What do you think of ‘The Help'? About race progress in the state and Jackson? | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

What do you think of ‘The Help'? About race progress in the state and Jackson?

Now that "The Help" has officially opened, it's getting massive national attention. (Just follow hashtag #thehelp on Twitter to see responses.) We're also getting calls from national media wanting to know how it's being received and, inevitably, how Jackson has changed, or if it has. Of course, this is happening the week that CNN reported that a group of Rankin County teens are accused of coming into Jackson to find a black man to "mess with" and then killed him. Like it or not, we are in the national race spotlight again.

Please share your thoughts on "The Help" -- the book or the film. (I plan to see the film this weekend, probably with a reporter.) Of course, you can also share your thoughts on how far we've come, or haven't come, on race issues in our city, state and nation. Regardless of what you think of the film, let's turn this into a compelling conversation about race and what is left to be done and understood.

On the topic of complicated race conversations, here are two of many pieces I've written in the past about our need to face the past and challenge simplistic notions about our state. Maybe they will help spur conversation:

Oh, Say Can We See
Dredging Up the Past: Why Mississippians Must Tell Our Own Stories

Please share your thoughts.

Previous Comments

ID
164380
Comment

The producers of "The Help" are brilliant. Make a movie about race relations in a state that is obsessed with race relations. Brilliant. We need about 43 more "The Blind Side" incarnates before the genre will be completely wiped out due to the exhaustion of resources.

Author
jbreland
Date
2011-08-11T10:36:08-06:00
ID
164466
Comment

For right now, I'm going with he statement issued by the Association of Black Historians which says, "The Help distorts, ignores, and trivializes the experiences of black domestic workers. We are specifically concerned about the representations of black life and the lack of attention given to sexual harassment and civil rights activism." I'm willing to say this without even seeing the movie, which i doubt I will ever see anyway. The good ole times for others were rarely good times for us blacks. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Can someone smarter than me post the Association of Black Women Historians' letter entitled: An Open Letter to the Fans of The Help. Somebody tweeted it earlier. We will see if any good comes from the movie and book other than making money and fame for a few people.

Author
Walt
Date
2011-08-13T10:31:32-06:00
ID
164471
Comment

As far as whether we have improved racially over the years, we have come a long way. We have, like others long before us, finally learned how to shoot and hide the gun, so to speak. Racism and prejudice aren't dead but it's no where close to where it used to be. I don't agree with the pretense about it. I'm all for talking about it, even in face of all the teachings and socialization geared toward denial and resistance that remains the order of the day for so many people. To be like I am is to be labeled race-obsessed. The label doesn't bother me any because I know what the people are who label me as such. A short conversation with them tells me all I need to know about them. In Mississippi we've been down so long that getting up has never crossed our minds. How else can you explain the nostalgia and romance for the old and the fear and loathing of progress or the new. I hope I live long enough to see us take the car out of reverse and neutral and go full speed ahead. And the ole southerners said, we'll lose our ole way of life!

Author
Walt
Date
2011-08-13T12:13:29-06:00
ID
164473
Comment

So why not a film about Jackson in the sixties that captures the scope and sweep of monumental events and tells a solid, entertaining story of a multiracial group of people caught up in it? And that's also funny. Or is that asking too much?

Author
Belvedere
Date
2011-08-13T13:04:42-06:00
ID
164476
Comment

Belvedere, I think some people are concerned that it does not actually capture the scope and sweep of monumental events. However, I'm seeing it tonight, so I can better respond tomorrow. I will add, though, that we can hold two thoughts at once and probably should. We can use it as a chance to discuss what is NOT there, and to really listen to people who can tell us that. We can also watch it, laugh, cry and get motivated to do more to heal our communities. The worse thing would be to watch it and then think, "Sure glad all of that is behind us," then forget about it.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-08-13T13:20:27-06:00
ID
164477
Comment

I don't think Stockett was trying to write a monumental book, and I think it's unfair to expect a work of art to be something it doesn't set out to be. I think I may try to find The Help somewhere around here this weekend. I did read the book, though.

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2011-08-13T13:49:12-06:00
ID
164478
Comment

I think it's unfair to expect a work of art to be something it doesn't set out to be. Let's try a different example; think of, say, the Stonewall riots told in a way that credits one good police officer in some way, or that downplays the seriousness of the threat against homosexuals and those who were sympathetic with them. Would that be unfair or art?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-08-13T14:30:54-06:00
ID
164479
Comment

Art.

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2011-08-13T14:46:26-06:00
ID
164480
Comment

And you wouldn't see the need to discuss what might be missing, especially if it was a huge commercial success and shaped the way a whole new generation thought of those riots?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-08-13T16:52:36-06:00
ID
164482
Comment

Agreed, Donna, 'The Help' doesn't set itself the large task of presenting the scope and sweep of the whole civil rights movement, even just the Jackson part of it. I was asking rather if such a film were even possible. K. Stockett's book did well because it's a good story well told, from both a narrative and prose perspective but its setting is not the panoramic arc of Freedom Riders and sit-ins. The critics' worst blows are those complaining of the heavy handed dialect that is indeed a lil heavy on da ole time dielog, if'n you ax me, which is you kin see wears mighty thin mighty quick like. But where in all of filmdom are the African American philosophy professors, the eloquent black preachers, the inspired and noble ebony voice of righteous rebellion all presented in movies? Or books? That's what I'd like to know.

Author
Belvedere
Date
2011-08-13T21:41:29-06:00
ID
164484
Comment

Thanks, Belvedere. I agree with all of what you said. Donna, where did I say "don't discuss what's missing"? I'm just saying that a work of art doesn't have a *moral* obligation to treat anything other than what the artist intends to treat. Nobody has to agree with that choice, but I don't think there is any room to impute some kind of moral failing to the artist. In other words, there is nothing wrong with saying, "I wish 'The Help' had covered this, or this, or this," but it is not under any obligation to have done so just because that's what you want. If that's your vision, realize it yourself. Also, in what way does 'The Help' (the book) "downplay the seriousness of the threat against [blacks]"? I think that threat is quite adequately portrayed in the book. I can't speak to the movie, which I haven't seen yet.

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2011-08-14T10:21:58-06:00
ID
164485
Comment

I didn't argue that a work of art can or should have a "moral obligation," Tim. In fact, I never used the word "moral," I don't believe. My comments are to encourage conversation about what was missisng; I think arguing about whether or not it's a "moral obligation" is a bit of a red herring and distracts from that. As for downplaying the threat -- spoiler alert -- the black woman and the white one who exposed the injustices against the maid walk away at the end, and it's a happy ending. That was a very unlikely scenario during that part of the 1960s -- Hilly would have called her husband's friends in the Citizens Council, and Lord know what would have happened to the white writer or the two maids, within give minutes of the end of that film. I did see it last night, by the way. As I expected, it was good. I laughed and I cried, and I'm still processing it. Have been talking about it with a reverend and a reporter a good part of the day, so not going to post much more about it right now. And I have the vigil for Mr. Anderson to attend in an hour. More soon, though -- at least in my editor's note this week.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-08-14T16:55:15-06:00
ID
164486
Comment

Belvedere, I'm much less concerned about the dialect -- I'll leave that to others -- than the fact that the true threat of such behavior was not made clear, especially by the ending. There was a bit more of the terror represented in the film than I expected, which is good, but it was probably out of context for so many people and, thus, meant little. As for the rest of your post, I never said any of what you're responding to, but I won't bother to respond back. Too tired. I would suggest that it would be a better use of our time to discuss what wasn't there rather than argue about the need to discuss what wasn't there. That kind of dialogue will supplement nicely what "The Help" started -- and is always the best outcome for this kind of art. So y'all won't mind if I don't use my energy arguing about whether we should discuss what's missing, do you? I'm just going to go ahead and do that as it hits me. Y'all free not to if you don't want to.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-08-14T16:59:17-06:00
ID
164487
Comment

Donna, if you don't think there is a *moral* obligation of some kind here, then why did you respond to MY statement: "I don't think Stockett was trying to write a monumental book, and I think it's unfair to expect a work of art to be something it doesn't set out to be." with this bit of provocation: "Let's try a different example; think of, say, the Stonewall riots told in a way that credits one good police officer in some way, or that downplays the seriousness of the threat against homosexuals and those who were sympathetic with them. "Would that be unfair or art?" What were you getting at? If you weren't implying that there is some kind of moral obligation at work here, then I really am at a loss to understand what you *did* mean. Unless I assume that your provocation really wasn't responsive to my post, in spite of the fact that you *quoted* part of my post. Also, your use of the word "unfair" turns the word around from being about other people's expectations of the artist and whether they are fair or not -- my point -- to whether the artist is being fair or not -- your point. To then assert that we're somehow not talking about moral obligations is disingenuous at best. And I don't really care about your attempt to cut off this line of discussion. If you don't want to engage with my actual comments, please don't respond to them. Thanks.

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2011-08-14T17:36:24-06:00
ID
164489
Comment

Tim, I'm not trying to "cut off" this line. I just don't care that much about whether or not someone thinks I'm trying to engage people in a conversation about what is missing from a film like this as a "moral obligation." That's not a phrase I use, and I don't think I would define it as you do if I did. And I choose carefully what I use my brain cells on. Defending this effort at conversation is not on the top of that list. But briefly and only briefly: I believe there is a great deal of ground to plough between that characterization and whether or not art that is about history does a disservice in some way if it doesn't capture it accurately; that doesn't mean I think it is a "moral obligation"; it does mean I think we should talk about it, fill in the holes and encourage future artists to consider these kinds of conversations. The best thing Stockett ultimately did is force us to have these kinds of conversations. And with due respect, I'm just not going to use up a lot of it defending having the conversations. It's not personal, and I have no desire to argue with you about. I just came from a simply remarkable healing vigil in honor of Mr. Anderson, so I'm just going to let this line of inquiry lie. When I have a chance to process everything that has happened to me in the last 24 hours -- seeing "The Help," attending my friend C.J. Rhodes' church service today, having a race conversation with him, his girlfriend and a reporter at the Fairview Inn (including about the man who used to own it); and now this vigil for the last two hours -- I'm going to write more about it all. But I'm not going to debate whether to debate "The Help" any longer. It just doesn't seem like a relevant use of my time. That's me; you feel as you will. Oh, and with my question to you, I was doing what I typically do to tease out conversation: asking a question, presenting an analogy. If it doesn't work for you, that's fine. It's just the way I roll.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-08-14T20:07:38-06:00
ID
164498
Comment

I saw the film, "The Help", on the first day it aired. The first adjustment I had to make as an African-American female who lived in MS during the period that the movie had its setting, was that of acknowledging that this was not a documentary: The film was not even a docudrama. The film should have been called, "The Helped" because it was about about a young, daring white female who had just graduated from Ole MS and her brave, bold, daring behavior in her quest to become a prolific journalist. What I'm simply saying is that the Help's story has yet to be told. The things that were told in the movie did not begin to even touch the surface of the germ of the Help's problems and how they continue to unfold. That part in the movie that recieved so much attention, "The Choclate Pie", was akin to some of the comedy of David Chappel. Entertaining, but, not representative of any black woman in Jackson, MS who would have given a white woman a pie, laced with ecoli. This would have been a murder weapon: It didn't happen. My mind was focused on the fact that I had to drive many miles to see the film. I'm hopeful that Jackson will soon have a theater and we will become "The Help" in contributing to Jackson's tax base.

Author
justjess
Date
2011-08-15T12:30:39-06:00
ID
164515
Comment

I watched "The Help" in Pensacola, Florida this weekend. A black couple sat in front of me and at the point of the film when Medgar Evers got shot they stood up and walked out. I so badly wanted to follow them and ask why they were leaving. I wasn't sure if they found the movie offensive or if it was just too hard to watch that. I couldn't stop thinking about that couple all weekend.

Author
Lacey McLaughlin
Date
2011-08-15T14:46:52-06:00
ID
164583
Comment

Entertainment people, Entertainment, although you have to wonder at peoples definition of entertainment. I read the book, wasn't enough to make me spend the bucks to see the movie. ALL i have to do is float around and see the "debates" on the net for my "entertainment" or the people that are blocked because they don't always see eye to rosy eye with others.

Author
wataworld
Date
2011-08-17T13:24:02-06:00
ID
164584
Comment

Thanks for reaching deep inside yourself for that one, wataworld.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-08-17T13:29:31-06:00

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