as amusing anecdotes, when they weren’t back then is an understatement.

And to Mr. Taylor, I say, IT DOES MATTER.

From the film leaving out several black male characters who were demeaned in the book with labels of “no-count” and one mockingly nicknamed “Crisco”
as Aibileen trained her son to call his father that. To Minny’s assessment that many black males leave their families like trash in a dump, when far too often black males were either run out of town, assaulted or lynched just for being black.

To the color coding of the maids themselves, those willing to follow Skeeter were segregated into the pliable, dark, heavy set and thick of dialect, pitted against those closer to white, gifted with articulate speech and “trim” figures. Gretchen, Yule May (the one Aibileen fawns over because she’s got good hair, smooth, no naps in the book) to Lulabelle, whose crime it was to talk back to Charlotte Phelan, (Lulabelle was renamed Rachel in the movie) and was able to pass for white.

The movie wisely dropped the “Tragic Mulatto” storyline as well as several others, like Aibileen’s continued self loathing over her black skin and doting on Mae Mobley while never once hugging or coddling Minny’s youngest, Kindra.

I could not identify with Constantine, Abileen or Minny. The book skimmed over their plight as domestics imo, though the novel is titled “The Help” in favor of Skeeter’s publishing ambitions and quest for love with Stuart.

I did recognize that they represented several beloved American literary and film tropes often used to represent minorities, and not just African Americans. Aibileen is the docile, blindly loyal maid. Minny is the grumbling, “Sassy” maid who is enlisted to provide comedy. Constantine is a hybrid of the two, the earth mother full of sage advice.

Stockett not being a black author wasn’t a consideration for me. It’s because in my opinion, the maid trio she created aren’t admirable characters or ones I’d consider “heroines”.

Talented Viola Davis elevated the character in the movie, though she’s still stuck with lines like “You is smart, you is kind . . .”

Some have argued this is a worthwhile subject, whether it’s flawed or not, and that at least the plight of black domestics was touched upon.

Yet here is where history again repeats, for several other creations having race as a backdrop were given this same “out”

The article mentioned “Imitation of Life” but there’s also “Showboat” which has faced similar criticism, especially the stage version. And I must mention “Amos and Andy”, even more beloved than The Help because at times Aibileen and Minny behave like a female version of this show.

Yes, a tale on domestics in the south is a worthy one. And the film wasn’t expected to be a history lesson, though the novel was promoted as historical fiction as well as women’s fiction.

Whether there’s truth or merit to the criticism, is the key.

Whether or not my response will stay up is based on their terms, as I noticed the commenter who first linked to my site was deleted. Anyway, I wanted to lend my voice.  Though really, I have to work on making shorter, concise points. I need to get back on Twitter.    *Comment was deleted by site*

 

To be continued . . .

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