An article by The Grio.com features Tate Taylor, the director and screen writer of The Help. In it, Taylor attempts to address the criticism and controversy surrounding the film. It was an uneventful interview.
Up until this statement (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.”
Oh dear. Oh dear me. WTF was he thinking? WTF, was he even thinking at all?
Once again the people behind the movie never cease to renew my faith that some way, somehow they’ll make a bad situation even more horrid.
Click image for larger view:
Here’s a link to the full interview Taylor did with The Grio’s Chris Witherspoon. Many thanks to @AmethystNite on twitter for the tip:
So, I thought I’d put his comment to a little test.
If you’re squeamish, then don’t look at these pictures. But if you can stand it, let me know if Taylor was right. Is being told to hurry up in a sweltering outhouse worse than seeing a lynching? Really?
*******Lynching Photos******No Children should view these
The disconnect the principles behind this film have regarding the horrors African Americans faced is astounding. Not only that, but Tate Taylor again appears to be co-signing his pal Kathryn Stockett’s demeaning treatment of the black males in the novel, most of whom were cut from the film version.
Is that why sitting on a toilet is more offensive to him than the countless lives of black men who were viciously attacked and murdered?
Stockett had Connor, Clyde, Minny’s father and Leroy labeled respectively as an absentee father, a “no account” nicknamed “Crisco” “lazy and no good” plus “a drunk” and imbued with all the negative traits of the black brute trope (Leroy). Yet Taylor was just fine with it. The disrespect for the black male in the novel, with its roots in Antebellum ideology and the decision to separate those males from the primary maids, as if the real culprit during segregation were African American men is sickening. And his pretense that the novel and the film puts the black female domestic on a pedestal is a joke.
Demeaning black fathers and husbands by painting most of them negatively in the 1960s, yet pretending most white males were somewhat oblivious to the rules of segregation and henpecked hubbies is revisionist history. African American males and females faced oppression together. This tactic of fawning over the loyal black female domestic while inturn portraying our males as wanting, is a sad holdover from the skewed mindset of segregation. Aibileen is only redeemed in the film because of the talent of Viola Davis.
And by the reviews it appears Aibileen’s self loathing nature has thankfully been altered from the novel. Yet Aibileen, Minny and even Constantine are characters we’ve seen countless times before in older Hollywood movies. Aibileen is the sweetly docile, ever obedient Delilah from Imitation of Life, giving away her deceased son’s idea to Skeeter without asking a thing in return, just like Delilah did in easily handing over her family’s secret pancake recipe. Minny is an updated version of Mammy from Gone With The Wind, tethered to the kitchen with stereotypical lines like “Frying chicken tend to make you feel better about life.”
And speaking of Minny, it seems director Tate Taylor is now prone to repeatedly invoking Octavia Spencer’s name. It’s either Spencer or he’s mentioning his childhood maid, just as Stockett did with bringing up Demetrie in almost every interview (yet not giving Demetrie McLorn the respect after all these years to address her by her full married name. Stockett’s comfort with being overly familiar is in line with how others saw their maids. On a first name basis regardless of their senior position, much like “Aunt” Jemima or “Uncle” Ben). Far too many use the excuse that this simple courtesy means nothing, that it’s just how things were done without looking at why it was like that. By not acknowledging where they got their cultural attitudes or “traditions” and what they were based on, Stockett and Taylor continue to wallow in denial. That’s part of the reason why the novel, and now the film isn’t being lauded in some circles. And the most recent published gaffe by Tate Taylor is on par with the insensitive HSN products “inspired” by The Help. At the rate they’re going, I’ll soon have a top ten list on the mistakes in the movie as well as the bloopers spoken by the filmmakers themselves.
**UPDATE** **UPDATE** **UPDATE**
Since The Help is opening in the UK, the Guardian has a must read article with quotes from the film’s director, Tate Taylor. In the piece there’s more foot in mouth statements by Taylor. He explains a bit more why he believes the scene with Viola Davis pretending to take a crap was so horrific to his southern sensibilities. A commenter named Finisterre linked to this site, so I need to give that person a shout out and my sincere thanks.The piece is titled:
Is The Help Helping? Domestic servants on film in today’s Hollywood
by Xan Brooks of the guardian.co.uk
Thursday 20 October 2011
“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.”
” . . .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.”
Damn I wish I’d been in the same room with the journalists in Philly, while Taylor, Stockett and Spencer kept silent on their “pact” and pretended as if they were doing black people worldwide a favor with The Whelp I mean The Help.
At a time like this, I just have ask readers to take a look at other posts, if you haven’t already:
And please keep in mind this statement by a poster on the Amazon.com site A Dissenting View of The Help, which was started in January, 2010 as an ongoing discussion on the problems in the novel. The thread has close to 2,700 posts as of today’s date (October 21, 2011)
“Misrepresentation in a novel, whether or not it’s fiction, hurts. It hurts more when the writer connects it with something as profound as the civil rights movement. It’s the same sort of argument I hear from young adult readers when the issue of whitewashing book covers is brought up: a publisher releases a book with a white model on the cover when the book is about a black protagonist. When black readers complain, some white readers go, “It’s just a book cover. Stop making this into a race issue.” They say it, because they don’t understand. When you’re white and you’re used to having your race take centre stage in every single TV show, movie, video game – every facet of popular media – it’s difficult, probably near impossible, for you to understand that even the littlest things like fiction characters are big things to black people. Because we don’t have Harry Potters or Edward Cullens (thank God) or any of those popular white characters to represent us. So we have to make do with the little black characters that populate contemporary fiction.”
To be continued . . .