Disney studios is distributing the film version of The Help. Dreamworks is producing the movie along with a number of other production companies (Nate Berkus is also one of the producers).
The company with the most to lose would be Disney because a few of the company’s older, popularly “Beloved” films and animated movies were labeled highly insensitive to minorities.
A list of these films can be found here: http://www.cracked.com/article_15677_9-most-racist-disney-characters.html#ixzz0tzrAUDFP
The reasons most often heard for either retaining or editing these classics with their offensive material, are that it was a different time period back then, and things have changed. I’m not so sure after reading The Help.
I’d like to believe that it would be in Disney’s, as well as Dreamwork’s best interest not to have certain scenes and dialogue in the movie.
In depth posts on this topic can be found here:
More recently, The Princess and the Frog was well received, but still not without controversy.
The princess was originally set to be a maid named Maddie. http://jezebel.com/5252713/about-that-princess-and-the-frog-spoiler
More about Maddie’s transformation to Tiana can be found here:
Disney’s ‘Princess And The Frog’ opens
Her Prince Has Come. Critics, Too. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/31/fashion/31disney.html
Dumbo, one of Disney’s best selling DVD’s and also crowned a beloved classic, has its share of characters mocking African Americans.
There’s the jolly, shuffle dancing crows, one even named “Jim Crow”
Their signature song is “But I’d be done see’n about everything when I see an elephant fly”
There’s the faceless black workers who set up the traveling circus that Dumbo and his mom are a part of.
Their song has lyrics like these:
Hike! Ugh! Hike! Ugh! Hike! Ugh! Hike!
We work all day, we work all night
We never learned to read or write
We’re happy-hearted roustabouts
More info can be found in this post:
There’s also the not so subtle domestic centaurette named Sunflower of Fantasia, also a Disney “beloved” classic:
Sunflower has been deleted from the DVD of Fantasia.
Disney had another popular, but highly controversial “beloved” classic film called Song of The South starring a character called “Uncle Remus”
Some quotes from 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’. ”
“You can’t run away from trouble. There ain’t no place that far. ”
Note this stereotypical exchange between Uncle Remus and a young character named Johnny (Remus kinda sounds like Aibileen and Constantine)
Uncle Remus: Appears to me like you’s figurin’ on goin’ someplace.
Johnny: I am, and nobody’s gonna stop me.
Uncle Remus: Well, now, if that don’t bang my time. You know, I was just figurin’ on somethin’ like that myself. How’d you like ol’ Uncle Remus to go along with you?
[They start to go off together]
Uncle Remus: Now, let’s see now. Where is we figurin’ on goin’? How can we be goin’ someplace if we don’t know where we’s goin’?
Johnny: I’m going to Atlanta.
Uncle Remus: Hmm, powerful long walk to Atlanta. Is you brung some grub?
Uncle Remus: Well, now… if we ain’t got no grub, we sure can’t get very far.
Uncle Remus, having been banned by Sally from ever seeing Johnny again, decides to pack up and leave for Atlanta]
Uncle Remus: Oh, I knows. I knows. I’m just a worn-out ol’ man what don’t do nothin’ but tell stories. But they ain’t never done no harm to nobody. And if they don’t do no good, how come they last so long? This here’s the only home I knows. I was going to whitewash the walls, too, but not now. Time done run out.
I’ve got a post on a few other novels thought to be classic. These novels are also note worthy for their offensive portrayal of minorities, though most of the ones I list deal with characters of African descent. That post can be viewed here:
So how is it that many of these novels and films are quickly crowned beloved? Who decides what’s beloved by some, while having dialogue and scenes that many would agree are insensitive?
Take a look at what passes for “Beloved” and you’ll see that its one sided, as if tagging this on a novel can cover a multitude of sins the book or entertainer may commit.
When a product is considered “beloved” like Little Black Sambo and The Three Gooliwogs, it can still be looked upon wistfully (and still sold by Amazon UK) as if the mention of their titles bring back wonderful memories for all.
Edna Ferber’s Showboat blurb on Amazon:
Edna Ferber s classic paean of love to the Mississippi River and the showboats that ran up and down it is once again available in hardcover as a facsimile of the first edition. First published in 1926, this timeless tale of the Cotton Blossom, Cap n Andy, his shrewd wife Parthy, and their beautiful daughter Magnolia her remarkable daughter Kim was made famous on Broadway in 1927, when the legendary Jerome S. Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II collaborated on the musical. Since then it has become a beloved favorite, revived repeatedly to entertain generations with haunting and lyrical songs such as Old Man River and Can t Help Lovin That Man of Mine.
Imitation of Life, another “Beloved” classic’s blurb on Amazon
A bestseller in 1933, and subsequently adapted into two beloved and controversial films, Imitation of Life has played a vital role in ongoing conversations about race, femininity, and the American Dream. Bea Pullman, a white single mother, and her African American maid, Delilah Johnston, also a single mother, raise their daughters together and become business partners. Combining Bea’s business savvy with Delilah’s irresistible southern recipes, they build an Aunt Jemima-like waffle business and an international restaurant empire. Yet their public success brings them little happiness. Bea is torn between her responsibilities as a businesswoman and a mother; Delilah is devastated when her light-skinned daughter, Peola, moves away to pass as white. Imitation of Life struck a chord in the 1930s, and it continues to resonate powerfully today. The author of numerous bestselling novels, a masterful short story writer, and an outspoken social activist, Fannie Hurst was a major celebrity in the first half of the twentieth century.
Notice how Stepin (his name means Step and Fetch it) cowers. Also look at how his facial features reflect his cowardly cringes and dispassionate eye rolls. Stepin became a very wealthy man from movies that portrayed him as an emasculated black male, one who got out of doing work, not because he was lazy, but cunning enough to pretend he was too confused to understand his employer’s instructions. Stepin’s antics begat other physically transforming comedians like Willie Best and Mantan Mooreland.
Into this mix, The Help has now been deemed “Beloved” (at least on Amazon’s blurb).
To be continued…