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View Diary: My Thoughts On "The Help" (236 comments)

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  •  "Ultimately racist"? Why? (4+ / 0-)

    Because it is written by a white woman or because it is politically correct? I'm genuinely confused, probably because you don't articulate why it is racist. Just that it is.

    On a similar note, Tavis Smiley's blog has a thoughtful article about white authors being entitled to write about the black experience.

    “Until the lions have their own historians,” begins an African proverb, “the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” As we celebrate Black History Month, it’s worth noting that the African American experience has often been chronicled by whites. Do such accounts, in effect, glorify the hunter at the lions’ expense? And if so, is the solution to declare Black history off limits to “white hunters?”

    According to the author, 20% of the African American respondents agreed that white authors should not write about the black experience.

    Given that 20% of these African American respondents reject on principle a white author’s legitimacy in writing Black history — without reading a word of what he wrote — anyone who calls this a non-issue or a question that doesn’t need to be asked is celebrating Black History Month by wearing a blindfold. It’s something that must be discussed, if only to dispel the myth that “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” If the historian is honest and true to his trade, the color of his skin should not matter.

    •  Several reasons (8+ / 0-)

      But the big one?  Because once again it's a white woman (in this case, a pretty young girl) being shown as the way the poor oppressed black folks find their voice and achieve some sort of liberation.  It's the same trope you see over and over and over again in popular culture:  it takes white people to liberate the oppressed.  It denies the oppressed their own voice and their own take on the story, and allows well meaning white people to identify with the white liberation character so they can thin and of course would have been nice to their maids, when none of us know what we would have done.

      Kathryn Stockett almost certainly didn't intend this, and she's probably not happy that there's been so much controversy.   And if it opens up conversations about race and class, well and good.  But I'd be willing to bet money that the conversations will die away, and this movie and book will be remembered as yet another "female bonding" movie when the inherent inequality between Skeeter's position and the maids' position precludes that from ever happening, at least in Mississippi in the early 1960s.

      •  Sstockett lost me in the book by giving all the (7+ / 0-)

        maids dialects and the whites none.  In the South?  It seemed to "normalize" and center whiteness.  Another feel good for white folks since the white girl saves the day. They can identify themselves as innocent of racism.  

        •  Good point (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Hadn't considered that point.  The author of this diary makes a great point about the same thing going on today that I hadn't considered either.  I liked that in the book Skeeter shares the profits of the book with the "Help" and I wondered if Sockett has done the same thing.  Shared with her former maids family or set aside a large portion for scholarships or something like that.

      •  Too easily dismissive of past works (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lgmcp, Tonga 23

        While I agree that there are too many instances of the black experience being told through the eyes of whites, it is too simplistic.

        For starters, no one is denying "the oppressed their own voice." That is patently ludicrous.

        Moreover, American history's cinema, literature and music is filled with white artists giving rise to black voices. From Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Melville's "Benito Cereno" and Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" to record producer Ahmet Ertugen's role in the rise of black music in the 1950s and 60s to such movies as Stanley Kramer's "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?", Norman Jewison's "In the Heat of the Night" and "Glory" and Spielberg's "Amistad".

        To dismiss a work of fiction as "racist" on no other basis than it being created by a white person is wildly misguided.  

        The movie may or not be crap. It may or may not be another saccharine Hollywood depiction of the American family (familiar terrain from director Chris Columbus who also gave us "Mrs. Doubtfire"). But to be racist by its very existence of being a story of black life penned by a white seems way to easy.

        •  Chris Columbus didn't direct "The Help". (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          second alto, dannyinla

          Tate Taylor directed it.

          I like to hide mine in the crack of a turkey.

          by DoobyOne on Wed Aug 17, 2011 at 02:29:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Uh...I must point out (0+ / 0-)

          That several of the books you cite were written in the 19th century, when an African-American who dared to write the truth about his/her life might well be in danger of being lynched.  And Harper Lee wasn't writing in the voice of an African-American.  She was writing in the voice of a white child.  

          As for Amistad - same problem.   The star of the movie isn't Djimoun Honsou, playing the slave who led the rebellion.  It's Anthony Hopkins, playing a white former President.  And I will bet anyone that the person from the cast of The Help who's nominated for Best Actress next spring is either Emma Stone or Bryce Dallas Howard, not Viola Davis or Octavia Spencer.  

      •  I read a different book (11+ / 0-)

        In the book I read an unattractive white woman, finding no place in her community (and under constant criticism from her mother) is gradually awakened to the reality behind her world. And through those interactions, and observing the courage of the black women she comes to know, she is liberated and finds her voice. In addition, seeking answers about the disappearance of the only woman who ever loved her unconditionally, she learns some very ugly truths about her own mother, and the society she was raised in.

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