**Updated!** $ Making The Help Pay $ – product tie ins to the movie

Why I do declare! What y’all waiting on? Yankees?

Get on over to HSN for Carol’s Daughter’s Magnolia products. Spray away that sweat and funk from slaving all day in the kitchen.

Later on tonight we’ll have the fried chicken scented perfume, because as Minny says in the movie “Frying chicken make you tend to feel better about life”  (I am not freakin’ kidding you)

Minny and Aibileen dolls sold separately. No returns, and no refunds unless Hilly says so. 

HSN's Smell like a Southern Magnolia Belle EEO Sale


You see, profits from a film aren’t the only way to generate money for a movie studio. Another way is through tie ins, like products. For instance, did you know the studio behind The Help mulled over putting out a cookbook? You can read about it here

So I’m starting a new feature which will list the many ways Dreamworks will try to milk a profit. There’s a corresponding post here with a brief history on how African Americans were used to promote and sell products during segregation. It is still a sensitive subject even today. A couple of the more popular, constant reminders include Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben.

Mammy lamp. Not sold on HSN, but popular during segregation. Image from Ferris State Museum of Jim Crow Memorabilia

As I’d stated many months earlier, once Stockett’s book became a hit and not enough people were objecting, the silence was taken as a signal to proceed unopposed, no matter how tasteless. I need to thank @BlackCanseco and @Sistertoldja for this info, because I follow both of their twitter feeds.

In early July, HSN announced it had teamed up with Dreamworks to auction  I mean sell items “inspired” by the film. That’s right, you too can purchase cookware ( just guessing here) “inspired” by Minny in the kitchen. You’ll be happily reminded of the long hours real black domestics toiled away in the kitchen each time you pick up a pan “inspired” by the film.

Or what about that darling dress Hilly wore when she talked about the “diseases” blacks carried? Yes, you too can be the envy and center of conversation at any party you attend, simply by wearing clothing “inspired” by the movie.

And in honor of cast members mentioned, but not seen in the movie, the roach makes an uncredited appearance during this shopping hour.

Yes folks, we have the very roach that crawled from under Aibileen’s paper bag, in a black marcasite encrusted pin you can wear close to your heart. You’ll be thrilled when you show off this beautiful creation on any outfit, recalling Aibileen’s stirring words from the novel “He black. Blacker than me.”

And that roach will be blacker than you, we’ve made sure of it. (I’m being sarcastic here, this IS NOT what HSN’s site says)


Here’s the link to the HSN site and their promotion page:

Link: http://t.co/RuXJSpF

HSN product tie in for The Help

And here’s what they’re offering (purely in jest I had no idea how spot on some of my predictions for products would be).

Line of Products "inspired" by The Help. So where are the aprons and maids attire?


The winner of the worst product tie-in award goes to. . . Emeril 

 Jumping on the bad taste bandwagon and including his cookware in this joke of a marketing plan, Emeril’s cooking utensils are another way to remind African Americans that our place was in the kitchen during segregation.
I need to thank Alina over in Australia for pointing this out:
There’s not one black model in this clothing line “inspired” by The Help

Clothing inspired by The Help. But where are the African American models?




Oh, and check out the comments section on HSN.  


You can vote on this marketing fiasco using the poll below:

HSN product tie in for The Help

I found some info that may shed more light on why this is happening. This post is from last August 2010, , when the movie Eat, Love, Pray was set to be released by Sony Pictures. The paragraph I’ve put in bold explains it:

‘Eat, Pray, Love’—and Shop at HSN


.”. . . In the run-up to the Aug. 13 release of “Eat, Pray, Love,” the movie adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-seller, HSN is staging a three-day shopping event beginning Friday. It will showcase more than 400 products, including jewelry, clothing, cookware and furnishings, inspired byItaly, India, Bali, where the story’s protagonist visits on a journey of self-discovery.

In return for plugging the movie ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ HSN is selling merchandise inspired by the story’s locales. Sony Pictures will get a cut, but says it cares more about higher awareness.

The effort is an attempt to resolve two problems facing Hollywood. With DVD sales dropping, studios need to find other revenue streams. And even as box-office sales have surged in the past two years, a key demographic has stayed home: Adult women, who have little interest in the 3-D action films that have powered the box-office resurgence.

Last October, HSN  executives met with Sony ‘s Sony Pictures to pitch the idea, which involved HSN using the “Eat, Pray, Love” brand to sell products in exchange for promoting the movie.

George Leon, who oversees global consumer marketing for Sony, says the shopping network, with its approximately 5 million mostly female active customers, dovetailed naturally with the movie’s marketing ambitions. “HSN’s core audience is a perfect fit for the target audience,” he says . . . ”

 ” . . .Earlier this week, HSN screened the movie for its employees, including its customer-service representatives, who have also been given copies of the novel. The company is encouraging sales reps to discuss the book and movie with customers.

Rachel Lombardo, a 36-year-old HSN sales representative who lives in Tampa, Fla., says knowing the material will help her with customers.

“If I hadn’t seen the movie or read the book,” she says, “I don’t think I’d be able to get our customers to connect with all the stops she takes throughout the year or the countries she visits.”

Read the full article here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704499604575407460346870810.html

I feel like I should call HSN and “discuss” the book with sales reps. Wonder how they’d feel talking with me about Aibileen comparing her skin color to a roach?
Join HSN for a one-of-a-kind collection created in
the spirit of “The Help,” the must-see new movie from
DreamWorks Pictures. Experience beauty, home decor,
designer fashions and more from top brands such as
Carol’s Daughter, Emeril and Lela Rose for HSN
all in the essence of this inspiring story.
Shop The Collection Exclusively on HSN
online August 1 | on air August 5-6
So, I guess I need to articulate why this is not only quite insensitive and tasteless, but a very bad idea.

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”

– quote credited to both Malcolm X and Peter Marshall
Much like the true life story of The Scottsboro Boys was turned into a rolicking minstrel of a musical, The Help, both the novel and reportedly the movie have a heaping dose of humour, as if the subject of segregation can’t be touched unless its highly entertaining, because making people uncomfortable just won’t do. The “people” I’m referring to are Americans, as we detest seeing ourselves in any role but the hero. Well, there’s always the sexy anti-hero. That role is allowed. But nothing that makes us as a group seem intolerant, bigoted or unjustified if we invade a country to spread Democracy. It must be a singular role. And in The Help, Hilly has that sole honor.

Scottsboro Boys, The Musical. Strange, but the real Scottsboro Boys weren't laughing as much.


The REAL Scottsboro Boys.

Fortunately, while history can be white washed it can’t totally be revised. Which means if a book or movie is set in Jackson, Mississippi during the turbulent 60s, there’s no way to ignore the civil rights movement taking hold of not just Jackson, but the whole country. Kathryn Stockett tried to solve that problem by creating a premise which not only co-ops the struggle for freedom and equality, but brands a fictional Ole Miss grad as a truth seeker, ready to “go rogue.” Nevermind that Ole Miss wasn’t exactly graduating liberals at the time. Somehow, even though Skeeter attends a University quite proud of its segregationist roots, she graduates with a new found guilty conscience about her life and her friends.
So she enters the kitchen to find some new ones. A group of black maids in search of a leader. And gangly, naive Skeeter is up to the task. She’s also the character many white viewers can identify with. 
As the article above revealed, when dealing with the female market, generating money means hitting a woman where she lives. And that’s a love for shopping.
Only, it depends on the subject matter. As pointed out by a poster named CM, just what would have been the marketing on Schindler’s list? The Color Purple, or Malcolm X?
There wouldn’t have been any, as the films mentioned were dramas, with a little bit of comedy. The Help is a dramedy, a film much like the book that pretends it’s about segregation, but really not, so HSN can happily sell products, laying the burden on their hosts to gracefully explain why viewers really need cookware “inspired” by the film.
I can just see some of the on-air talent wondering what they’d done to deserve such a fate.
The HSN collaboration reeks of desperation. Because if the studio really believed they had a major hit with the film, then courting further ire from not just the black community, but regular HSN viewers could be a bad move. Especially viewers  who feel confident they can live without household products that evoke oppression, so just bring on the Fall fashion line and 60 inch LCD TVs why don’t cha.
And just what are operators standing by supposed to say to a customer to promote the film?
So who was your favorite character?
That’s nice, I don’t recall the character in the novel Why is she your favorite?
Because not only did she tell off Skeeter’s boney ass, but she made Aibileen’s blood pressure rise enough to demand that she get out. Aibileen was so busy grinning and groveling throughout the book, it was a pleasure to see her true Uncle Tom nature get challenged. Bravo Gretchen.  
Oh (eye roll and grimace) , well, thank you for shopping with HSN

Back order on spoilt cootchies

No matter which way it’s spun, putting items on sale dredges up lousy memories. The Ferris State Museum of Jim Crow Memorabilia contains a number of items “inspired” by, well, I’m not quite sure what the people who made and marketed these things were going for. Perhaps they wanted to bring some humor to segregation, and “inspire” product sales by mocking an entire race, just like The Help:

We Needs - tasteless shopping list using African American stereotype. Image from Ferris State University Museum of Jim Crow Memorabilia


I'se gotta get Another product sold during segregation to brighten any kitchen. Image from Ferris State university, Museum of Jim Crow Memorabilia

There’s also a report of an agreement with Carol’s Daughter to once again, promote and sell products “inspired” by the film. All of this feels rather sordid.
Because . . . well,  I just can’t help having this nagging thought:

Slave Auction Announcement


Public Auction of Slaves


Mammy in a box


Mammy out of the box


Mammy and Scarlet figurine. Perhaps A Celia and Minny figurine will be sold by Franklin Mint

Enlisting a black owned company like Carol’s Daughter, on the surface appears to be an equal opportunity business deal. After all, HSN was partnered with. I can see execs pointing out  Carol’s Daughter to try to counter any bad press, as it can be brought up that a black company had no problem with all this.
Until upon closer inspection, the means is to justify the end, Which is PROFIT.
Blacks + Sales = Profit
Just like during Slavery.
Much like Kathryn Stockett and Tate Taylor utilized actress/comic Octavia Spencer to play defense in case of objections (when the book was originally published, Spencer apparently had no problem with this arrangement, popping up on various internet sites defending the novel and Stockett) the whole thing appears even more unseemly. And also pre-meditated. They’ve gone to the well and used this tactic one too many times.
Convincing a few African Americans to validate movie executives exploitation of  the black community and this shameful period in American History is very risky, and could backfire badly. When the backlash occurs and the shit hits the fan over the insensitive wheeling and dealing, I wouldn’t want to be that “token” minority associated with all this.
 Product watch will stay on the lookout. Check back for updates!
3 Responses “**Updated!** $ Making The Help Pay $ – product tie ins to the movie” →
  1. I want to be clear. The website was visually well done. The concept is appalling and tasteless. Nonetheless, I think that the masses will flock to it and the site will be sold out with plenty of back-orders. After all, we have been trained to expect and anticipate the merchandise that accompanies or precedes many fantasy and animated films. I wonder, what would have been the merchandise tie-ins for MALCOLM X or The Color Purple or Schindler’s List?

    Just scanning various chats and comments on different related The Help sites yields a public – both black and white – that seems enamoured with the book and anxiously awaiting the movie. The comments that I have read stating sentiments such as, “…the best book I have read in a long time”, leads me to believe that it is the only book the masses have read in a long time even the part of the masses that read.

    • Hi CM,

      I agree with your post. This whole thing is surreal, to say the least. Love this part:

      “I think that the masses will flock to it and the site will be sold out with plenty of back-orders. After all, we have been trained to expect and anticipate the merchandise that accompanies or precedes many fantasy and animated films. I wonder, what would have been the merchandise tie-ins for MALCOLM X or The Color Purple or Schindler’s List?”

      Very thought provoking point. Thanks for your comment.

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