"Will you see the film 'The Help'?"
Whether you do or not, whether you consider a movie viewable because it's only a symptom, then can we see the disease?
Southgate points it out the disease of remembering and figuring white people as necessary but black people as always just merely only in the shadows, as marginal, even in their own histories. She concludes:
Suffice it to say that these stories are more likely to get the green light and to have more popular appeal (and often acclaim) if they have white characters up front. That's a shame. The continued impulse to reduce the black women and men of the civil rights movement to bit players in the most extraordinary step toward justice that this nation has ever known is infuriating, to say the least. Minny and Aibileen are heroines, but they didn't need Skeeter to guide them to the light. They fought their way out of the darkness on their own — and they brought the nation with them.And this history is still being written. We may be part of the contagion, of the spread of the disease today.
If we ourselves are not, then at the very very least, the movie industry that we support by our movie watching is. For example, just a few months ago this year, the day after the Oscars were handed out earlier this year, Kevin Eason stated the obvious:
"As controversial as the Oscar nominations usually are, there is one issue that stands out more than most. Namely, why are there no black Oscar nominees this year?"Then Easton concludes, as with some hope:
"It also seems that there may not be that many opportunities this year for African-American actors to make the shortlist either. Two big films that might change the situation are The Help, about the lives of housemaids during the segregation of the Civil War-era, and Winnie, a biopic of Winnie Mandela starring Jennifer Hudson...."Of course, Easton might have seen the disease, with both of his hopeful films this year being symptoms. Nonetheless, it seems he didn't anticipate the controversies surrounding either film.
The film "Winnie" was written by white South African filmmaker, Darrell Roodt.
And it's based on the book Winnie Mandela: a Life, by white South African, Anné Mariè du Preez Bezdrob, the former UN peacekeeper and radio reporter, who also wrote The Nelson Mandela Story, about Winnie's ex-husband of course. But neither du Preez Bezdrob nor Roodt consulted either of the Mandelas for the books or the film.
The book by du Preez Bezdrob didn't fairly represent Ms. Mandela's experience, according to some. For example, the Nigerian-Jewish British actor, Sophie Okonedo, who played Winnie Mandela for the tv film "Mrs. Mandela," said this about the book:
[I had to do my research] about five weeks before filming. So I started reading. I read the Anthony Samson book, which gave me a pretty good overview; the Emma Gilbey book, which is more judgmental I think. I started the one which is quite famous, Winnie Mandela: A Life [Anné Mariè du Preez Bezdrob], but I just thought she kept assuming things about Winnie. There was lots of, "No one knows what happened in that cell but we can imagine"… then a whole chapter of imaginings. I just put that book down.The film by Roodt is one that Winne Mandela herself has publicly criticized:
"I have absolutely nothing against Jennifer [Hudson, who was cast to play me], but I have everything against the movie itself," she told CNN. "I am still alive and I think it is total disrespect to come to South Africa, make a movie about my struggle and call that movie some translation of a romantic life of Winnie Mandela. I think it is an insult."Of course, "Winnie" may earn Jennifer Hudson an Oscar nomination. Likewise, "The Help" may provide Viola Davis or Octavia Spencer an Academy Award nomination as well.
Any yet, we may well note already how differently the main black actress(es) of "The Help" are being portrayed in the media compared with the main white actress. As you decide whether to go see "The Help," notice just the magazine cover differences. Notice which magazines Emma Stone is the cover girl for. Notice which ones for Viola Davis and for Octavia Spencer. Already our daughters (and sons) are getting an education in the representation of women, and of white and black women differently:
So (how) will you see "The Help"?