Repost: Today is Father’s Day, yet there’s no positive black father figure in The Help

Posted on June 16, 2013

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Today is Father’s Day. And while both the novel and the movie of Kathryn Stockett’s blockbuster, controversial creation attempted to rehabilitate the southern white males who practiced segregation (like the overseas marketing which labeled Stuart Whitworth as a “Handsome, Good Ole’ Boy” and Johnny Foote as a “Southern Gentleman.” See the screenshots below).  The black males in the book or movie were not afforded such superlatives on screen, in the book or in the marketing of either. In short, the black male was thrown under the bus, much like white females were.

So while some wonder why the black male is seen so negatively in many circles of American society, (take for example the Cheerios commercial, which brought out the trolls because it showed a black male, his white wife and their biracial daughter).

 

Cheerios commercial with an interracial couple. Charles Malik Whitfield, of the Temptations mini-series fame, plays the father.

Cheerios commercial with an interracial couple. Charles Malik Whitfield of the Temptations mini-series fame, plays the father.

 

 

Link: https://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/how-the-cheerios-commercial-highlights-a-big-problem-in-america-and-in-the-help/

 

 

Look no further than celebrated works like The Help, which far too many journalists and reviewers lauded without noticing how the novel resurrected old stereotypes of African Americans, specifically, the African American male.

While Kathryn Stockett, Tate Taylor and Octavia Spencer (Stockett admitted in early interviews that these three were party to an “agreement.” The author also admitted Taylor was there while she was writing the novel, contradicting her prior interviews. And Taylor then admits Spencer was there in an interview with The Grio.com. Spencer admits in published interview, that she read the manuscript prior to it being published and had no major objections. See this post for more) had no problem with the negative depictions of the primary black males, not so for the leading white males in the book and movie, who were marketed like this:

 

Click the image for a larger view:

Good Ole Boy. You’re got to be kidding.

 

 

 

That "Southern Gentleman" and "Dreamboat" Johnny Foote

That “Southern Gentleman” and “Dreamboat” Johnny Foote

 

 

Unfortunately, for a book and a movie that wanted to show the races weren’t that different, both vehicles did much to show we really are different, and not in a good way  or with non-offensive humor in my opinion.

Yes, today is Father’s Day, yet there’s no black father in The Help (novel) who behaves like one.

This post is going to be short. And it’s a shout out to all males, no matter what race or ethnicity. The fathers of the world, the ones who act like men and provide for their families and take the time to love their children and cherish their wives, significant others and mothers. Guys, you deserve a day like today.

But there was a time not so long ago that African American males weren’t afforded that sort of respect. They were ridiculed, imitated and forced to bow and grovel, in essence to act like they weren’t men all because of bigotry and hatred.

This post is for my dad, six feet tall with smooth, mahogany brown skin and a killer smile. Worked as an automaker, was a husband, a father, a veteran, an avid college football and Pro-football fan.

He wasn’t a “no-account” and he wasn’t an absentee father.

Unlike how the fathers in The Help are portrayed, the black males like Leroy, Connor, Clyde and Minny’s unnamed father, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing black men who are fathers and damn good at it.

 

 

Dough Boys from World War I

 

 

So unlike the slurs in the book, where Kathryn Stockett in “Blackface” has her characters state:

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

We start calling his daddy Crisco cause you can’t fancy up a man done run off on his family. Plus he the greasiest no-count you ever known. (Aibileen, Pg 5)

But with my sister’s heart problem and my no good drunk daddy, it was up to me and Mama. (Minny, Pg 38)

“She’s been with your mama a few years. That’s when she met the father, Connor. He worked on your farm, lived back there in the Hotstack. . . . We was all surprised Constantine would go and . . . get herself in the family way. Some folks at church wasn’t so kind about it, especially when the baby come out white. Even though the father was black as me” (Aibileen, telling Skeeter about Connor, the male who impregnated and left Constantine Pg 358)

Take a moment to realize what black males had to go through during segregation. Then ask yourself, if Stockett had written this about the males of your culture, how many of you would endorse, celebrate and love this novel or the film version?

 

 

The kick seen around the world. Newspaper editor Alex Wilson is attacked by bigots

A lynching in Marion, Indiana 1930. The ultimate price black men paid during segregation

A lynching in Marion, Indiana 1930. The ultimate price black men paid during segregation

The REAL Scottsboro Boys

Scottsboro Boys, The Musical. Much like The Help, this version white washed the real life events

Scottsboro Boys, The Musical. Much like The Help, this short lived Broadway play white washed real life events. Note the tagline “Entertain the Truth”

 

 

 

 

Young MALES and females being led to jail after protesting segregation in 1963

I AM A MAN. The march which demanded black males be seen as MEN. Please take note of the lone white male who was brave enough to march in solidarity.

There were also the demeaning interpretations of how black males looked and behaved. And they were expected to emulate this, to the delight of white audiences.

One of American’s most “beloved” entertainers during segregation, Al Jolson in blackface. This is Jolson’s popular role, wearing blackface and singing about his “Mammy”

The creators of the radio show portraying Amos ‘N Andy

Prince Chawmin, one of the many cartoon characters which demeaned and mocked African American males

When Amos N’ Andy made it to television, these are the actors who portrayed them. Kingfish, the master of Malapropisms, is pictured in the center.

Stepin Fetchit’s greatest role. The cowering, confused black man.

Hires ad, “Yassuh . . .” This is how black males were expected to behave. With a grin and stooping shoulders.

Marching for Civil Rights. See all the BLACK MEN?

For more on just where and how The Help went wrong, please see this post:
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