Viola Davis really wants me to see The Help. This is why I will not.
“It’s not an issue of Hollywood, it’s an issue of culture. I mean, I am a Black woman from Central Falls, Rhode Island. I’m dark skinned, I’m quirky, I’m shy, I’m strong, I’m guarded, I’m weak at times, I’m sensual, I’m not overtly sexual. I am so many things in so many ways and I will never see myself on screen. I actually had a person walk up to me once and say ‘So what person from history do you want to be? Do you want to [just play strong characters]?’ I had to stop them and say ‘Just write a story. Just take a risk and tell the most fantastical story that you’ve ever wanted to tell and then put it in my lap, or Octavia’s (Spencer) Lap, Or Cicely Tyson’s lap, or Angela Bassett’s Lap.’ There are few movies coming out this year with African-American women in them. Very few are being made. Black actresses have enough obstacles in our way without someone protesting an opportunity to show our work on screen. It’s one thing if you go see “The Help” and you don’t like it, but Give it a chance!”
– Viola Davis (Star of The Help)
Ms. Davis, I still remember the role you played in Doubt. I went to see it in the theater on the strength of the acclaim you received for your role in the movie alone. I ache for you and your fellow Black actresses and empathize as best I can with your struggle. Ironically, the fact that The Help will do spectacularly well this weekend makes a part of me happy. Because it allows me to opt out even as the movie exceeds all expectations and still allows me to hold out hope that someone will give you a chance to play a significant part in a movie I want to see. This particular part is rather pie in the sky but keeping hope alive is a large makes being Black tolerable.
I don’t believe anyone should protest or boycott your movie. I do believe we as consumers must hold dear our right to not accept less than what we deserve for our money. The Fact of the matter is, Walt Disney is selling this not just as a nice story…but in the words of The Help producer Brunson Green, “This is African-American Women’s story” . (EW, August 12, 2011 page 37)
As the grandson AND Son of “The Help”, someone who as recently as 1991 was picking up Black women from white women’s houses in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and listening to their stories, some of whom had logged in as many as fifty years of “Helping” I can say with near certainty that Brunson Green, book author Kathryn Stockett, and movie director Tate Taylor (all white Jackson, MS residents) are ill-suited to tell that story in a way that truly represents African-American women. for THIS reason
But as for you, Ms. Davis, as well as your Sisters in your industry, I wish you all the success you deserve, and should you be nominated for an award, as I certainly believe is possible, given what I have heard thus far…I hope you win. I hope this movie brings you (and your co-stars) every bit of success humanly possible. But Disney cannot have my money. If you see me in the street, remind me of this article and I will give you the 15 dollars my trip would have cost me Personally.
I support you…I will not support Walt Disney in this endeavor.
Oh well that’s terribly unfortunate. Sure go put the $15 (it’s $10 here in MI & 12.50 for luxury seating) directly in her hand but that won’t help to prove that black actresses can attract an audience. Proving that black actresses can attract an audience does what?? You guessed it! It gets more black actresses in MORE roles in films. I couldn’t possibly care less about what company backed this film unless it was the KKK themselves. I enjoyed this movie & book from beginning to end regardless if a white woman wrote it. Chill out & be happy that there are a number of black actresses getting a paycheck from this film.
Thank you for your Comment, Ash. A few points, though.
A. The fifteen bucks refers to my one ticket plus whatever Snacks/food i would consume.
B. The Help‘s success will NOT be a referendum on whether or not Black Actresses can attract an audience. Perhaps if this movie was written from THEIR viewpoint and not Proxied through Skeeter’s character, It would be. This isn’t the case and Hollywood doesn’t intend to see it that way. The advance tickets sales alone dictate tremendous success for The Help, and I alluded to such as a salve for my own ambivalence.
C. this post isn’t a referendum on anyone else’s decision. This is about my personal decision and my public Commentary. I am glad you enjoyed the Movie and the Book. I am not out here Denigrating anyone who makes different choices. I apologize if you felt as such. What I will NOT do is be quiet about my opinion. I would encourage you to be able to enjoy the movie as you did and still take food for throught from the critical analysis of it.
Thank you again for Reading.
I am interested in knowing more about your opinions regarding Walt Disney. Why is it that you would put the money in ms viola’s hand, someone who is aiding Disney in their, well what ever endeavor you find adverse, but not actually to Disney?
I have to agree with you wholeheartedly on this. I have developed an aversion to magic negroes and I will not support this film.
I thought I was the only person in North America who didn’t feel that the author was qualified to tell the story. Then my mother read the book. Oh well. We won’t be seeing it, either.
I know I’m late to the party. I have refused to see this movie while all my friends insist that it’s the best. I refuse to see any movie where African American women are degraded and sterotyped by white Hollywood. I won’t turnover my movie to an industry that is limiting our roles to second class. I refuse to be a part of this continuing limited roles for our women. More Black actresses in these types of movies only leads to more Black roles of this type.
Everytime I see a person reading that book I cringe! Thank you for your blog posting!