“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.
I ditched the widget shop yesterday and took the wife to see American Gangster. As I expected, it was everything I thought it would be.
However, one comment I have heard from amateur movie critics is that there was too much Russell Crowe and not enough Denzel Washington.
Yeah, I can see that. But that is an effort to broaden the scope of the movie.
If the movie focuses on the Rise of Frank Lucas, it becomes Hoodlum.
The balance was very similar to that of The Departed, which was a movie that strived to strike a balance between adding depth to the villain without glorifying his existence.
To truly tell the story of Frank Lucas, there has to be some plea copping and rationalizing, because those things must exist in order to explain how it is that a man who wreaked so much destruction can also be beloved.
When the story of a Frank Lucas falls into the hands of a Steven Zaillian, Ridley Scott, and Brian Grazer with an eye towards a 100+ Million Dollar box office, then you have to understand that the perspective is everything.
This, is why WHO is telling the story is often more important than WHAT story is being told.
One of the really difficult things about being Black is how conflicted we can be when it comes to our “heroes” and our role models.
It is plain that Frank Lucas is portrayed as a hero on some levels. As difficult as that is to digest, it is a fact and cannot be ignored.
What will probably ensue will be the inevitable backlash from those who will insist that Frank Lucas represents the “wrong” kind of hero for Black people. And they will be right.
There will be those who herald Lucas for being a gentleman gangster. And they will be right as well.
I don’t have a problem with stories like that. The problem is the lack of more virtuous stories. THAT is what I am looking forward to. Not fewer Frank Lucases, but more Dorie Millers and Benjamin Carsons.
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