My child and I finally had “the talk”.
You know the one where they look at you in horror as you answer their questions on the “old” days.
It’s every parent’s nightmare when they respond with “I don’t think I could have made it back then. I don’t know how you did it.”
I dunno. I was born smack in the middle of an era when civil rights was heating up, and the black power movement began. It was a glorious time when everything was a conspiracy theory and Attica! Attica! was shouted down the school hallways with a raised fist. My white friends wore Afros. My afrocentric friends wore Cornrows and Dashiki’s. Brothers called females “My Queen” and “sister” when they greeted you. There was this mysterious entity called THE MAN and if you acted like you weren’t down with the program, well you just weren’t cool enough to hang. I was young enough to enjoy it all, and old enough to realize once I stepped out of my multi-racial neighborhood things were different.
I’d fall back on what my mother drummed into my head about speaking one way at home and another in public.
Quiet and observant in school, rowdy and inquisitive around the members of my community who were older and wanted to educate me on “how it was” I listened. And I learned.
And now I’m passing it on.
What you do with the information that you read on this site is your business. But don’t say you weren’t told. Don’t say that when The Help came out that there weren’t readers both white and black who didn’t object to the depiction of the maids, and even how the white characters were stereotyped. Because there were. WE did speak out. Only some of you weren’t listening.
Kathryn Stockett’s novel is only a symptom of a much bigger problem. It’s not THE problem.
I don’t have the time or inclination to educate anyone on the ways of black folk. All I know is, dignity is a beautiful thing. And it’s in short supply among the pages of The Help, no matter how many people think its just so wonderful that Stockett has fond memories of her “mammy” (UK reviewers tend to use that term a lot. For the record, its OFFENSIVE to African Americans)
And on that note, I am woman so hear me fuckin’ roar.
No longer Miss, they call me “Ma’am”
Yes, I have weight around the middle but I sure wouldn’t call it a “friendly” and to hell if it’s “soft”
I’m referencing the novel here, where Skeeter says this about Aibileen: She’s a little plump in the middle, but it’s a friendly softness. (Pg 78)
I dont’ want to read about what you think you know about black people and our customs, if you don’t know then don’t just make up obnoxious shit and you won’t get called on it.
Because when I opened up The Help I thought I would read about three black women who really were black women.
Not just some hokey dialogue that was simply created so the author could have a memorable film moment when a movie reel is played at some awards show:
“You is kind, you is smart, you is-“ (as Frazier would say, oh you get the picture!)
What pray tell, would have been wrong with saying “You’re kind, you’re smart. . . ” etc. etc. No, it had to be uttered exactly as written in the novel.
Could there be anything as vile and contrived as that dialogue? Or as condescending?
How about the uneasy closeness it has to something written for an episode of Amos n Andy :
Excerpt from Ebony Magazine article:
“Gosden, who on radio played both the role of Amos and the Kingfish, was soon asked not to come on the set after a run-in with Spencer Williams and his characterization of Andy. And he remained away during the entire filming of the TV series.
“We couldn’t get together on this use of dialect,” Williams explained. “He wanted me to say ‘dis here and dat dere’ and I wasn’t going to do it. He said he ‘ought to know how Amos ‘n Andy should talk,” but I told him Negroes didn’t want to see Negroes on TV talking that way. Then I told him I ought to know how Negroes talk. After all, I’ve been one all my life. He never came back on the set.”
Page 70, Article by Edward T. Clayton in Ebony Magazine
Short URL link: http://alturl.com/shkqw
Please know also, that when Kathryn Stockett reflects in the back of her novel on Demetrie, the real life maid she states inspired the character of Aibileen, here’s how she words Demetrie’s esteem building (items in bold are my doing):
“She would stand me in front of the mirror and say, “You are beautiful. You are a beautiful girl,” when clearly I was not. (Pg 448)
Hmm. Somewhere along the way Aibileen became a stereotype, not just in character but in her speech pattern.
Here’s Aibileen, a woman with such a low opinion of herself that for entertainment, she sits alone in her kitchen waiting on the company of a roach to come out from under a bag. And then when it does, Stockett decides the best quip she should say is “He black. Blacker than me.”
So how in the world does Aibileen rate instilling confidence in anything, when she can’t even figure out that she’s worth more than a roach?
And the kicker is, Aibileen can grin and dote on the white children, but gets judgmental in the book when describing Minny’s youngest daughter Kindra noting that “She sass walk”.
From page 396 of the novel:
Kindra- she seven now – she sass walk her way to the stove and with her bottom sticking out and her nose up in the air. – Aibileen’s inner thoughts while watching Kindra.
If this had been Mae Mobley, Aibileen would have been rushing to help the seven year old prepare dinner. Instead as the scene progresses, Aibleen is too chicken shit to stay and face Leroy, after he wakes up raging at Benny, Minny’s second youngest child.
We make it out the door and down the street fore we hear Leroy hollering at Benny for waking him up. I walk faster so she (Minny) don’t go back and give Leroy what he good for. (Pg 397, Aibileen)
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She also becomes such an Uncle Tom that when Gretchen tells Skeeter off, Aibileen practically hisses like a mountain lion at her, demanding that she get out of her house. Aibileen never gets this upset at anyone else in the book, not even when she has a “confrontation” with Hilly at the novels end.
Good old Aibileen. If I may appropriate a line reportedly said by Billie Holiday about Louis Armstrong “Of course Aibileen toms, but she toms from the heart.”
Another problem is the number of people of color reading this book and not knowing. Some can’t comprehend that they’ve just been insulted, and don’t know what to do about it.
But I know what I read.
Look, there’s no way in hell a woman, no matter what race would compare herself to a roach. A fuckin’ roach.
DO YOU GET HOW MESSED UP THAT IS?
And what part of “nuanced” do some major reviewers not understand? Because this sure as hell isn’t “nuanced” especially when Stockett herself laments she’d wished she could change “little nuances.”
“I agree that black voices are undervalued,” Stockett says. But she set out to write one story, a piece of fiction with voices that sounded to her ears like music, that were close to her heart. “I don’t think I got it right by any means,” she says. “I wish I could change little nuances.”
Oh, ya mean “little nuances” like this one (which certainly isn’t nuanced at all, but a very direct slight):
I’ll make it easy for people, here’s the definition:
Nuance: A subtle difference or distinction in expression, meaning, response, etc.
1. subtlety, nicety, hint, refinement.
And this, which is from the Disney “Classic” animated feature Dumbo
Yet a group of reviewers picked up the word “nuanced”, just like many jumped on the “To Kill A Mockingbird” tag that someone wrongly attributed to this book and ran with it, so that virtually every piece I read on the novel contained the same phrases.
There was no critique or thorough analysis, just cloned articles. And no one bothered to question how The Help even came to be, warts and all. Seems the Disney-esque cover of the book blinded even the mass media from digging further.
See this post for more information:
Case in point, what was up with the males in the novel?
I’ve gone into how Stockett demeaned the black male something fierce in the book on this site, but the white southern male is practically canonized.
So what am I supposed to believe? That somehow, Southern men kept their dick in their pants? Really?
That miraculously, unlike other men, they didn’t stray outside the marriage bed, especially if they got engaged to a deathly pale, tall, thin blonde woman with a bump on her nose who was nicknamed “Skeeter” by her older brother because she looked like a mosquito?
Yet a handsome senator’s son, just getting over a broken heart to a beauty queen decides to call her “pretty”
Again, complete and utter fan fiction BS.
Worse yet, is how Stockett has a love affair with the very idea of the antebellumwhite southern male, (I’m referring to those who practiced segregation) and makes just about everyone of them in the novel gainfully employed, liberal, and strangely oblivious to the Citizen’s Council (formerly the White Citizen’s Council of Jackson), a pesky thing called segregation, or that they’re smack in middle of the turning point in the civil rights movement.
There’s also the “different” voices Stockett dreams up for the white and black characters. The employers have no regional accent, they don’t discuss anything as brazen as “spoilt cootchies” over bridge, and somehow a twenty-four year old wanna be socialite named Hilly is the Queen B of Jackson, ruling over the city with an iron will. Oh Please. Now that really is bad fiction.
Hmm. I just had a devious idea.
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Edited to add:
I must thank Alina for this find. Here’s the link to a site called The Editing Room.
The screenplay for THE HELP has been given satirical treatment by James M, a 24 year old amateur scriptwriter from Australia.
Please read just one of the many hilarious scenes featuring the dreaded Douche Ex-Machina (term used by James M.) click the image for a larger view: