ONTD Political

Harris-Perry: 'The Help' doesn't help domestic workers

8:23 pm - 02/27/2012

Melissa Harris-Perry shares her grievances with the Oscar-nominated film 'The Help' and its portrayal of domestic workers. Author Micki McElya and Barbara Young of the National Domestic Workers Alliance join the panel in reviewing the topics covered in the film.


Preceding this: Do state labor laws protect domestic workers?
sweetwaterpink 28th-Feb-2012 02:13 am (UTC)
Love Melissa Harris-Perry! She always have good conversation topics.

Even though I enjoyed the movie, The Help, I also had a problem with it being more about Emma's character coming of age and less about the domestic workers. She was like a “savior” figure. The domestic workers struggles and fears were lightly brush over. I never felt like they were in real danger. If there was a boogie-man, the viewer never saw his face.

Edited at 2012-02-28 02:19 am (UTC)
milleniumrex 28th-Feb-2012 02:37 am (UTC)
I've used the term "Disney Racism" to describe this movie a few times.
sweetwaterpink 28th-Feb-2012 02:50 am (UTC)
Perfect terminology! I will be borrowing it. ;)
milleniumrex 28th-Feb-2012 02:53 am (UTC)
Yeah, I mean, it was a depiction of what happened in the south, but only on a very superficial, almost candy-coated level. You could watch this movie and find it sad that white people were so mean to hardworking, sweet black ladies, but you wouldn't get any sense of the violence, dehumanization, and terror that went on against the black community in the Jim Crow south.

The "Run, Milly, run!" segment bugs me in particular.
sweetwaterpink 28th-Feb-2012 03:02 am (UTC)
YES, YES, YES!!! *rolling around in your comment*

The movie was recommended to me by someone who absolutely loved it. When I didn't find it as awesome, she didn't get it. I'll admit I've seen the movie again recently and tried not to think of the actual hardship and fear these women dealt with everyday. Only by looking at it through rose-colored glasses, can I see it as comedy.
milleniumrex 28th-Feb-2012 03:07 am (UTC)
Yeah, I've heard the comparison made to Life is Beautiful, a movie which gave a somewhat similar treatment to the Holocaust, but I found that one handled far more effectively. That one was specifically about a father's desperate efforts to shield his son from the true horrors of the camps, and there were a few short but stark scenes mixed in there that got the point across. This movie lacked that context.
keeni84 28th-Feb-2012 03:35 pm (UTC)
Only by looking at it through rose-colored glasses, can I see it as comedy.

I find type of reaction worse than people who watch the movie with no clue that it's not historically accurate.
beoweasel 28th-Feb-2012 03:17 am (UTC)
Yeah, I mean, it was a depiction of what happened in the south, but only on a very superficial, almost candy-coated level.

Like the Song of the South?
milleniumrex 28th-Feb-2012 03:24 am (UTC)
To a degree. Although I think that one was trying to portray some sweet little pocket of the south where racism wasn't a factor. The Help made the mistake of trying to tackle racism specifically while not having the guts to really delve into it.
romp 1st-Mar-2012 08:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks for pointing this out. I can see that this is done frequently--a racist culture is ignored because all racism exists in one character--and this is going to be useful to watch for.
lady_grace 28th-Feb-2012 06:45 pm (UTC)
All of the issues within it were so easily solved: Minnie has an abusive husband, so she just leaves him (which, how is she going to support five children on a maid's pay and this husband isn't going to go after her?); Aibileen is treated like crap at her job, so she just leaves (what better job could she get instead?); Hilly is a meanie so give her a shit pie to shut her up even though black people were lynched for less; the maid who's arrested is never really touched on again except to show she's having a grand time in jail. Etc, etc.

I also keep hearing what a great movie it is from my co-workers (who are, obviously, white and upper-middle class).
windsong_moon 28th-Feb-2012 02:44 am (UTC)
I agree. There was way too much focus on her than there needed to be.
bnmc2005 28th-Feb-2012 02:31 am (UTC)
Yup. Pretty much. I've had reservations about this story since the book came out.
hammersxstrings 28th-Feb-2012 02:36 am (UTC)
lolz. i've seen this floating around tumblr, and I laugh everytime
sweetwaterpink 28th-Feb-2012 02:51 am (UTC)
LOL! That about sums it up.
sweetwaterpink 28th-Feb-2012 02:52 am (UTC)
BTW, I love your icon.
bnmc2005 28th-Feb-2012 03:13 am (UTC)
mentalguru 28th-Feb-2012 10:13 am (UTC)
Without ONTD_P, as a non-american I'd possibly never had known this woman existed, and for that everyone, I must thank you. She is glorious and I love her.
sasha_davidovna 28th-Feb-2012 05:56 pm (UTC)
Yeah, pretty much. I did enjoy the movie (great cast, love period films, etc.) but only by temporarily shutting off the part of my brain that kept going, "Um, seriously?"
lovedforaday 28th-Feb-2012 03:12 am (UTC)
i still can't over the help playing a black woman giving a white woman a shit pie for the lulz. can't find shit funny that would have got someone beat or killed in real life.
milleniumrex 28th-Feb-2012 03:25 am (UTC)
That was the one scene I couldn't get past. Everything else was meh, but that? Ugh.
keeni84 28th-Feb-2012 03:36 pm (UTC)
ms_maree 28th-Feb-2012 03:22 am (UTC)
It was interesting to listen to the domestic worker's views on the movie.
mdemvizi 28th-Feb-2012 03:38 am (UTC)
Ugh this movie. Ugh it being nominated for Best Picture.

Saw Melissa Harris-Perry on The Daily Show awhile ago and have loved her since. Haven't seen her MSNBC thing but she is always on point.
etherealtsuki 28th-Feb-2012 03:40 am (UTC)
Yup, I don't feel bad that Viola Davis didn't win an Oscar for it yesterday although I just can't with Spencer winning hers.

I don't care what bullshit those two tried to sell me (although I side-eye Davis with her comment that all Black scriptwriters and/or directors only have her crackhead mother roles), it is not worth it. It's pretty telling that most of the recent Black winners won with roles that play to Black stereotypes. It's high time to say that this shit is no long acceptable.

I mean look at Crystal's Blackface skit. That's what happen when we go backwards.
rufinia 28th-Feb-2012 05:04 am (UTC)
I don't blame actors for taking roles. There are very few that have the power to make any substantive changes in scripts (Streep, Pitt, Clooney, Jolie), and Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are not in that league. Even if she had won the Oscar, Davis isn't there and most likely never will be. You have to work, and for minority actors, especially, if they turned down roles that they had reservations with, they'd never work. Even the roles that were good wouldn't be offered to them because they'd get a reputation for being difficult.

Davis did a fantastic interview on Fresh Air a couple weeks ago where she talked about how she worked to make her character more than a stereotype. She knows the world she works in, and all the awards in the world isn't going to change the fact that if she wants to work as an actress, she's gotta eat some form of a shit sandwich.

I really hope that her day comes where Davis does take home an Oscar, but for a much better role in a less UGH movie. I hope that day comes soon.
evilgmbethy 28th-Feb-2012 05:32 am (UTC)
I watched this segment when it aired. I believe Elon James White was in the panel, too, and he has a tag here.

Anyway, I'm loving her show. I thought it was wonderful that she brought an actual domestic worker on as an expert. There are so many people who talk about the plight of workers and not enough to people who talk with actual workers.
evilgmbethy 28th-Feb-2012 07:48 am (UTC)
Yeah he was! I watching it the other day and was like HEY IT'S THE THIS WEEK IN BLACKNESS GUY WHO POSTS TO _P.

I have really enjoyed her show so far. MHP is awesome. In fact, we should probably have an MHP tag now here that she has a show.
romp 28th-Feb-2012 07:46 am (UTC)
This is my first chance to see MHP's new show! Thanks.
mentalguru 28th-Feb-2012 10:18 am (UTC)
A part of me wants to see this goddamned film because I have a morbid curiosity. But then, I don't want to pay/give money to the people who made it.
crysania4 28th-Feb-2012 11:59 am (UTC)
See if your local library has it maybe?
mentalguru 28th-Feb-2012 01:03 pm (UTC)
I checked before but they don't have it, granted they have a limited selection, maybe they will some day?
crysania4 28th-Feb-2012 01:07 pm (UTC)
I know at my local library you can fill out a sort of request card, so maybe if they have something like that you could request they get it? I'm lucky that our local library (or one of the ones in the county, since they have an awesome interlibrary loan program) has most new releases.
celandine 28th-Feb-2012 01:54 pm (UTC)
I would be surprised if they didn't purchase it if you requested it (per the comment above). It's pretty much guaranteed to circulate a lot. Can't hurt to try! :)
bellonia 28th-Feb-2012 12:47 pm (UTC)
mentalguru 28th-Feb-2012 01:03 pm (UTC)
I'll probably check that out, thanks!

lemonsalt 28th-Feb-2012 02:30 pm (UTC)
You could try
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You could try <lj-user"periodpieces">, I'm pretty sure they have it there :)
lemonsalt 28th-Feb-2012 02:30 pm (UTC)
kyra_neko_rei 28th-Feb-2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
See if you can buy it used. Amazon tends to have secondhand copies of practically everything.
keeni84 28th-Feb-2012 03:49 pm (UTC)
The movie is offensive, but the more I think about the book, the more it makes me sick.

The white author says little to nothing positive about black women, their hair (unless it is "good"), their skin (unless it is pale/white) or the way they look.

It sickens me!
eyetosky 28th-Feb-2012 09:30 pm (UTC)
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