Friday, August 12, 2011

The Movie Which Shall Not Be Named

Seriously, I didn't think it was possible for Twitter and the blogosphere to run a topic into the ground, but they've managed to do it.  I've had to filter :::whispering::: The Help out of my time line because two years after the book came out, people are just getting around to being enraged about it.  Oh sure, there were a few people that expressed their disgust with it back in 2009, but the people that don't read just got around to realizing it existed with the release of the movie.

From what I've read online there seems to be a misconception that The Help portrayed the maids as happy and carefree. Nothing could be further from the truth.  At no point did I ever get the feeling that Aibileen, Minnie or the countless others were happy to be domestics.  They weren't happy about it at the beginning, middle or end or the day.  It was simply a job they did.  Someone else suggested that the book and movie pretends that the women and their employers were friends.  Anyone that read the book or saw the movie would be hard pressed to make that argument.  

Other complaints I've seen were that the dialogue was thick and dated.  It was set in Mississippi in the 1960s, so yes, it was dated for that time period.  If my grandma Bessie Mae from Shuqualak, MS still talked liked that as an older woman in the 80s, I'd have to say it's pretty sure that she, and others like her, were talking like that in the 60s.

On Twitter someone said, "It doesn't portray the Jim Crow south accurately. At all." But then admitted that she hasn't seen it and won't until "It's on HBO or bootleg.  My fear is this movie is getting such buzz, it's going to further whitewash people's ideas about what the South used to be."  If you've seen the movie, if you've read the book, you know that, if anything, this movie will make people cringe at images of the South.  Whites are not portrayed in a positive light and neither are the Jim Crow policies.  Like I said in a previous post, the mirror that is being held up reflects poorly on them, not the women that worked in their households.

I saw the movie Wednesday evening, without Aunt Jean, who said, "it's too late to be ripping & running, catch me after church Sunday."  The theater I frequent has nice leather couches and love seats, so I ended up sitting next to an elderly black woman who told me I could call her Miss Annie.  Side note: While I hadn't had enough sense to grab dinner before the movie and didn't want to wait in the concession line, Miss Annie pulled a nicely made sandwich out of her purse, along with chips, as soon as the lights dimmed.  I kept hoping she'd offer me the other half, but I had to content myself with eating Jolly Ranchers I found at the bottom of my purse.

At any rate, I thought the movie was fairly decent overall.  I understand  that it's difficult to condense such a lengthy book into a 2 1/2 hour movie and still touch on all of the salient points, but I would have lessened the roles of some to increase the roles of others.  That being said, here are the problems I had with the translation from book to film:

  • The book version was set over the course of two to three years, which provided a more believable time line for Skeeter to gain Aibileen's trust.  In the movie it happened within the first 15 minutes. 

  • In the book, Minnie was one of the narrators and her story line was significant.  In the movie, she was relegated to a secondary role and, while parts of her story were told, her diminished role made her less developed than I would have liked to see.

  • The relationship between Skeeter and her mother is more complex and explored in the book, as is her mother's illness.  In the movie, their relationship is more of the typical mother-daughter relationships we see in everyday TV and the mother's illness is glossed over, almost in a joking manner.

  • The book version of Celia Foote is not the movie version. 
I've watched the PhD's of Twitter discuss this film and how the negative portrayal of black women in Hollywood and the inaccurate reflection of the Civil Rights Movement are what really bother them.  They've written lengthy blogs, and promoted them, about what's wrong with the movie they still won't see.  People are picking sides and saying that the side you choose surely says something about you and that they're glad to see people's true colors.  Really?  These are the same people that sit quietly as rappers, singers and others degrade black women in song and video daily, not to mention Twitter trending topics.  They have nothing to say about the images Tyler Perry feeds America about black women in film and on TV, and you can find one of his shows on TV daily and his films on cable weekly.  I don't mind anyone pointing a finger at inaccuracies and portrayals and calling for Hollywood to do better, but do it with all projects that show black women in a less than flattering light and not just because you don't care for the color of the person that wrote the story or adapted the film.

Miss Annie enjoyed the movie.  And noted author Pearl Cleage said on her Facebook page, "I read 'The Help' and enjoyed it.  I thought the writer did a good job of making all the characters fully formed human beings, the good, the bad and the ugly." I can't argue with either of them.

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