Melissa Harris-Perry on The Help
February 26, 2012 Leave a comment
Okay, so I haven’t actually seen The Help, but that’s not going to hold me back from posting this clip of Melissa Harris-Perry discussing the movie! The reason why I didn’t go to see the film was because I have a slight aversion to that trope of Civil Rights movies bending over backwards to show the deep humanity of white people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking white people — somebody make sure that we white people get to star in some movies, already! — and we should definitely remember and honor those who help expose racism, but why is empathy for whites such a crucial focus for many Hollywood films about race? Who’s at the center here?
It’s a motif that keeps coming back, from Driving Miss Daisy in 1989…
….to Dangerous Minds in 1995…
…to The Blind Side in 2009.
I do gather that the acting in The Help is superb, so any Academy Awards won today on that front may be deserved. Harris-Perry critiques the film for its historical inaccuracies and making a horrific situation much more benign that it was in reality, but she also says that she was moved by the performances of the black actresses in the film.
Harris-Perry was joined in the discussion yesterday by Elon James White (host of This Week in Blackness), Micki McElya (author of Clinging to Mammy), and Barbara Young (national organizer for the National Domestic Workers Alliance). I think that they succeed in covering the film from a variety of angles.