Tainted Love: The black actor’s dilemma in works like The Help and Django Unchained

Posted on February 16, 2013

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“I don’t want input, I don’t want you to tell me if I’m doing anything wrong, heavens forbid. But I write a scene, and I think I’ve heard it as much as I can, but then when I read it to you – I don’t give it to you to read, I read it – when I read it to you, I hear it through your ears, and it lets me know I’m on the right track.” – Quentin Tarantino quote after winning a Golden Globe for Django Unchained

In this post I hope to explore the teaming of black talent with white in Hollywood. While on the surface it could be viewed as beneficial for both, after further research, the dynamics of power show the partnership is anything but equal. What results can possibly lead to a futhering of stereotypes that plague both cultures, instead of combating them. And while the projects are supposed to be harmless entertainment, for some African Americans, it winds up being anything but.

 

 

The Help Unchained a mash of two well intended, but seriously flawed creations

The Help Unchained a mash of two well intended, but seriously flawed creations

 

 

 

Two recent examples which have been profitable but also controversial are The Help and Django Unchained.

In the case of The Help, Octavia Spencer became the “black friend card” for both the book’s author, Kathryn Stockett  and screenwriter TateTaylor to pull whenever needed. The Help is also an excellent example of why authors shouldn’t rely on their minority friends to be the sole authority on a minority culture. The book had a number of embarrassing errors that could have been avoided with research, or even enlisting the aid of a historian. Apparently that wasn’t done, and so the novel went to print with mistakes like Skeeter claiming on page 277 that Medgar Evers had been “bludgeoned” in his front yard, which Kathryn Stockett earnestly repeated in three known audio interviews, completely forgetting that she’d supposidely written in her own novel of Ever’s assasination by gunfire.

 

Kathryn Stockett interview on Barnes and Noble’s website:

“…1963 was a horrifying and momentous year in Mississippi’s history as well as the entire United States. It was… the fall of 62 when James Meredith was accepted into Ole Miss and in 1963 Medgar Evers the uh…who was with the NAACP, he was bludgeoned to death on his front yard in front of his children.” (stated at 8:34 minutes into a 10:31 interview)

http://media.barnesandnoble.com/?fr_story=59e76c8fa39941fb2ff1013f7928b8ed42d449c2&rf=rss

 

Read all about it here

 

 

Skeeter’s also the character who happened to be the editor of the fictional Ole Miss student newspaper the Rebel Rouser, unaware that James Meredith attempted to enroll at her Alma Mater in 1961, which is when the character would have been a junior. In the book Skeeter watches Meredith getting blocked from entering Ole Miss on television, while thinking:

The picture pans back and forth and there is my old administration building. Governor Ross Barnett stands with his arms crossed, looking at the tall Negro (James Meredith) in the eye. Next to the governor is our Senator Whitworth, whose son Hilly’s been trying to set me up with on a blind date.

I watch the television, riveted. Yet I am neither thrilled nor disappointed by the news they might let a colored man into Ole Miss, just surprised. (Skeeter, Pg 83)

 

Note that Feb 12, 1962 is written as the date on this actual scan of the Rebel Underground student newspaper, which was the real student run newsletter at Ole Miss during the period The Help is set (and available freely on the internet). So why Skeeter would be “surprised” or not out there protesting along with Hilly, who attended Ole Miss for two years is the real shocker:

 

Rebel Underground Feb 1962

Rebel Underground Feb 1962

 

 

 

Close up of what’s written about Meredith in this actual scan from the archives of Ole Miss:

 

Feb 1962 Rebel Underground student paper insults James Meredith

Feb 1962 Rebel Underground student paper insults James Meredith

 

Scanned Document from The University of Mississippi Libraries: Digital Collections on line The Integration of the University of Mississippi

Link: http://clio.lib.olemiss.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/integration&CISOPTR=100&REC=20

 

 

 

Other errors included making Aibileen, the main domestic “heroine” of the book into a cowering, simpering  hybrid of both Uncle Tom and a Mammy. Aibileen was supposed to be inspiring but turned out to be the same old blindly loyal, no backstory and no companion, grinning through her pain black caricature.

 

Aibileen writing out her thoughts and living the life of an asexual hermit

Aibileen writing out her thoughts and living the life of an asexual hermit. No one thought to ask why a relatively healthy woman would forgo companionship from age thirty-three onward. Thus Aibileen became a Mammy who simply lived to provide the white children she looks after with love and affection, while seeking none for herself.

 

 

Eventual Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, who was written as an updated, brassy and bold Mammy for a new generation, was given lines like “Frying chicken make you tend to feel better about life” as well as the dialogue to diss the black male, something Stockett didn’t dare to tread when dealing with the white males of her novel:

Plenty of black men leave their families behind like trash in a dump, but it’s not something the colored woman do. We’ve got kids to think about – Minny Jackson (Pg 311)

 

 

Spencer was so taken with Kathryn Stockett’s vision of the south rising again via good help, she went on tour with her “good friend” Kathryn Stockett, standing shoulder to shoulder with the author as Stockett voiced Aibileen in a pseudo “black” voice, while they read the offensive “spoilt cootchie” scene from the novel (Pgs 23-24, where Stockett crams so many insults into this imaginary conversation between her two black maids, I was surprised no one caught them). To review, Minny crows about Aibileen having the power to call down a veneral disease on Cocoa, the woman Aibileen’s husband ran off with years ago. Not only does their conversation imply that Cocoa had a “cootchie spoilt as a rotten oyster” but that she came down with it a week after Clyde -the philandering husband-left Aibileen, but that people think Aibileen’s got a special line to god. To which Aibileen, that devout Christian, asks “You saying people think I got the black magic?”

 

 

The spoilt cootchie reading, where Stockett voices Minny

The spoilt cootchie reading, where Stockett voices Minny, and Octavia Spencer does her best “What you talkin’ ’bout Willis?” expression. Spencer not only agreed to a road trip with Stockett, but the actress/comedian popped on the internet defending the book. Too bad Stockett revealed in yet another audio interview that she had an “agreement” with the actress.

 

 

Yikes. Not only did Stockett dredge up two well known offensive myths that were commonly spread about blacks during segregation (that blacks carried disease, including venereal diseases, and even our children were afflicted with it.

 

Click image for larger view:

wims-wednesdays-in-mississippi, residents talk about blacks having venereal diseases and that northern agitators are communists

wims-wednesdays-in-mississippi, residents talk about blacks having venereal diseases and that northern agitators are communists

 

Link:

Women of Mississippi spread demeaning myths, scan from Clarion-Ledger 1963

Women of Mississippi spread demeaning myths, scan from Clarion-Ledger 1963

 

 

 

The scene also falls back on another insulting belief spread during segregation, that no matter if an African American professed to be Christian, we’d revert to the religions of our motherland Africa, with the whole “black magic” line. Maybe Stockett’s editors and even the author herself thought it was a funny, throw away gag. The book contains far too many offenses that bring up troubling questions on just how Stockett could believe much of what she’d written was heart-warming, but instead more in line with The United Daughter’s of the Confederacy’s misguided attempt to put a Mammy monument in Washington during th 1920s. Read more about it in this post

 

Audio interviews would prove to be very lucrative in providing information on the behind the scenes creation of The Help. In an interview with Audible.com, which is still available for downloading, Stockett revealed in December of 2009 that there was an “agreement” with Spencer (items in bold are my doing):

Dapito: And is there a movie version coming out of The Help? Did I hear that right?

Stockett: The movie rights have been sold to a fellow Mississippian Tate Taylor (inaudible) Green and I’m just so lucky that the book is in the hands of people, not only Mississippians but friends of mine from Jackson. They’re two filmmakers based in Los Angeles.

Dapito: Oh I can’t wait. Do you think they will cast Octavia and some of the other narrators?

Stockett: I think Octavia will be the part of Minny because ah . . (pause and laughter) you know, that was just the agreement. It wasn’t that hard of, it you know, there was no pulling hair on that one. She’s such a natural.”

Link: An Interview with Kathryn Stockett, Author of ‘The Help’ Narrated by Diana Dapito

 

 

 

Unfortunately, both Stockett and Tate Taylor’s loose lips only “helped” to shed light on just why Spencer would willingly go along, and even run interference at times. According to one UK journalist, here’s what Octavia Spencer was brought on to do:

“It was only much later, when she decided to try publishing what had become a full-blown novel, that she started to get “very nervous that I had crossed a line that should never be crossed in America.”

To help cover her tracks over that line, Stockett recruited an actress friend, Octavia Spencer, to participate in her first book tour. “I would read the white parts and she would read the black parts and we had a lot of fun,” Stockett says, adding that Spencer’s free spirit was the inspiration for Minnie, one of her two black heroines. “She got it. She grew up in Alabama and she understood that world probably better than we do.”

Interview with John Barber for Saturday’s Globe and Mail

Link: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/books/kathryn-stocketts-southern-discomfort/article2012818/singlepage/#articlecontent

 

 

The story of the mis-steps both behind the creation of The Help novel and the movie are in these posts:

https://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/the-help-on-the-wrong-side-of-history/

 

 

 

 

 

And now, in 2013, There’s Django Unchained. Talented writer/producer Reginald Hudlin plays the Octavia Spencer role this year, for as stated in this interview:

“Hudlin is the most prominent African-American behind the scenes of the hit film, which courted the black community ahead of its release and mostly won its support. Spike Lee was one notable exception. (He refused to see it, saying “American slavery was not a Sergio Leone spaghetti Western. It was a holocaust.”) And a limited-edition line of action figures of the film’s characters – including slaves and slave-owners – drew protests and eventually the dolls’ withdrawal from sale.

“We knew from the beginning that we were working with nitroglycerin,” says Hudlin. “Was there a tremendous amount of discussion and conversation and analysis to make sure we were calibrating this thing exactly right? Absolutely. It was explosive material, but I always had confidence that as a team, we would deliver the right movie.”

For Hudlin, Django represents the kind of film he’d like to see more of: original movies with multi-ethnic casts that don’t reuse well-trod genre tropes.”

Django goes against the conventional thinking that neither films starring black actors nor Westerns can find large audiences abroad. It’s been a huge success internationally, taking in more than $187 million.

“If those historical models were always correct, we wouldn’t be talking right now,” says Hudlin. “Those films travel because the world is represented in those films. The audiences are voting with their dollar saying: We want more diversity.”

The success of Django has already spawned much chatter about a possible sequel, which Hudlin grants he’s had “extensive conversations” with Tarantino about. But for now, he’s planning to just enjoy the Oscars, which he’ll attend with his wife and mother. With Ben Affleck‘s Argo the generally accepted front-runner, Hudlin says he’s not “polishing my acceptance speech,” but proudly going as only the fourth black best picture nominee.

“Hopefully,” he says, “there will be a day soon where we don’t count anymore.”

Link: http://www.cineplex.com/News/For-Django-producer-an-unexpected-Oscar-ride.aspx

 

 

 

A pity that Hudlin’s words are contradicted by Tarantino’s assessment that really, it’s about all eyes on him:

On rising to the level of his earlier work: “I want there to be anticipation. I was actually quite proud when I read that Django is one of the most anticipated movies coming out this year. It’s a black Western. Where’s the anticipation coming from? I guess a lot of it is me. That’s pretty f—ing awesome.”

Link: http://insidemovies.ew.com/2012/11/14/quentin-tarantino-playboy-interview/

 

 

 

So, welcome to this edition of “When good friends go bad” where I attempt to investigate why the pairing of talented individuals from different races end up with some of the most blatant stereotypical characters either in print or film. Sometimes it’s intentional. And other times, all you can do is wonder.

The latest collaboration is between Reginald Hudlin who’s listed as one of the producers for Django while Tarantino picked up a Golden Globe as the screenwriter.

And while this type of collaboration isn’t new, the subject matter could be deemed controversial, especially when interviews come out showing the non-minority collaborator unknowingly insensitive in their public statements or demeanor. Exhibit A:

 

Maybe it’s the venue.

Or maybe it’s the individuals in the venue. Hell, I don’t know. I do know, it’s like a car accident. You can’t help but watch Quentin Tarantino morph into his weirdly cringe worthy version of what he believes a black person sounds like.

I’d seen Tarantino do his “act” previously on TV One, during a special on Django Unchained. Here’s a video of the Oscar winning director appearance on BET’s 106 and Park. I call this Quentin Tarantino does his imitation of a black man, and no one calls him out on his patronizing and frankly, stupid ass behavior, especially when he flips back to a regular old white guy on other shows:

 

 

Lest you think this is an anomaly, it’s not. And Tarantino’s not alone. There are some individuals, whether emboldened by their singular “black” friend or “friends” who feel as though they can take their minstrel act on the road, and everybody just loves it. But let me be the first to say, apparently no one has the heart to tell them to tone it down, or is either too afraid or mesmerized by who they are to ask them just to knock it off.

Those are my best guesses. But really, there’s no excuse for the way Tarantino acts when he’s around two or more African Americans. It’s not flattering, it’s patronizing. And for the life of me, I can’t understand why everyone’s smiling (Samuel L. Jackson, Jaime Fox, the BET hosts, etc. though I do note Jaime Foxx will generally lower his head) I mean, WTF?

So here’s the thing. I get that Hollywood is a different sort of beast. I truly understand that for a minority actor, roles are few and when they do come along, sometimes one has to swallow their pride and take what they can get. But if you’ll go off on a complete stranger who acted that way, then why can’t these black thespians pull Tarrantino to the side and let him know how foolish he’s behaving?

 

Unless of course, they have no problem with his act.

 

But see, it’s gotten worse since Spike Lee raged about Tarantino, reportedly stating this to Variety’s Army Archerd in 1997:

“The word “nigger” is used 38 times in Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown,” sez Spike Lee – and he doesn’t like it. And neither do I. In Daily Variety‘s review of the pic on Dec. 16, Todd McCarthy points out, “nearly every phrase (spoken by Samuel L. Jackson’s character) contains the n-word.” Lee admits, “I’m not against the word,” (though I am) “and I use it, but not excessively. And some people speak that way. But, Quentin is infatuated with that word. What does he want to be made – an honorary black man?” Lee says he has spoken to Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein and the film’s producer, Lawrence Bender, about the excessive use of the word. Lee would like to find out from Tarantino why he used it so frequently in this film “and he uses it in all his pictures: ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Reservoir Dogs…’ I want Quentin to know that all African-Americans do not think that word is trendy or slick.” Lee admits, “I don’t expect them to change (the prints now out), but I want him (Tarantino) to know about it for future reference.” Lee is now in post-production on his “He Got Game” for a May release by Touchstone; Sony, where Lee has his deal, “didn’t want it,” he says, so he took it to Disney. “Game” stars Denzel Washington. He also starred in Lee’s “Mo Better Blues,” in which I (and others) called Lee to task for making the portrayals of characters Moe and Josh Flatbush Jewish caricatures: in his review, Newsweek’s David Ansen described them as “villainous Shylocks,” reminding, “Coming from a self-proclaimed enemy of ethnic stereotyping (Lee), this is inexcusable.” Tuesday, returning to the use of the n-word in “Jackie Brown,” Lee reminded Tarantino and his “Jackie Brown” filmmakers, “If I had used the word ‘kike’ 38 times in ‘Mo Better Blues,’ it would have been my last picture.”

Link: http://www.variety.com/article/VR111779698/

 

 

 

I gotta say, Spike hit the nail on the head with this last line “If I had used the word “kike” 38 times in ‘Mo Better Blues,’ it would have been my last picture.”

 

That quote highlights just how inequitable a relationship like this can be. Octavia Spencer chose to grin and bear it when her former roommate and “good friend” Tate Taylor said things like this:

“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.”

Link: https://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/director-says-thats-worse-than-seeing-a-lynching/

 

 

“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. . .”

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

 

 

Taylor: What I really, really loved about the Medgar Evers storyline and backdrop was that he was in their neighborhood. While they were doing this clandestine project, this Civil Rights leader who’s their neighbor gets murdered, and their characters are wondering, “What’s going to happen to us?”

Link: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/01/12/the-help-an-oral-history-with-viola-davis-octavia-spencer.html

 

 

“My key objective was to give this movie street cred especially within the African-American community, to represent them and not sugarcoat it” quote by Tate Taylor, as reported to LA Times reporter Nicole Sperling

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

 

 

And Spencer was right there, protecting Kathryn Stockett when a lone brave sole tried taking Stockett to task for including historical events in her novel during an early screening of the film.

When The National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Philadelphia convened on August 6, 2011, during a post-screening of the film The Help, a Q&A moderated by MSNBC’s Tamron Hall was held. Here’s what one observer recounted on his blog:

A woman in the audience took Stockett to task on the inclusion of sensitive historical moments in the book and her decision to weave them into the fabric of her fictitious story. (Stockett peppers the novel with real life news stories of the time: the murder of Medgar Evers, JFK’s assassination, for example.) But Spencer jumped in, reminding the woman (and everyone else in the audience) that The Help is not a non-fiction book and that it’s Stockett’s job as a fiction author to entertain, not give history lessons with her novel. “It’s your job as parents to teach your children about our history,” Spencer said. And before switching gears, Stockett quickly interjected, “I just made this shit up!” The entire crowd erupted in applause.”

See more of Stockett repeating that phrase here

 

 

Here’s what Tarantino had to say on the selection process for Djanjo Unchained, a role that the screenwriter first envisioned Will Smith in, but went to comedian/Oscar winner Jaime Foxx (Please pay atttention to what Tarantino at first planned to do with those auditioning for the role. Items in bold are my doing.):

“I met six different actors and had extensive meetings with all of them, and I went in-depth on all of their work,” Tarantino tells Playboy (in the issue that will be on stands Nov. 20). “Idris Elba, Chris Tucker, Terrence Howard, M.K. Williams [from HBO’s Boardwalk Empire], Tyrese. They all appreciated the material, and I was going to put them through the paces, make them go off against one another and kind of put up an obstacle course. And then I met Jamie and realized I didn’t need to do that.” So what was it about Foxx that led Tarantino to cast him? “He was the cowboy… Forget the fact that he has his own horse — and that is actually his horse in the movie. He’s from Texas; he understands. …He understood what it’s like to be thought of as an ‘other. ’ ”

Link: http://insidemovies.ew.com/2012/11/14/quentin-tarantino-playboy-interview/

 

 

“When you look at Roots, nothing about it rings true in the storytelling, and none of the performances ring true for me either,” says Tarantino. “I didn’t see it when it first came on, but when I did I couldn’t get over how oversimplified they made everything about that time. It didn’t move me because it claimed to be something it wasn’t.”

Link: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/12/09/quentin-tarantino-on-django-unchained-and-the-problem-with-roots.html

 

 

 

And on his own film, which some critics deemed overly graphic in its violence and one site counted how many times the word “nigger” was used (138 times):

“I bet anyone who sees the film won’t be able to forget it—and that’s the point.”

Link: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/12/09/quentin-tarantino-on-django-unchained-and-the-problem-with-roots.html

 

 

 

And yet, even after reading Tarantino’s quotes, I fully agree that the screenwriter has every right to create any character he chooses:

“As a writer, I demand the right to write any character in the world that I want to write. I demand the right to be them, I demand the right to think them and I demand the right to tell the truth as I see they are, all right? And to say that I can’t do that because I’m white, but the Hughes Brothers can do that because they’re black, that is racist. That is the heart of racism, all right. And I do not accept that … That is how a segment of the black community that lives in Compton, lives in Inglewood, where Jackie Brown takes place, that lives in Carlson, that is how they talk. I’m telling the truth. It would not be questioned if I was black, and I resent the question because I’m white. I have the right to tell the truth. I do not have the right to lie.”

Because even Tarantino needs help when slipping into the “right to be them.” For Django Unchained, his friend Reginald Hudlin helped keep him on track:

“There were times when I’d be filming a scene and really getting into it and Reg would just say, ‘Hey is this the story you wanted to tell?’ He’d bring the focus back if I got too carried away.”

Link: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/12/09/quentin-tarantino-on-django-unchained-and-the-problem-with-roots.html

 

 

Dear God. Please. Make. It. Stop.

 

 

I’d read about these sorts of partnerships before. In the early 1930s writer Fannie Hurst employed Zora Neale Hurston as her secretary and they were well known friends.  Close enough that Hurst gave Hurston this backhanded compliment (note the sly use of the word “Spade”):

“A brilliantly facile spade has turned over rich new earth.” – preface to Hurston’s first novel Jonah’s Gurd Vine.

 

As Robert Hemenway, author of  Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography, Vine Press 1977  points out Hurst seems incessantly aware of race in her interactions with Hurston.  –  Introduction xliv Imitation of Life by Fannie Hurst and Daniel Itzkovitz

See more in this post

 

 

Hurston was a strong supporter of Hurst’s blockbuster best seller Imitation of Life. It’s reported that Hurston, for a time even convinced Langston Hughes to promote the novel. But after Hughes got wind of what African American critics pointed out were the issues with the black maid Delilah’s depiction (original name of the character, which was changed to Annie in the 1959 version). Delilah was an early example of the loyal, saintly black maid trope. In the 1959 remake Delilah was renamed Annie). Anyway, Langston Hughes completely revised his early support, so much so that he wrote a play that was a parody, called “Limitations of Life” with the black and white roles reversed.

 

Delilah (played by Louise Beavers) begging to stay in Imitation of Life, the 1934 film version

Delilah (played by Louise Beavers) begging to stay in Imitation of Life, the 1934 film version, which is based on the novel by Fannie Hurst.

 

 

James Baldwin was good friends with award winning author William Styron (Sophie’s Choice). Baldwin encouraged Styron to slip into the frame of mind of his black protagonist, but also warned Styron he’d catch hell for his book The Confessions of Nat Turner.

 

Cover of the novel "The Confessions Of Nat Turner"

Cover of the novel “The Confessions Of Nat Turner”

 

 

It was no wonder he warned Styron. Because in this highly imagined version of the slave rebellion leader, Nat lusted after white women and hated other blacks, as he was one self conflicted guy.

 

Examples of some of the Pulitzer prize winning prose Styron wrote for his black character:

“The black people do not sing but stand respectfully in the hot gallery, mouths agape or with sloppy uncomprehending smiles, shuffling their feet. Suddenly they seem to me as meaningless and as stupid as a barn full of mules and I hate them one and all.” (Pg 103)

That’s Nat’s inner dialogue as he observes his own race. And he’s in church at the time.

 

 

 

Nat Turner staged a historic  slave revolt. Styron partly used information from a twenty page pamphlet from 1832 to build upon his tale. In Styron’s book, Nat’s a leader who distains the black slaves that follow his command and also sexually repressed under Styron’s direction:

 

 

“In my fantasies she began to replace the innocent, imaginary girl with the golden curls as the object of my craving, and on those Saturdays when I stole into my private place in the carpenter’s shop to release my pent-up desires, it was Miss Emmeline whose bare white full round hips and belly responded wildly to all my lust and who, sobbing ‘mercy, mercy, mercy’ against my ear, allowed me to partake of the wicked and godless yet unutterable joys of defilement.” (Pg 183)

 

 

 

Styron further assured the book would be mired in controversy with the character voicing inner dialogue like this:

“a few of the crouched men and boys without shirts, picking their noses and scratching, sweat streaming down their black backs in shiny torrents, the lot of them stinking to high heaven. I sit down on a bench near the window in an empty space between Hark and an obese, gross-jowled, chocolate colored slave named Hubbard, owned by the Widow Whitehead, who sports a white man’s cast-off frayed multicolored vest over his flabby naked shoulders, and whose thick lips even now, as he meditates conscientiously upon the sermon from below. . .I can see around me a score of faces popeyed with black nigger credulity, jaws agape, delicious shudders of fright coursing through their bodies as they murmur soft Amens, nervously cracking their knuckles and making silent vows of eternal obedience. . . Ooooh yes! he groans, a fat house nigger, docile as a pet coon.” (Pg 97)

 

 

 

“a negro, in much the same way as a dog, has constantly to interpret the tone of what is being said. If, as certainly possible, the question  was merely drunken-rhetorical, then I could remain humbly and decently mute and scrape away at my rabbit. This (my mind all the while spinning and whirling away like a water mill) was the eventuality I preferred-dumb nigger silence, perhaps a little scratching of the old woolly skull, and an illiterate pink lipped grin, reflecting total incomprehension of so many beautiful Latinisms.”  (Pg 61)

After enough of an outcry from academics, writers and others in the Black community, a big budget movie was shelved.

 

 

Ten Black Writers Respond to William Stryon

Ten Black Writers Respond to William Stryon

 

 

So when Kathryn Stockett needed to sell her book The Help to the masses,  Spencer popped up on internet sites to counter reviews that weren’t entirely glowing for her friend’s debut novel.

 

Click image for larger view:

Octavia Spencer speaks up for The Help. This is how the original post looked in February of 2009

Octavia Spencer speaks up for The Help. This is how the original post looked in February of 2009

 

 

 

Unlike Tarantino, Stockett stuck with the “I can’t hear my own southern accent/dialect that’s why I wrote the book with the white characters hardly having one and the black characters as if they’re on a plantation.” (my sarcasm. This isn’t what the author actually stated).  Here’s what Stockett said in an interview with Katie Couric:

 

“But I think the African American language is lovely as well”

 

 

 

So what’s a creative black actor or writer to do when your liberal “friend” really has no clue, and yet you stay by their side, hoping to reap the benefits of their association? In many instances, it seems it’s best to just act like it’s no big thing.

 

Until it is.

 

The black actor’s dilemma AKA when good friends behave badly. Or basically, when they do a minstrel imitation of you and your culture to your face. And on TV. And in interviews, ’cause they’ve got it like that. Apparently.

 

 

 

This post is still in development . . .

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