Making A Mockery: Why does The (US) Help trailer ridicule women?

Posted on April 22, 2011

0


Click the images for a large view:
 

The Help Movie Poster - at least the maids get to wear make-up

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
Silly me. And here I thought the movie version of  The Help would attempt to correct what went wrong in the novel.
Minny does a stand up comedy routine in the kitchen

Instead, just like Minny’s foolish decision to chase down the naked pervert, the trailer shows the film is chasing laughs at the expense of women. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
You can view the trailer here:
 
 

Not only are the African American maids enlisted to provide humor, but someone involved in the making of the film must have felt critics wouldn’t have reason to complain so long as most of the white women were scatterbrained also. All except Skeeter that is. And her trusty sidekicks Aibileen and Minny.    

Squealing in happiness to see Skeeter

 

 
 

Elizabeth Leefolt acts clueless

 

Celia squeals, jumps and shakes her soda

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Celia gives Minny a hug

 

 

 

Aibileen and Minny get their hugs in

 

I don’t get it. Is this supposed to be some kind of trade off for the complaints? The ones noticing how Stockett depicted the African American domestics so poorly in the novel? Because if it is, somebody made a boo-boo. And if the makers of the movie don’t take the film seriously, then why should the public?

From what I could tell, all the movie does is amp up the humor. And the volume. And the shrieks. And the squeals. And the scowls. And the neck craning. And the eye rolling. And the color of the film. Until everything is much too much. I mean, what exactly was the point with all this silliness? That women who put their heads together and giggle, or throw their necks back and go “Hmmp” can achieve the impossible, like equality? Are you kidding me? Come on, they’ve got to be joking with this. Oh yeah, I do have an interview where the author stated she couldn’t take too much trauma.

Interview with Boof of The Book Whisperer

Excerpt:

“Oh gosh, I’m not funny at all. I don’t like writing too much trauma. I want to be entertained myself as well as the readers; I can’t stand too much trauma. I think the book needed some humour.”

http://boofsbookshelf.com/2010/06/11/interview-kathryn-stockett-author-of-the-help/

 

 

If the novel was supposed to be a comedy its too bad nobody told the publisher prior to them marketing it. And if the film is supposed to be rip roaring funny, then the jokes on all the readers who were never in on the ruse.

This has got the makings of The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfieffer written all over it.

 

Black folk craning their necks (Yule May) when they speak

 

 

 

Because to all this I say NO, NO, a thousand times no.

I ask you, what is so hard about giving the Civil Rights Movement the respect and seriousness it deserves? What pray tell, is Hollywood’s obsession with making everything into a “Feel good” movie, no matter what the subject matter? And why must women be depicted as over emotional, ditzy and downright dumb when the content calls for anything but? 

Did the people behind The Help somehow believe enough time had gone by, and that African Americans should just be over it all by now? Because in their minds, segregation was just so “yesterday?”
 
In trying to go for any left over The Blind Side dollars, the powers that be who gave the green light to this film continue to wallow in denial by trying to milk all things cutesy and cheesy.

Behold the weird hybrid of a movie called The Help. I can only go by the trailer I saw, but the bombastic, frenetic pace of the clips are a huge turnoff. Someone in charge must have been adamant about making this picture  “fun” as well as “funny”.

****UPDATE****

Oh. My. GAWDDDD . . . little did I know when I wrote the above sentence “Someone in charge must have been adamant about making this picture  “fun” as well as “funny”. That I would read this:

“Some people may have a misconceived notion that the movie is more of a history lesson and less about character and emotion. To try to fit that all in a 60 or 90-second trailer is difficult, but I think the trailer we finally agreed on, for the first glimpse of The Help, lets the audience see that the movie is not only a complex emotional human drama, but at the same time it’s very funny and a lot of fun. You want to give the audience a sense of tone, a sense of flavor in the film. The more historical complexities, the more emotional nuances of the film, you can only get a sense of when you see the picture. To us it’s to tread lightly on some of the social and political issues in the trailer.”

Link: http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Exclusive-Chris-Columbus-Explains-What-To-Expect-From-The-Help-And-How-Gwen-Stacy-Changed-His-Life-24265.html

They’re walking into a minefield with Eyes. Wide. Open.

Oh well, anyway back to the post:

From the trailer it also looks like Skeeter ‘s been given some backbone. And the film’s oozing “young”, at least for the white characters, but then again, that’s another problem transferred from the novel.

There she blows! Apparently Skeeter is about to go off, as Emma Stone tries to channel Sandra Bullock.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
What I got from the trailer was Emma Stone doing a rip off of Sandra Bullock’s role in The Blind Side, circa 1960. Feisty and fiery, instead of having one adopted black child to save, in this revamped version of the novel Skeeter has several (Aibileen, Minny, and the other maids who decide to join in). While Skeeter in the novel is desperately eager but unsure of how to convince Aibileen to help her, that’s not the way it looks in the movie. In the trailer clip, Emma Stone barrels toward Viola Davis like a bull in a china shop, fairly demanding that she wants to interview Aibileen.
 
With all the sisterly hugging and squeals of delight in the trailer, it also appears that Kathryn Stockett and co are determined to prove that damn it, black domestics did have affection for their white employers, since we’ve taken great pains to make the white women in the film so widdle and sweetly clueless. Awww. And you know what else? There won’t be any big bad men around to mess with all this female bonding, especially men who like to walk around wearing white sheets.   

Law, did I just see Aibileen roll her eyes? LOL!

 

Seriously though, I’m a fan of Emma Stone. And I’m a huge fan of Viola Davis.

Aibileen wears the mask of mirth

 

But the director’s take on how every emotion should be “Big” just won’t do.  

      

Accenting each grimace, giving a close up of Aibileen going from grinning domestic to I can’t stand you, see how I dropped my smile to show it and Check out how my eyes are smoldering wasn’t needed for an actress of her caliber.

 

I do think Stone and Davis are talented enough in their own right to weather one dog of a movie.

But the other actors in the film may not be so lucky.

Of all the actors, I feel the most for Bryce Dallas Howard. Her performance as Hilly Holbrook appears shrilly and over the top, but in the hands of the right director, Hilly could have been as coldly sinister and as memorable as Hannibal Lector. In fact, James Woods’ performance as Byron De La Beckwith in Ghosts of Mississippi could and should have been required viewing.

Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) plays cards and talks separate toilets for the black help in one of the only scenes where she appears calm

 

Clearly from the trailer, a nuanced touch wasn’t there. As it is, Bryce can look for a Razzie nomination, and Viola Davis has been pulled down by the other performances. Since the actresses appearing in scenes with her are overacting, any quiet dignity Davis hopped to bring to the role is steam rolled by how everyone else is trying to be a second rate Lucille Ball while Davis is going for Oscar gold.

Tears over toilets during segregation

 

Hilly screams while reading the maids novel

 

 

 

In this bright and much too shiny version of Kathryn Stockett’s novel, the clips in the trailer come across as a bad sit-com minus a laugh track, with the people behind the movie showing they have no clue that the fight for civil rights, no matter what form or fashion it took, wasn’t pretty. It was gritty and moving, historic and world changing because courageous people put themselves on the line, and some died for it. Take a look at the woman below. It’s an early photo of Violla Liuzzo. A housewife, mother and rights activist who was shot and killed by a member of the KKK while driving from a protest march.  Sadly, during the trial of her murderers, her reputation was shredded for no other reason than she was a white woman who believed in equality. Learn more about this unsung hero here: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAliuzzo.htm

The other Viola. Violla Liuzzo. Violla’s famous quote “It’s everybody’s fight”.

Children even marched for equality:

Children protesing in 1963 Birmingham, Alabama are led to jail.

Facing History and Ourselves .com article called Civil Rights Protesters Offered Pardon for 1963 Birmingham Arrests

Excerpt:

“On May 2nd, 1963, over a thousand black children in Birmingham, Alabama took part in a nonviolent protest against racial segregation now known as the “Children’s Crusade.”  The children skipped school that day and marched together, two-by-two, singing songs of freedom.  The police confronted the children wielding clubs and fire houses, and set dogs on them.  Hundreds of children were arrested, many taken to jail in school buses.” 

Link: http://www.facinghistory.org/resources/facingtoday/civil-rights-protesters-offe

Excerpt from MSNBC article  Mayor offers pardon to Civil Rights Activists

No interest in pardon
Gwendolyn C. Webb-Happling, who is now a pastor, said she and other protesters are not interested in a pardon now. She was 14 when she was arrested in Birmingham in 1963 and spent a week in custody at the city fairgrounds, charged with demonstrating without a permit. She never heard any more about the charge after she was released.

“We went to jail for a purpose — to be free,” she said. “Not just us but our children and our children’s children. We are proud of what we did.”

 Link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32377612/ns/us_news-life/

Even students from Lerner High, the school Stockett mentions in her novel that one of Minny’s sons attended, marched in Jackson. But you wouldn’t know it from reading the novel.

Like one of the biggest failings of the book, the film appears to move the premise of the maid’s stories ahead of the civil rights activities enveloping the nation, instead of  in tandem with what the NAACP, SNCC and CORE were accomplishing in Jackson, Mississippi.

I’ve mentioned before, that having the maids stories front and center and not aligned with the other civil rights activities occuring in Jackson was a greedy premise, but since the people behind the movie are intent on shoving “Spunky Skeeter saves the day. Oh, and there’s some black people in the movie” down moviegoers throats, they will reap what they sow. Pretending as if Skeeter had to act alone, when all those civil rights organizations were ready and willing to work with whites who wanted to join the fight for freedom and equality was always a bone of contention for me. Because it underscored just how little research Stockett actually did.

But then if the point was to show how much “danger” Skeeter faced, which is what the author played up while on her book tour, then having Skeeter go it alone was the point all the while.

The maids stories are certainly an intriguing premise. But do they hold the same kind of weight as the stories of assaults and rapes of black women driving the fight for freedom? Understand that real life tales of how all African American workers, including domestics were treated, both male and female were just as important. There were black farmers cheated out of their crop profits and denied Federal assistance, as well as  black sharecroppers forced to work long hours with little or no pay on farms owned by bigoted land owners. These injustices and more drove the centuries old fight for equality. It didn’t just manifest itself when Kathryn Stockett chose to create a heroine named Skeeter, and then chose to separate the oppression blacks faced by focusing solely on African American females while demeaning the African American male.  The novel had precious little accurate history in it, and it looks like the film dumbs it down even more. At least the error regarding Medgar Evers won’t be in the film:

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

And I’m pretty sure with the reception the trailer is getting, much of it divided along racial lines, the studio is wondering what kind of reception the movie will get. But here’s the thing. The problem was always in the source material. Only no one wanted to see it. Until it was too late.

This post is still in development . . .

About these ads
Posted in: Blog