The Help: Eclipsing Historical White Racism

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The Help was adapted from Stockett’s 2009 bestseller of the same name. The story, told from the point of view of “Skeeter” Phelan, Aibileen Clark, and Minny Jackson, takes place in early 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. Having recently graduated from Ole Miss, Skeeter, a young white woman, wants to be a writer. She finds her break when she’s inspired to anonymously transcribe the experiences of the town’s Black maids, all who work for white families. Originally, Clark is the only maid reluctantly willing to share her stories, later joined by Minny, until eventually a dozen or more maids come forth with tales of abuse, prejudice, and in some cases, love, at the hands of their white employers.

While the delusional marketing powers that be pose this story as a tale of sisterhood (instead of servitude), where “three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step,” more realistic people have recognized it as another example of the “white messiah” appointing him/herself as the savior of the poor, oppressed, uneducated Black people. As Hollywood and other large cultural outputs have made it known they love a good “white salvation through Black (brown, red, yellow) liberation” narrative, it is not surprising that The Help franchise continues to be successful (still high on the New York Times Best Sellers list); nor is it surprising that it was made into a major motion picture; and even less surprising is the fact that Touchstone Pictures, a Disney entity, is responsible for distribution. Disney, as we all know is the reigning champ of purveying a white, heterosexist ideology where Blacks and other props of “diversity,” including women, are only as useful as their ability to maintain the status quo.

As evident in the successes of Gone With the Wind, Imitation of Life, Driving Miss Daisy, Fried Green Tomatoes, Tyler Perry’s the Family That Preys, The Princess and the Frog, Steel Magnolias, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, The Blind Side, and many more,...
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