Dr. Boyce: Why I Won’t Be Seeing “The Help”

The new film, “The Help,” starring  Emma StoneViola Davis and Octavia Spencer has gotten a bit of buzz recently.   The film is based on a novel by Kathryn Stockett about two black maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi during the late 1960s.  I was curious about the film, since my first impression is that it is a female version of “Driving Miss Daisy.”  I can’t say, however, that I am curious enough to want to watch it – for I’ve seen films like this one before.

My obvious bias against the film has nothing to do with the quality of the script or the enormous talent of the actresses in the film.  Rather, it has to do with the fact that I grow sick and weary of seeing yet another Hollywood production that is so quick to grab onto a racial stereotype.   Most of these films have the brave white protagonist, who has the courage to (gasp!) treat us like we’re actually human beings.   Films such as “A Time to Kill” and “Amistad” are perfect cases in point:  In the midst of telling a very painful story about the black experience, the film makers always take the time to ensure that the white guy is the hero.  So, even when we’ve been self-sufficient, it’s only because a white person has allowed us to do so – even benevolent white supremacy is still white supremacy, nonetheless.

This leads us to the controversial question of the day:  How should African Americans feel about seeing ourselves portrayed in roles that are subservient to whites or fulfilling some other stereotype?  The great Hattie McDaniel, who played “Mammy” in “Gone with the Wind,” once made said “I’d rather make $700 a week playing a maid than earn $7 a day being a maid.”

McDaniel’s point is well-taken.  It’s very difficult to get work in Hollywood for anyone, especially African Americans.  Additionally, the story of the pimp, the athlete, the maid or the shoe-shine man is just as relevant as the stories that were once told on the Cosby Show.  Not only are we sugar-coating our reality by demanding that all roles fit a counter-stereotype, we are engaging in the same elitism that cripples our society at large.

While we must allow for all stories to be told, this does not excuse us from the responsibility of confronting Hollywood for the fact that they are far quicker to allow us to play stereotypical roles than to express the breadth of our existence.  One can’t fault Viola Davis one bit for taking on this role, but I can bet my last dollar that the same executives who chose Viola to be a maid would not be so interested in casting her as an Astronaut or Physician.

A one-dimensional approach African American portrayals simply represents the same tired garbage that we’ve been watching for the past century.  I won’t go see “The Help,” because I have no interest in giving Hollywood a financial incentive to create a sequel to scripts that confine black men and women to being nothing more than trusty sidekicks to their overseers.

But the most important thing to remember is that the first step toward controlling our destiny on-screen is to control our destiny off of it.  That means that the financing and ownership of black cinema is an important step in our cultural evolution.    But even then, the degradation of the black image on screen may also occur at the hands of a black film maker seeking to fulfill the shallow objective of profit maximization (as Sheila and Bob Johnson once showed us with their ownership of BET).  That’s the flaw of thinking like Hattie McDaniel: there is nothing wrong with passing up economic opportunity if you are doing so to protect your integrity – We must always pursue a double bottom line and there are things in life that are far more important than money.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, “Black American Money.”  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. 



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124 responses to “Dr. Boyce: Why I Won’t Be Seeing “The Help”

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  6. Blkpanther

    Like I have posted in several blogs, this is 2011 version of the Color Purple being directed by Steven Speilbery, the same director of color purple…This is like you said, allowing white people to feel superior about themselves…What does a book written by a white woman know about the black experience in 60’s civil right era? Another feel good, Precious, Driving Ms Daisy movie by Hollywood…I had already made up my mind not to donate to white supremacy’s bottom line by sitting out this spectacle..

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  10. Pay_Attention

    I won’t be seeing this movie, for all of the reasons stated in this article. I had made my mind up the minute I saw the movie preview.

    I also won’t be going to see The Planet of the Apes. Call me paranoid, but something just doesn’t sit well with me. I’m too young to remember the TV version of Planet of the Apes, but the movie previews for the movie just resonate that you’ve gotta keep those black folks under control before they take over. Call me crazy…

  11. Let the Church say Amen,it’s about time we start to make choices that benefit us.

  12. linda caldwell epps

    Have any of you read the book? If so, do you really think the hero is the white character? I say the heroes are the maids and it is about time we have a story that gives us a glimpse of their intelligence, fortitude, cunning, and strength. I have not seen the film but will have hope that it does a credible job to the many women I know who triumphed under very difficult circumstances.

  13. Qboro

    I agree with the last poster. The maids are the heroes. I totally get it that Hollyweird (including Tyler Perry and a whole host of buckdancing rappers and actors. Too numerous to name) likes and feels comfortable making us trusty sidekicks. I just don’t get that with this film.

  14. Dr Boyce:
    You are somebody I love and respect but this is why you are wrong in this case! I hear your point BUT each film needs to be compared on a case by case base. This film is NOT another “Driving Miss Daisy”, this is about Black Women stepping up to make a difference. If i am not mistaken, this is based off some real life experience. Would it make difference if a BLACK writer/director was doing the film? You still would have Black maids. So you have to look at each film, television, book, or song. It is not fair to dog the movie when NO ONE has seen it….Let’s flip this, we can’t continue to blame Hollywood when we have enough star power to have our Studios, Films, Distribution, and you know we have the stars. When we address why we can’t work together (Jackson vs. Hip-hop artist turned actors) or are critical of each other (Spike vs. Tyler), or why we continue to buy bootleg products( INSERT ANY MEDIA WE PRODUCE HERE), then when will we be able to make Hollywood change their tune about how we are portrayed. Don’t say we can’t support (example: “Get On The Bus” by Spike Lee) and from the advice of the GREAT Harry Belafonte said recently at a NAACP event: ”It seems to me that long ago we could have put together black studios, put together a black distribution center. Maybe we couldn’t reach 100 million, but we could reach 100,000, and have 100,000 exposed to a great truth. I’d rather have that than 100 million exposed to something vacuous and inaccurate.”Finally, he summed up his belief saying…”in pursuit of ego, in pursuit of large, ridiculous sums of money, we have sold our birthright that somehow we are more victim than we are responsible.”

    Enough said!

    Phinesse Demps
    LFP Media
    Indie Soul column appears in Baltimore Times Newspaper

  15. MrUnapologetic

    I have have to agree with Linda Caldwell Epps mainly because I, too, read the book. Although I understand and completely respect Dr. Boyce’s position here, I have to disagree with him. This story is not about the white heroine that comes to save the day. The maids are the she-roes here. Yeah… the basis of the story is about a painful time in our history, but it’s our history nontheless. I will be check it out along with Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. Will well, Y’all.

  16. Jacqueline

    No I will not be going to see this film. And the sad part about it, it wil be called a epic film like the Color Purple. Blacks only seems to get awards for film when they play whores or criminals. Like Monsters Ball with Halle Berry(who had sex with one of the jailer who executed her husband) and Training Day with Denzil Washington who played a crooked cop.

  17. Dee

    If we the so called black people,don’t learn where we came from and who we are, then we will lose our very souls.
    We are a group of people chosen by YAHWEH to carry out (to other nations) who HE and HIS SON YAHASOHUA are. We are the real Hebrews.
    Please if you care to know more go to this site and read to find yourself approved, COFAH NETWORK to the saving of your very souls.

  18. This book had been on my reading list for awhile before the movie trailer came out. I recently finished this book and I have to say you obviously have not read this book. The women in this book are not some ‘mammy’ character who has no depth. These women are strong, intelligent, and and are risking their lives and their families so that their children could grow up and not be told they are nothing.

  19. c barnes

    Your basic premise for why you won’t see this movie is off. Black women being maids are not a stereotype but a fact. As an AA woman w/ degrees from major universities who believes there should be diverse roles in H’wood, it irks me to no end when your explanation as to why you won’t see the movie. Had it not been for big mommas who were maids you along with
    thosr who think like you on this matter wouldn’t be where you are now!

    Stepping on the backs of people who earned an honest aleit bad treatment from their employers sometimes to get where we as a people & you are now
    is truly disgusting. Biting the hand tat fed us & then copy the same attitudes as the white employers most often is disgusting to me.

    Ironically my mother/grandmother never worked as maids. But unlike you & others I am rateful for what our stepping stones have been to get where we
    are today & much respect to a generation of women who did what they did for me to be where I am today!

  20. c barnes

    BYW, I understand I think the reasoning behind the black background for “reply” box, but annoying in reviewing for editing/grammar checks.

  21. I agree with many of your strong and purposeful points indeed.

    Where the rubber meets the road for me is that we berate “white Hollywood” for telling the same story, beat up Tyler Perry for doing the same story and no one is supporting THE OTHER STORIES!

    Where are the cries for Black indie film (and music and empowerment)?

    Where are the calls to read new material and seek to new perspectives, like hearing what our gay and lesbian family has to speak about religion and family and such.

    Or listening to the real pain behind the drug dealer’s choices and helping him write the story instead of assuming it.

    I don’t think I’ll be seeing THE HELP either because I struggle as the son of a domestic. But I might also want to see it, have to see it, as a way to engage in a new conversation with my 84 (next month) year old mother. Maybe she’ll HATE IT and then tell me HER TRUTH! Whatever it takes to get to the TRUTH and THE NEXT LEVEL, I’m willing to do. But just talking ain’t getting NOTHING DONE. Surely, I am tired of THE BLIND SIDE and the WHITEWASH of the African-American story, but I am almost angry that Tyler has taken over and Spike and John and others seem to have NOTHING LEFT TO SAY! I am excited about INVISIBLE LIFE and B-BOY BLUES coming from the stories of E. Lynn Harris and James Earl Hardy respectively. I am even excited about some of the urban lit novels that I see and support on the streets of NYC/NJ/Black America. If we want to find new stories, we have to read and support them and create our own buzz. Remember when we did that with “WAITING TO EXHALE?” Remember when we caused a revolution and a renaissance in music and arts and culture?

    White people in America follow our lead in fashion, in music, in culture and WE GIVE IT AWAY! We sold BET, ESSENCE and now EBONY!


    It’s time for some action!!! I’m writing now and praying to be able to make a film of my first novel and its sequel. I would rather spend my energy with The Struggle Up!

  22. Ken B

    This from a guy who who spends his time trying to rationalize and defend purveyors of true racial self-hated such as little wayne and his ilk.


  23. Perplexed

    My mother and grandmother did “days work” back in the day. They were never anyone’s stereotype. Trust! I read the book and the maids were intelligent and did what the had to do to survive at that time. They did not speak the Kings English and it would be unrealistic to have them speak it in the book or movie. They were un or undereducated but they were the ones who knew how to cook, clean, teach children to have respect and morals and raise a family. The white women did not have a clue. The white author did not portray their dialect correctly but I’m confident that the Black actresses corrected that. The maids were courageous and bold and often got over on their employees. I am looking forward to seeing this movie. I think all of our story needs to be told, from Africa, the voyage, slavery, Jim Crow, civil rights, wars fought to having a Black President and his beautiful family in the White House. Our story is rich and unique and I celebrate it all.

  24. NolaMel

    I read the book and saw the preview of the movie last night. Being a native Alabamian, and being old enough to remember what my own mother went through working for white families, I found the portrayals very realistic. Both the things maids did to get back at their employers for the ridiculous ideas they had about the “coloreds”, as well as the way there was one white in the bunch who really did risk ostracism by their peers because they treated blacks with dignity. I also saw the dignity of black women who did their jobs with restraint and grace while also operating in fear because of the racial climate of the day. This film accurately portrayed what it was like to be in that time in the South, regardless of who wrote or produced it. I also saw a lot of magnificent African-American actors and actresses playing their roles with dignity, while making a living.
    I grow tired of people always complaining about the types or roles people of color play. If it is so unappealing, then get up of your rusty dusties and create the types of movies you want to see, or at least support them. As great as Precious was, it wasn’t as widely supported as it should have been.
    This is one where I don’t agree with you, Boyce.

  25. I will be seeing the movie. First, if you have read the book you would have no doubt about who the “hero” is. If the movie stays true to the themes and flow of the novel, the stereotypes are not degrading but in a sense, inspiring and the “hero” is clearly not white. The great actresses that are in this movie deserve our support. You can also be guaranteed that if they had a hint of being degraded or stereotyped, they would never have taken the roles.

  26. Renee

    @ C Barnes

    I seriously doubt you have a college degree in any field with the spelling mistakes in your post. In addition, I think you need to invest in a reading comprehension class before making such a ignorant statement of Dr. Watkins “stepping on the backs” of black men and women who paved the way for him or “us.” Sighs. Dr. Watkins was talking about the historical perception of blacks being subservient to whites in films where white leads are usually the hero while the black actor is generally grateful to the white person’s kindness in recognizing their human existence. Personally, I prefer to watch a film for myself and then make a final decision. I know The Help based on a popular book and from my perception it is the bravery of the black women who come forth with the actual truths and reality of their lives as maids. Then again, this is Hollywood and black characters only have so much depth to them. However, Dr. Watkins and any other black person can express our disapproval of something relating to black culture, blacks portrayal in Hollywood, or any subject without being told we are somehow disgracing the memories of our ancestors. It’s an opinion and our individual perspectives. Why is it that blacks must bite our tongues and accept all images relating to our race, no matter how degrading it can be? And last, I don’t believe you are aware of Dr. Watkins background to make an assumption of most women in his family being maids and etc. Unless you know a person and have bound with them on a personal level, keep your month shut when attempting to “expose” another person’s flawed way of thinking if they don’t happily swallow every single image of blacks shown in the media.

  27. Gat Turner

    I won’t be seeing this film either, and it’s amazing how many apologists in the comments area surface when their everyday racial sensibilities are questioned. Stop trying to defend this story by attempting to find the silver lining in this shitty cloud. It’s still a movie that portrays us, yet again, as subservient, no matter how strong the characters.

    I’m tired of seeing black maids, period – especially when they’re waiting on white folks. I’m also tired of seeing almost all women of color being paired up exclusively with white men in roles in Hollywood – this includes latinas and asians too.

    And yes, this is a Dreamworks picture – the same studio that is headed, in part, by Steven Spielberg. Time to call his productions out for what they are – celebrations of the white experience. Even his earlier sci-fi pic this year, Super 8, had an all-white cast of children in an all-white town, with no attempts at racial inclusion whatsoever.

    If we could get him to be as concerned and sensitive about our experience as he is about jews and the holocaust then maybe we’d stop walking away from his films feeling insulted and alienated. I won’t hold my breath.

    No thanks.

  28. Thelma Rosenfeld

    Your points are well taken. The film media, in my opinion , reinforces stereotypes of all kinds, not just racial ones. Nothing new and certainly nothing uplifting or educational. Glorification of violence, sex, drugs, profanity, and then just plug in the characters to make a block buster.

  29. CJ

    I read the book and referred it to several of my friends. We cannot wait until the movie comes out. If you have not read the book then you do not undestand the story. You only see black maids being “saved” by a white woman. Go see the movie, you might be surprised. Also, my mother, from Montgomery, AL worked as one of these remarkable women. This is a part of our history, whether you like it or not. The book was a teaching point, it had its highs and lows and it is a good read. So befoe you slam the movie, pick up the book and I am sure, just as I did, you will want to share it with your friends.

  30. I will be seeing The Help. For starters I read the book. This movie or book for that matter cannot be lumped in the generalizations of movies mentioned Bro. Boyce. I usually agree with you but you’re off the mark on this one. No. 1 It is the maids who are courageous, cunning and smart and are able to use their voices to tell their stories. The story is based on reality. My grandmother was The Help working as a live-in maid for a wealthy Jewish family in Scarsdale, New York at one time. I personally was exposed to art and culture through the guise of my grandmother’s occupation and I am a better person for it. My appreciation for the folklore of my people – the lives of these maids is an important story. It is Black people and women like these maids who demonstrate the best of humanity and we need to keep telling our stories so white people can continue to see how their backwards thinking still needs to be exposed and corrected, especially NOW!!! with all that is going on. The book and movie are right on time. I am a better person because of my grandmother and to denounce her story as just another stereotypical experience is to limit the depth of who she was. She was courageous, verbose and though working for the MAN so to speak, she demonstrated to me what it means to be a proud Black woman and to honor my Blackness. The Help is certainly an important part of our Folklore as Black people in America that should not be dismissed as some trite and tragic happening. It’s about empowerment and honoring from where it is that we’ve come from. Peace. Gilda

  31. Liz

    I totally agree with Dr. Watkins and I’m confused by people who don’t. In this age with an African American President, I just don’t see the need for another movie that shows an American American female in a subservient role, no matter if she is the hero or not. That’s not the point. I also don’t purchase any artwork with females carrying buckets on their heads. This is 2011, African American women have changed. My mother was never a maid, nor was my grandmother so I can’t relate to this type of servitude at all. The only house I’ve ever cleaned is my own. Also, I won’t read the book. If it’s about us, it should be written, directed and produced by us. Where is Director Julie Dash and “Daughters of the Dust” type movies anyway?

  32. Gat Turner

    I’m sure the story & actors are good, but that’s beside the point. There are good stories and strong actors available for roles that don’t portray us as subservient too. I guess gangsta rap is also “based on reality.”

    We don’t “come from” being maids and butlers, btw.

  33. Hello Gat:
    The Black Culture does come being Maids & Butlers. Check the history. Have you read the book or read about the plot of the film? Like said earlier everything is case by case…By the way SOME gangsta rap is based of reality. When you have everyone glorifying it, that is the problem. We all have different stories to tell.

  34. Gat Turner

    “The Black Culture does come being Maids & Butlers. ”
    Oh really? I’ll let someone else respond to THAT one. Have fun at the show!

  35. A Time to Kill
    The Help
    Mississippi Burning
    Red Tails (Tuskegee Airmen)
    …..white as hero and main protagonist even when the central story is about the Black experience.

    Typical of Hollywood to patronize Blacks; like patting us on the head like a good lap dog, “good boy”. It is as if Hollywood is afraid to allow Blacks to be the central protagonists at the risk of alienating a wider white audience? This condescending, patronizing attitude permeates almost every movie Hollywood makes that seeks to tell of our experience but from a “white as hero” perspective.

  36. I must admit that I was a little surprised at Dr. Watkins opinion and views for not watching The Help. I could only think, as an educator, what an awesome opportunity to teach and deconstruct the film to a generation of young people who only see violence in movies and know very little about their history. My mother who was a domestic was a strong black woman who worked for a wealthy and influential Jewish family during the 60s. And because of her my siblings and I went on to graduate from colleges and universities. BET and TVOne show movies that are degrading and offensive to Blacks. The music industry exploit Black women and violence in the minds of our youth everyday. Reality tv is a platform of cultural ignorance. While Dr. Watkin’s points are well taken I think the larger question that should raised is why do we as a people continue to support the garbage we hear and see everyday from the music industry and so-called Black television, and reality tv. We need “help!”

  37. Kitty

    My mother worked as a housekeeper for a white family many years ago.
    The father was a n obstetrician and there were nine children in the family.
    The mother would give the children san dwiches to eat and only gave the
    father choice pieces of meat (steak, etc.) my mother would sometimes bring and cook chicken for the children to eat which was a treat for them .( cooking
    was not one of my mother’s responsibilities) Sometimes she would bring me to work with her and we would play together. As a child I thought that was odd because at our house everyone in the family had
    meat to eat not just the father. Just sharing a story .

  38. Dr. Donald H. Smith

    I intend to see the film because Viola Davis is the finest actor in American film. Anyone who saw her in “Fences” on Broadway with Denzel Washington, for which she and Denzel received Tonys, would gladly stand in line to see the great Viola Davis.

  39. Kai Epic




  40. Keisha Mitchell

    I’m in complete agreement with Gilda Rogers and Phinesse Demps. I, too, am reading the book and agree that it is not playing on “black stereotypes”. I urge others to read the book before making such a biased and “stereotypical” decision based on the previews of the movie. I honestly felt the same way at first, but then decided I was going to read the book and I’m glad I did. The movie doesn’t appear to be nearly as heavy and deep as the book. The “whites” are not being the hereos in this book! The author does a fabulous job of exhibiting these women’s integrity and strength. The black women are the heroes to the white women. Would you attempt to read it if it was written by a black author? Isn’t that a form of racism in itself? We complain when whites fail to honor and respect us and when a white attempts to show some respect, we complain that they are trying to be “THE HERO”. How can such an article be written, Dr. Watkins, (whom I have the upmost respect for), when you have not read the book? You are basing your opinion on simply seeing the previews and knowing that the book was written by a white author?!? We all know you’re more intelligent than that! Off the mark on this one! And please, I am a college-educated black woman and have no respect for others that are taking the time demoralizing others for their grammer/language in their posts.

  41. Thelma Rosenfeld

    I work for a large retail corporation making less than nine dollars an hour. At my last review, my supervisor told me I do the work of three. My work ethic is deliberate. I try to make the ordinary extraordinary. Most of the people I wait on are nice but there are those who are not. No need to go into detail, but go ahead and use your imagination and then some. It’s okay. The CEO for this particular retail giant makes over two hundred million a year. Do we see any form of an analogy here…..on any level? (to at least one theme of the movie) I know the race factor is not included but just sayin.

  42. No no one is missing the point. The point is people are casting judgement on 1) never reading the book and 2) no reading the plot. This is a part of Black History. “Driving Miss Daisy” was not. I will ask this, does anyone believe that the great Cicely Tyson would be part of a movie like this? So if a black person wrote, directed, the movie same story, would it make a difference? Everything is a case by case. You mentioned not seeing “Boyz In The Hood”, why? For me being on the East Coast it let me know what my people were going through on the WEST COAST. That was the west coast version of Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” for the East Coast.If the movies were negative that is one thing, but those movies just like this are about a message not a negative but positive. This another example of why Hollywood will not take chances on any types of movies with a positive outcome for Blacks because we dog it. This movie is not about white people saving us but about STRONG BLACK WOMEN MAKING AND TAKING A STAND. It is a movie that should make ALL black women look at where they came from, getting respect, and start to take back who they are now. It is about making a change for the better. One last thing, I think that is very sad when I read people say we do not need to go back, or that is not part of who we are, that is EXACTLY why we need certain movie like this because AS A PEOPLE, WE DO NOT KNOW WHO WE ARE, REFUSE TO DISCUSS THE PAST, AND EXCEPT THINGS WHEN ARE TOLD WITHOUT CHECKING OUT THE FACTS OURSELVES.

  43. stillaqueen

    However unpleasant, some stories just have to be told . I find this viewpoint premature without having read the book which I understand is very authentic in delivery or hear d any reviews. You are very influential and while it seems regressive going back into time some stories have to be told. It wasn’t that long ago and some of our mothers are still house keepers at present. Not everyone is going to graduate from college and it might not be a maid but there are plenty in the service industry and many still yet to crack that glass ceiling. We haven’t gotten that far since the 60’s and our president is fighting just to prove he can do this job as well as anyone regardless of race. My mother was a nanny for a few years, went back to school and thankfully didn’t have to do that all her life but it was her way out and there is no shame in it. I will see the movie. I have enough sense to know that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but don’t persuade others just because you haven’t done any investigation just speculation. No matter how many degrees you hold that’s just ignorant.

  44. Indie black filmmakers are HERE!!!!!! I’m Chicago, and I try my hardest to work AGAINST black stereotypes, altho I will wait and see “The Help” for myself, before a make a strong case against it.

    We cannot blame ONLY “white studio executives” for continually investing into these types of film, we MUST take a look in the mirror. There is maybe 70% of African American population that strongly supporting Tyler Perry, STRONGLY!!!!! Tyler Perry has become KING at depicting black stereotypes yet we STILL support!!!! Look in the mirror folks, all we do is sit and complain (blog) about the state of Black Film in America yet we don’t support our local Indie Filmmakers, young black writers and actors, grinding everyday to break the chains of stereotypical stories. Just because it’s NOT plastered all over your television set doesn’t mean it’s NOT a good work of art.

    Go to film festivals, support YOUR OWN that are trying!!!!! If your tired of seeing these type of stories, write Will Smith, Oprah, Forest Whitaker, Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, ask them why they haven’t invested into black film or built studios on that foundation. Write the studios!!!!! Let’s make a difference, because we have the power to do so. Don’t just complain, DO SOMETHING!

    Support young black filmmakers like me, my indie film “The Color Of Acceptance” is at http://www.sanicole.wordpress.com/coa support me, support US black indie filmmakers.

  45. Meanchick

    What I don’t understand is that while there is more than enough black star power in Hollywood, our black actors have not stepped up and made their own quality movies CONTINUOUSLY. They talk about the lack of quality roles for black actors, well duh! How many of them reach out into the community and pull up another black actor, writer? There are no quality movie roles for us because WE don’t create them and continue to create them! It is past the time to stop pointing the finger at movie executives and put our money where our mouth is and stop waiting for it to be given to us! When I saw the trailer for this movie, I thought it was a joke at first. I felt sick and had to put down my hot delicious popcorn that I’d seasoned just right. No shade on the black actors in the movie, well, maybe a little.

  46. Michelle Blanch

    When I read the book, the first thing that popped into my head was “Who talked?” This story had to have been told by black women that lived it. Whites had no idea how precarious our situations were. Miss Anne could get up on the wrong side of the bed and in a fit of petulance, your ability to earn and support your family were gone in a blink and that might be the best that could happen. At the worst, assault or death. The book, I will say, did evoke the tension and the danger that these women risked. However, the trailer for the film, SEEMS to show more of a comedy! I hope that I am mistaken. Blacks living under Jim Crow laws a comedy? I can only imagine the outrage if someone made the story of the Jews in Auschwitz as a comedy! I am really tired of Hollywood watering down the injustices that we have had to endure…this is not the first time…my father was a Tuskegee Airman. The stories they told of the racist practices and the affronts they had to endure to become pilots–well that became an action film, minus the racism! I feel that Hollywood makes sure that the suffering of the Jews is never diluted or downplayed because that would be rewriting history for those that come after.Which is something that they refuse (rightfully) to do. I certainly want everyone to understand the roots and elements of ALL of the worlds historical shames. Which means (for me) no one should have their history diluted or rewritten for those that come after…it is this understanding that would stop those same horrors from happening again. I believe that the father and brother of the author are the ones that have brought the book to the screen. Director, etc…I remember when an animated version of Moses was created in Hollywood. The writers and the director were OBLIGED to consult with Jewish scholars to maintain historical accuracy.
    Seems like they could have used some consulting to bring a film with more depth to the screen. Here is hoping that it is not just another Hollywood whitewash!

  47. Amanda

    YES< I will see this Film! I'm a product of the 50's forward, with all of GOD's Mercy! My grandmother was a "domestic", I wore clothes that my grandmother brought home, with pride, beacuse it was new to me! When my mother went to work at a major department store, she was one of the few black supervisers of her department. I grew up on the backs,fortitude , and pride of my grandmother and mother! The maids in this story are sheroes! To GOD be the Glory

  48. Tonya in Dallas, TX

    I wonder if any of you that are criticizing this movie have bothered to read the book? This story is not about a white savior. It is about black women who were subjected to horrible treatment by their employers and wee forced to suffer in silence. The story is not about the white woman. It is about the black women who USE the white woman as a vehicle to tell their story. I am very offended that people think that playing a maid is so despicable. My grandmother happened to be one of these maids and told stories that were parallel to those portrayed in the book and subsequent movie. She is gone now, but I am tickled pink that her stories can now be told and white america will finally have to address how they treated these women that not only planned their dinner parties, but raised their children as well. You can bet I will be their on opening day cheering on my grandmother and all the other maids that never had a voice. I’m not ashamed of where I come from. Are you?

  49. Tonya in Dallas, TX

    Forgive me for my typos…This is a sensitive subject for me. I meant to say I will be *there* on opening day. Not their…

  50. Tonya in Dallas, TX

    And comparing a maid or a butler to a pimp or gangster is not only offensive, it’s downright ridiculous. There is NO honor in being a pimp or killer but there is plenty of honor in being an honest, hard working man or woman providing for their family. STOP comparing apples to oranges.

  51. Tychalla

    Doc,I knew you were deep,but once again you have shown us you can go deeper.I thought that I was the only one that has a problem with us always playing second fiddle to the dominant culture on screen,even when it’s suppose to be a story about us.White America’s biggest fear is showing our humanity and us as we really are,because if they do so,they don’t look so good.We have to always dial down our humanity just to make them appear to have some.If we had 7or 11 films that came out each year that portray us as the great and noble people we really are,I wouldn’t care if the threw in a hood,chittlin,or buck dancing movie every now and then,because those 7 or11 films that show us as we really are would cancel out those 1or 2 garbage films.We have to turn our nose up at anything that destroys our true image and make people pay a financial price for disrespecting us,just like any self respecting Jewish person would do.If we demand better with our pocket books and wallets,we will get better.

  52. Firyali

    I will be seeing the movie. My grandmother was a domestic and I am proud of what she was able to accomplish in her life while working in that role. While we may want to say this feeds into a stereotype, for many of us, that was the job our mothers, grandmothers or great-grandmothers did. I took the time to read the book and it was well written. I read the book at the urging of my mother and had to overcome my bias to even go pick the book up from her house. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I understand the case being made for boycotting the film, but I respectfully disagree and hope many others will as well. Stories like these need to be told.

  53. If this were being handled by ‘Black Hollywood,’ I would see it because the author wouldn’t be the focal point, the Black characters would be. Why have a film making the REAL issue the background while the protagonist, who is white 95% of the time, is the subject? Is the true plot not compelling enough on its own, or do they want to ‘sanitize’ it by making it more palpable to a ‘manstream’ audience and, in the process, dilute what could be a powerful history lesson?

  54. Loretta

    I Love Viola Davis so I will see this film!

  55. D

    This was Screened at the NAACP National Convention Here in L.A. last week. Any bets that it will get an Image Award?

  56. Pudding

    Dr. Boyce, sometimes it amazes me that you are an ‘educated’ man. How can you write so harshly about a story you haven’t read about or seen ? And, please acknowledge that at the time in history that this story occurred, ALL blacks were in subservient roles, no matter what their jobs were. We don’t need to sweep that under the rug, we need to remember it and teach it to our kids and remind each other from whence we came.

    I am from North Carolina and my mother once worked as a maid for a local white family to help put food on our table. Like so many other black women, she never lost her dignity and I could not be more proud of her. Yes, there were some whites who treated us like the human beings we were and they should rightfully be acknowledged, too, because it often came at a price for them also.

    Don’t be so one-dimensional in your thinking and stop trying to make us ashamed of something and circumstances that we did not create. We should stand tall and be proud of how far we have come, faced with the obstacles life placed in our way. No job is too harsh or demeaning if it is done with dignity and strength. It is not the oppressed who should be ashamed, it is the oppressor.

  57. Reading these fifty-one or so comments nearly brought tears to my eyes. It was Howard University all over again during the “Color Purple” days. For me, it is mighty sad that most of us have yet to grasp the dynamics of the Hero or Heroine. I would rather not take sides in this debate. What I would rather do, is to suggest that we educate ourselves on Hero/Heroine Dynamics, if we are to understand the stories that pass for history and nonfiction.

    Our Mothers are are goddesses. How can we even begin to thank them. You thank a foreigner, a stranger who has done you a favor. Our Mothers we worship. Everything they have done to see us through to this day is hallowed in my eyes. We cannot turn our backs on their deeds that have given us Life. We acknowledge their Holy Deeds in the propagation of Life when we worship. However much we may honor them outside of this worship, we cannot forget that we have to move on. We have to add more positive stories to theirs and create a new society, a new culture. Their story is part of this new culture, this new society. For their story to help raise our collective consciousness, we have to be the storytellers with a profound understanding of Hero?Heroine Dynamics. We are dealing with consciousness here and how to raise it generation after generation till End Days of Mother Earth.

    I pay homage to our Mothers and I pay homage to the Teachers, in particular Prof. Yettes, who taught me Hero Dynamics when he assigned us to read the “Prisoner of Chilon” by Lord Byron. It is extremely important that we understood this dynamics if we are to continue raising our collective consciousness. Thanks for all your insightful comments. Thanks Dr. Boyce

  58. The difference between Blacks, Latinos, and Asians, is this. If this movie were about Latinos experience as Maids/Gardeners/ etc. They would be supporting and going to it in DROVES! They understand that seeing themselves on the screen will lead to more roles which lead to moving up the chain. We, as a people, want to criticize and cut down everything. Go ahead, criticize. Wait for Spike or Tyler to make another movie. Meanwhile, black actors won’t be working, black producers won’t be producing, black writers won’t be getting scripts optioned. Etc. As a writer, I find it appalling that all these Black thinkers have so much to say, but aren’t doing anything about the lack of diversity in Hollywood. All the NAACP does is complain. Meanwhile, the Asian Organization (CAPE) has scholarships, writing programs, studio fellowships, etc. They take the opportunities that come and use them to WORK THE SYSTEM! Blacks in power position in the industry need to wake up. You are a dying breed. You don’t help anyone break in. You don’t have a relationship with the black organizations. You don’t do anything but complain. It’s gross.

  59. brian

    We do a good job of promoting streo types tyler Perry Hit them damn movies

  60. Nita Mitchell

    I respectfully disagree, Dr. Boyce. I will see the movie and also take my four daughters to see it with me. My daughters need to see what the lives of their great grandmothers, great aunts, and so many other women of that time were like. Hopefully it will help to show them why it is so important to do well, because the way was paved for them with a lot of sacrifices. I would say, ‘Don’t judge the book by its cover, read the book’, then decide if the movie is worth watching. A. Mitchell

  61. Tonya in Dallas, TX

    SajoKumba I agree with you, but the point is that anyone that has read this book understands that the heroines of the story are the black maids-not the white woman that wrote the book. This is not The Color Purple, and it certainly isn’t Precious.

    I agree with Pudding that some of us can be so very educated, yet be so very quick to judge something that they know nothing about, or have never experienced either by reading about it (like reading the book) or by living it like my family did .

    Tychalla’s comparison of domestic help to hood, chittlin or buck dancing (whatever that is) is beyond maddening and for her to further state that it is ok to make movies that show us in a noble role (as if being a maid is not noble) is well not only shallow, it is ridiculous.

    I am so proud of my grandmother-a divorced maid, who raised her two kids during the 50’s-60’s by herself, and made it possible for me to be the person that I am today-a professional woman with a Masters degree that fortunately does not have to endure the harsh life that she did, 50 short years ago.

    I challenge everyone that has not read this book to do this…Instead of basing your ideas on someone else’s opinion- do your own research and then make an educated decision based on fact, not what someone else told you. In the south, the fact is this story was everyone’s reality and I dont care who tells it, I’m just glad that it is being told.

  62. C. LaMont

    It is important to present a balanced perspective when you understand the young hearts and minds that are shaped and old minds that are reinforced by deprecative stereotypical cinema imagery. Because the dominant ruling class controls the industry, we must diligently challenge institutionalized anglo superiority, in the written and visual performing arts. When and where do we draw the line? Do we say yes I’ll continue to play roles as hookers and pimps, because I have to feed my family? When do we say this role does not reflect the Christ given gift and talent in me and stand in faith with integrity to trust that the Lord has another meaningful opportunity for me?

  63. Mimi

    I must respectfully disagree with Dr. Boyce. This movie cannot be compared to all the others films, TV, books etc they must be judged on its individual basis and not trashed based on a preview. No one has seen the movie yet but folks are up in arms over it. Like many stated here already, this film shows the braveness of the maids not the white woman. The point is that unfortunatley movies made by african american writers/producers/directors are often just as “stereotypical” as those made by white people. How many times in a “black” film do we need to see the drug addict, the “church” scene, the jailhouse hot guy who wins over the heart of the female star or the ulta ghetto black chic. Better yet, how many times do we need to see folks acting “ghetto” in black films? I know plenty of peole including my family who are educated and dont wear bamboo earrings at least two pair..lol I mean if we are going to target the white writer for writing the book then why dont we target the black writers for writing just as stereotypical films and characters? If we want to blame anyone we must blame ourselves for allowing our communities to keep making films that protray us a certain way but then get completely irrate when we are protrayed the same exact way by white writers, its okay for us to do it but not them? expect more from our own people and worry less about how everything white folks do is in someway racist or sterotypical! if we want to see our people playing doctors, lawyers, scientist etc then why not make those films instead of the ” Booty Call” the “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkis” and the likes of “Lottery Ticket” etc. I mean seriously, who are we really mad at?

  64. Tychalla

    Doc,some of these people are of the mindset that if a black person they like,they will see the movie.Your point about the movie went over thosepeople’s head.As long as you accept crumbs and table scraps,you will get them.If Spike had done the movie the white women would be collateral,not the focial point.Negroes are so use to being supporting cast and extras in their own life that they get uncomfortable if black people start talking about being the star or focial point.The studios know that the black audience it’s not sophisticated and will settle for a black face ,in a movie,it does not have to be a quality role,just throw in a black face they like and he or she could be eating water melons and drinking kool aid.If we demand stand alone black heroes and sheroes,we will get them.Remember Cleopathra Jones and the original Shaft?They stood alone without some white person in the way.

  65. Tychalla

    Remember these are the same unsophisticated people that have made Tyler Perry and Martin Lawrence rich,cross dressing.They don’t know their self worth and when they have been insulted.

  66. ShielaB

    Those of you who won’t view the film because of preconceived prejudice are wrong. I agree that the maids are the hero’s in this film and it is a glimpse at a story we were never told. The black actresses in this movie have played various roles over the years, not just maids or mammies. You are taking this too seriously. Not everything is an attempt to keep blacks down.

  67. I completely respect Dr. Watkins and his opinion. However, aren’t there a few things we are forgetting, as it relates to this issue? Please correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t remember Dr. Watkins mentioning what his thoughts were after reading the book? Nor do I recall him saying that the movie is or is not much like the book. Secondly, what happened to not judging a book by its cover? Just because the movie may look as if it is stereotypical, perhaps it isn’t. I realize what has happened in the past when it comes to Hollywood and its unfair portrayal of Blacks. But if we take this path aren’t we becoming just like them? I’m sure that many Whites who have never had the pleasure of interacting with a Black person may have said, “You (Black Folks) are not as bad as they say you are on TV or read in the newspaper “. The statement is very sad, but surprisingly very true. Furthermore, isn’t it our responsibility to police the discrepancies of radio, TV, newspapers, etc. and set the record straight? If we know it’s a lie we are just as bad if not worse if we allow it to continue. Unfortunately, we may not able to stop it all, but can’t we say to those who create, “That’s not right, fix it!” Cry loud and spare not!! In the Jewish Community movies which do not show Jews in a positive light do not I n a positive How can we tell the younger generation that we Kings and Queens if we are not aware of what is being said and done regularly in and around the community? Finally, at some point we (those of us who are concerned) must define ourselves and determine our own value, if to no one else but US! If we don’t who will!!

  68. I read the blog written by Dr. Boyce Watkins (link above) and I have read several of the responses. Once again, black-hyper sensitivity at it is best. Instead of whining about a stereotype we should think about what African American ancestors who were maids would more than likely prefer us to embrace:

    They played an integra…l part in the formation of Black America History. A history that’s honorable – and not embarrassing. Not of shame – but of pride and integrity. The job of a maid back before the civil rights act and immediately afterwards was ‘a job’.

    One of America’s greatest icons, MLK, said this: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

    The countless black women who RAISED white children, served as a therapist for the white slave master’s wife, cooked meal after meal for nourishment, stole-with good purpose-items e.g. meds from the Big House for sickly slaves, and then came home to the reality of inequality while raising some of us New Blacks that may be complaining about The Truth.

  69. Mrs Shya

    The author is certainly entitled to their decision. I’m not here to argue that. Personally, I read the book and would like to see the movie rendition of it. The movie represents a scenario from history. Was history always kind to Black folk, of course not. Did many of these events happen, sure did. I would like to take a look at these events on the big screen. Refusing to see The Help, is like refusing to watch Roots, because it paints a bad picture of our ancestors.

    Blacks being subservient to whites (albeit forced) is not a stereotype, it is an actual occurrence from the past. But who am I to talk, I regularly refuse to watch such depressing scenes. I think that The Help hasn’t turned me off because there is a suitable ending to the women’s plight…a bit of “payback”, if you will. The entire 70s blaxploitation era was created for the purpose of payback.

    Viola is not just playing “a maid” for the sake of playing a maid like Butterfly McQueen did in the past. Viola is portraying a maid who sticks it to her employers, something McQueen could never have done in her time.

    Hollywood will prosper nonetheless, but I can’t complain about this writer’s decision…kinda the same reason I don’t shop at Walmart or wear Nikes, or why I’ve never seen nor plan to see “Precious” …personal preference.

  70. Mrs Shya

    subscribing to followup comments


    Honestly, Im on the fence, because I can see both sides of the arguement. But I guess my question is WHY HASN’T ANY OF OUR BLACK SCREENWRITERS/PRODUCERS TOLD ANY OF THESE STORIES”?

  72. Pingback: Dr. Boyce: Why I Won’t Be Seeing “The Help” « The Industry Cosign

  73. tabry06

    I thank God Dr. Boyce has provided a platform whereby an intelligent and civil discussion concerning the film “The Help” can be debated and reasoned. I’m equally grateful Dr. Boyce shared his explanations as to why he has declined to view the movie. I respectfully agree and disagree with some of his sentiments.

    As an African American I feel that it is vital to support all of my brothers and sisters in the arts and it is for this reason and this reason only that my initial gut reaction to the movie is favorable. I want to see the performance of Viola Davis-my favorite actress. Secondly, I feel in part that I need to read the book and then watch the movie before weighing in on any discussion concerning Steven Spielberg and his efforts to produce a movie depicting the “black experience.”

    What I do want to point out is this. Watching movies whereby Black Americans are treated inhumanely, and depicted in subservient and demeaning roles brings out in me feelings of anger, shame, embarrassment, and resentment. Yes, I said it. I feel this way also when our own filmmakers do it however, my reactions aren’t nearly as strong.

    I , like many, grew up hearing first hand accounts of the sufferings of both my parents who were from Alabama. My mom in particular told me of accounts in which she participated in the sit-ins and some of the demonstrations going on at the time yet ended up helping her own brothers and sisters by working as a maid for a rich family in the local area. One of the most poignant snapshots my mom was in took place while she was in her maid outfit serving about 15-20 white family members gathered at the dinner table. I can’t express the surprise I felt the first time I gazed at this picture. My mother’s face was beaming as she had a genuine smile on her face. She told me the family treated her good and really liked her cooking but thought it was a shame that colored people weren’t going to heaven as they believed she certainly ought to go.

    Sadly, my mom passed away. However, as I reflect on her experiences and the amount of strength, integrity, courage, and vitality she possessed I can’t help but believe that she would have wanted me to take her to see “The Help”. I know that I wouldn’t be crazy about it for the reasons I expressed in para 3. The only thing I’ certain of is that I’m extremely proud of my mom and that I’m not half the woman she was. I couldn’t have successfully raised my own two girls without her strong example.

  74. Monte Moire

    Oh brother. Here we go again. Dr. Boyce and others here, if we are ashamed of this movie and its African-American characters, then we are ashamed of our history, which I am not ashamed of my African-American history. I am sure that many in here have read the book. Me, I cheated, I used an audio book. But in doing so, I found that this book is great. Sure you’ll be shocked, you’ll be embarassed, but the beauty of this book, and I am sure the movie as well, is in it’s final message…not that much separates us, and kindness knows no lines. I will be watching this with my wife and enjoying myself. Black folks we gotta lighten up a bit. This is our history. If we can embrace the hip-hop artist that show our young women with next to nothing on, without complaining, we can embrace our aunts who worked as maids to put us through college. I am watching this movie with my bag of M & Ms and a smile.

  75. At this point, I don’t know if I am going to see ‘the Help’ or not, but it is giving Black folkes jobs in this HORRIBLE economy! Peeps said the same thing about the Blaxploitation movies! WE LOVED them back then, because they gave our people jobs and we were able to see US on the BIG SCREEN! NOW, they are calling them ‘CULT Classics’ and they are ALL Over the place! Every form of cinema, except for those that are too extremely violent have some degree of worthiness! I know, we are tired of seeing maids, but remember there are also, Chinese maids, Hispanic maids, White maids, etc, etc, etc.
    Let us not look down on maids as if they are a lower class, let us instead, look up to these people, “the little people” who goto thankless jobs every day, put children through college, pay the bills, work, and work, and work again, in these thankless jobs, hoping and praying for a better life and a better future!
    Trust me I agree with you, HOLLYWOOD needs to change, A LOT! However, not going to see the movie is not going to change them. Rather, let us start sending them some BETTER SCRIPTS and also scripts of black lawyers, doctors, etc! Let us JOIN in and DO something! HOLLYWOOD could care less about us criticizing them!
    Let us SHOW THEM by putting our heads together and coming up with scripts for pictures that we would LOVE to see!
    Let us constructively give them Examples of better scripts and perhaps then, we will see the changes that we desire!
    Thank you for letting me be heard!

  76. Cheryl

    Dr. Boyce I have not read the book but plan to purchase s..and I will go and I will to see the movie. I was raised by a woman the worked as a maid for $5 a day and carfare. You could not have found a greater person and I have never been ashamed of her and what she gave me and others in our community that were either sick or just were going through hard times. I work in a
    place where ther are a lot of educated/professional AA like yourself. I watch them walk pass the maids and janitors htwithout he curteousy of speaking to them and even me at times. I live in a state where they have destroyed the history
    that reflects on the horrible treatment of blacks before/after the civil rights movement. I have come to the conclusion
    some educated blacks are more dangerous to our society and future than some of the whites that we have to deal with. As a race, both the unlearned and the well educated we are still black in the eyes of the racists that have removed their sheets since
    the election of President Obama…and they don’t care anymore
    the educated blacks than they do the ones that are not as educated. This forum speaks about things that divide as a race,
    basicly about the haves and have-nots. We can not forget the sacrifices that were made by the maids, porters, sanitation
    workers, shoe shiners, farmers , etc., that had the guts to fight
    for you and me to have an opportinty for a better life. I suggest that we don’t forget where we have come from and please don’t
    forget that WE as African Americans will always be black to racists that only sees us as such! PS… McDaniels was one of the fortunate ones. But to me…Mama was my hero!

  77. Janice

    Although I agree with most of the post here about the maids being the heroines in the story, I too noticed some problems with this book. I feel that these beautiful strong women’s voices were secondary to the true protagonist in the book, the white woman. Although I found the book touching in some parts, most of the African American characters did fall into the stereotype of the smart mouth Black woman that has a gaggle of kids and the drunk abusive husband. After reading this book I found myself pulling out Barbara Neely’s Blanche on the Lam series which is by far a better read. I have no plans to see the movie even though I am a big fan of Viola Davis and wish her continued success.

  78. Dr. Watkins,
    You did a good job of talking in a complete circle on this one — “exploitation at the hands of a White director or a Black director – both looking to maximize profits … choose your poison.” I wonder what type of movie with Blacks in starring roles would attract your viewing.

    I don’t like the recurring theme that “there must be a white benevolent enabler for the Black hero to succeed” any more than you do. However, movies are meant to be enjoyed as an escape from reality, not a solution to all our social problems. Sometimes, the very well presented offerings do an excellent job of delivering a strong and relevant message. Most of the time, however, the formula for financial success has no underlying moral value — just a good story that sells.

    I am interested in seeing this to find out where it falls along the spectrum of quality. I hope I just enjoy it, and the actresses get enough exposure to earn another payday.

  79. Tychalla

    No ShielaB,you are not taking this subliminal brain dirtying serious enough.You have the right to see this movie and love it ,and I have the right to not see it and talk about it.It is 2011,is it too much to ask that we have movies that show us and our humanity and without it being relative to to white person’s jaded view of us.Maybe you jigs should read more intellectual stimulating books like the Isis Papers,Lies my teacher told me,Black labor,White wealth,Slavery by any other name,The destruction of Black civilization,etc.My mother and my grandmother were domestics.I respect those strong and great women,but this story is nothing more than white folk mentally masturbating at our expense.

  80. Tychalla

    Tonya,I am a 50 year old man from Mississippi,not a women.You misrepresented what I said.I did not compare domestic help to hood movies or chittlin movies.I am saying that we need to be depicted in a more realistic light in film.Black people see themselves through the eyes of their oppressor,that’s pathological,deal with it.Everything is not relative to white people’s passive aggressive bigoted view of us,or the negroes that passively worship them or are passive aggressive mammies and pappies.Try to keep up!If the story had been told without being relative to any white folk,just the black women,I could respect that,but I still don’t want to see anymore Driving Miss Daisy,docile negroe type movies.Help your self to this antiquated genre of films that are nothing more than a vehicle for white folk to put us back in a more comfortable time in history for them.

  81. Tychalla

    If this movie were about The great A. Phillip Randolph,they way it would go is they would have the focial point of a movie about him and his fighting for sleeping car porters,viewed through the eyes of some white guy,and how it was relative to a good and fair mined white man.This would be an insult to Mr Randolph, just like it’s an insult to those wonderful ladies.I don’t apologize for not throwing my brain in neutral when I read,listen to music or watch a movie or tv show,because just like Dr Francis Crest Welslyn plainly states,racism affects all aspects of our lives,religion,sex,sports,entertainment,law,etc.They are counting on you not looking deeper than what they tell you,it makes it easier to keep you from doing what the creator meant for you to do.You sheeple probably missed the rub in the movie Crash.We get one movie with Viola Davis this year and she’s playing a maid.I would have loved to see this talented and lovely sister reprising the role of Cleopathra Jones and having a normal relationship with a black man like Tamara Dobson did in the original.Not some hormone imbalanced,man hating passive aggressive black man hater .White America’s worst nightmare is not black on black crime,but black on black love and our showing our humanity.

  82. Anja

    Admittedly, I ambivalent about seeing this movie. As a matter of fact, my husband and I were just debating the pros and cons as to why bother.

    I have not read the book and I don’t know if I will. It seems that all the “buzz” is about this great writer and the white actresses in the movie and the trailer was a huge source of irritation for me because it showcased these Southern, narcissistic fashionally-dressed white women floating through life on their “white clouds'” with their pedantic noses stuck in the air. And, all the while, the same stereotype of the schizophrenic characterizations of black women that I’ve seen in most movies of this ilk.

    From most of the comments here, I get that (at least in the book) the black women are the heroes and come out on top in the end. But my question is, when it comes time to hand out the actual awards (can we say, Oscar!), will Ms. Davis or any of the other black actresses walk away with this coveted honor? And, of course, if one of them actually wins, that will a subject of another debate!

  83. My Mother and Grandmother worked as domestics. My Grandmother did it to survive and to help my Mother through school in the 60’s. My Mother worked as a maid/nanny for wealthy Jewish families in NY during the Summer. She put herself through school and was the only one out of 8 children to graduate from college. She is one of the most intelligent, God-fearing and dignified women I know. My problem with the film is the lawsuit being filed against the book’s author. Apparently, she based the character in the book off of a woman who said that she was never compensated. I read the book and this totally does not line up with one of the points in the story. I see the injustice in that, but not the characters in the movie.

  84. Mary S. Northington

    Dr. Watkins, I will not pass judgment, sight unseen. I plan to read the book, see the movie, and attend a book discussion. Daresay, as one old enough to be your grandmother, I have a different perspective on our history. Much about which you write is based on what you have read, studied, and heard. There are those of us who have lived it. ( My grand parents were born into and lived in slavery.) It may not be told in the way we feel it should be told. Instead of avoiding it, however, let us be about the busines of “righting it.” And yes, let us let those of us who can be about the business of writing it.

  85. Terry

    I must say it is a sad commentary when one prejudges. I have had the wonderful opportunity to attend a private screening of The Help movie. It was a true Lyu life depiction of the relationship between maids and their white families during the sixties. This movie helps one to understand how these women endured prejudices, maintained their dignity while raising generations of white children who would ironically become their boss. It also showed how hard it is to change traditions but yet it can be done when people are willing to see the other persons viewpoint. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is when Viola is reciting a mantra to the little girl in her care. Now don’t get me wrong this movie also shows a variety of viewpoints from,all sides. I truly believe that movie should be seen by everyone. Most of us either had aunts, grandmothers or mothers who were “Thursday” Women and the next generations,need to understand,our past in order to be better prepared for our future. So before you judge a book you should read the cover and see the movie for yourself. This isn’t a return to Gone with the Wind. The Help is a phenomenal movie!!!

  86. rasil

    Here he goes again. First of all if you have not read the book you are no authority regarding the movie. I read the book and the sheroes are the maids. My mother was a maid and nanny and was able to provide me with a private school education so that I would not have to endure her experiences. There was no shame in her work, but the desire for her off spring to do, be, and have more. When you bash President Obama, which you take every opportunity to do, you are also a “trusty side kick to the overseer. You must remember…you are only where you are because “Whitey” has allowed YOU to be a “trusty side kick” to him/her. Write about what you know to be truth.

  87. I love the dialog and that people are really voicing their views. I love the women who are standing up for their families, who have had to do this as a way of life to better themselves. Everyone who has their opinion, and that is to be respected, but if your opinion is not based on knowledge, but hearsay or a feeling, then how can you really offer something concrete. I am writing a review for several outlets on the movie, “The Help”, for you who have seen a screening of the movie, like Terry, good or bad, I would like to get a few quotes from you. Please feel free to email me: lfpmediaproduction@gmail.com

  88. William Covington

    Ironically, Viola Davis played both an astronaut and a doctor (the character was both) in the TV movie “The Andromeda Strain”. Maybe television isn’t “Hollywood”, but you should probably have done a little research into the actresses’ work histories before you published. Not to diminish your analysis of Hollywood and it’s systematic underuse of Black actors and actresses in non-stereotypic roles. This is 2011, and it is way past time.

  89. Elrancho

    I have neither read the book or seen the movie. I can however, fully appreciate where Dr Boyce is coming from. I am also prepared to accept that he may have been wrong to judge something he has not read or seen. If he is wrong, it will be the first time I personally, have been aware of him making an error. But like all of us, Dr Boyce is human and capable of missing a step. The best thing about this discussion and all the comments is how insightful and intelligent it is compared to most other discussions on other sites. We should all be proud to be part of it, even if we disagree.

  90. rasil

    To All:
    See the movie and form your own opinions. That is how one learns. Not by Dr. Boyce or the likes. There is nothing shameful in the book. Just a light portrayal of the White mind. As for the separate bathrooms for Blacks…I experienced that when I visited my grandmother in the South during the summers. Not only was she the nanny, the housekeeper, cook, laundress, cotton picker, therapist, caretaker, and any thing else the White family she worked for wanted her to be. She worked from sunrise to sunset every day except Sunday. This is no more shameful than those of today who have to suck it up to keep the jobs the White man allows many of us to have. This is history and guess what…I know several educated Black women who are nannies today. Why..I do not know but they appear to be OK with this station in life. So comment on what you know to be truth. I hope one day that educated Blacks will stop being so judgmental and hard on the choices that some of us make. We are all just a pay check away from joblessness ourselves. Would I be a nanny if I had no job or other choice…perhaps, I just don’t know. What I do know is that these women looked out for one another and cared something i do not see among us today. I can hardly wait for the movie to debut here. I will lovingly think of my grandmother and all the women before and after her who work as Nannies.

  91. DJ

    I do not feel that Driving Miss Daisy was a stereotype. It was the story about friendship that transcended the boxes that society wants to keep us in. Morgan Freeman’s character was a driver, but that is not all that he was. He was a man with dignity and intellect. He was decent and never let Daisy of her family disrespect him. His family was more closely bonded and he had a balance or peace in life that she never achieved despite her privilege and the movie revealed in the end that they were equals. I hope that your discomfort does not come from shame associated with the fact that many off us worked in menial jobs as this is fact and nothing to be ashamed of. fReeman depicted a man not s minstrel. I have relatives like Morgan’s character and I refuse to be ashamed of them. These are the people who brought is over and through. Including Aunt Mamma. Peace.

  92. David

    Yes, the role of a servant or maid is a black stereotype, but we must not lose touch with a painful reality. Many of our foremothers and forefathers earned their living by working for white folks. The story must be told of their love and sacrifice for their families. These are the same people who sent many us to college in the 1960s and 1970s. When I was a young reporter, I remember talking to a sister who was a maid at in the building. Every day we spoke and exchanged pleasantries. I remember the day she beamed with joy when she said that her daughter was in the last year of medical school. The true heroines and heroes are those black men and women who did the best that they could so that we could do better. And I plan to see “The Help.”

  93. MFR

    After reading some of the comments, it’s plain to see how people jump on a bandwagon and to conclusions without having adequate information or being intellectually informed. I agree with all the people who’ve read the book. The black women are the heroes in this story, so I’m anxious to see the movie hoping it will align with the novel.
    Also, this is a period piece – Mississippi in the 60’s. I’m pretty sure most of the posters haven’t lived during those times and probably haven’t studied or paid attention to what was really going on during those times. This was the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Blacks were doing more then than they have since. And what’s so stereotypical about having a job. Would you rather we all be on government assistance or in the penal system if we can’t be doctors, lawyers, engineers or business owners?
    I do know there is still a lot of racism and racial stereotypes being depicted on screen, but I would hope it would invoke open and honest dialogue in the way of teaching – history, tolerance and pride.

  94. Thelma Rosenfeld

    After reading all of the above, I plan to read the book and see the movie. Cant’ wait.

  95. Gat Turner

    Lots of apologists here.
    “It’s only a movie, jeez”
    “Black hypersensitivity at its best”
    “Hey, my MAMA was a maid”
    “I looooove that actor”
    “That’s our history, do your research” (no, fool, it isn’t. know your REAL black history – it’s much greater that that, and extends beyond being subservient and our introduction to the USA)

    blah, blah blah…

    Are we so thirsty for black entertainment that we’ll settle for anything? Are you happy Flavor Flav had a job on TV? He was getting paid too, even in this bad economy. I guess his story needed to be told as well, especially when he narrated “Strange Love” holding a bucket of chicken and wearing a top hat and tuxedo – before taking etiquette lessons from a white woman on how to eat with a proper place setting.


    Sometimes you just have to say NO.

    I don’t give a shit about the stories of these maids – they’re still maids, and we’ve seen these depictions since the advent of Hollywood. I’d be more receptive if there was balance in Hollywood, but there isn’t, so no thank you.

    Have fun at the show…

  96. Steve Greaves

    I’m a white guy who’s spent a good portion of my adult life teaching literature to a multicultural classroom, and another portion of my life as a men-s group counselor officially labeled “Domestic Violence Perpetrator Treatment Provider.” I don’t pretend to “know what it’s like” to have grown up on a rez where unemployment and cheap liquor have been used by a racist economy to turn my father into a man who hurts his loved ones. Nor do i pretend to be superior to men who were justly convicted for having beaten their wives or children. I know the saying “there but for the Grace of God go I.” About The Help, book or film, I believe we should never encourage censorship or boycott of a product or company unless we can demonstrate their complicity in immoral or criminal behavior. Fact is, the USA is still pervasively a racist society, which just so happens to have a black president (who gives more kudos to his derelict black father than to his honorable white mother; you have to ask why’s that — seems to me it’s about garnering the black vote, trying to appear a “real black man”). Obama was elected as much because he is a black man by people who HOPED he would prove to have more integrity than he seemed to to a lot of us who, sadly, have been proved correct about his subservience to big-moneyed interests and his opportunism with people of his father’s complexion and others who believe in affirmative action even if it seems to our disadvantage to do so. Whether the author is black or white is irrelevant. Just as Dr. King said about content of character versus skin color, it’s the artist’s soul that matters. I suggest if you’re going to advise folks to boycott something in a meaningful way (as many of us did when South Africa was run by white racists and Nelson Mandela was behind bars), you study it first, rather than stereotype it by its surface appearance of similarity to something you correctly despise.
    With respect.

  97. Janeria

    I disagree with most of the comments. The protagonist/hero in the book are the maids. Also, Viola Davis is an excellent actress who seems to choose her roles carefully. I’m pretty sure SHE read the book before taking on a role that would obviously be deemed controversial (and to correct Dr. Watkins, she played a mayor “Law Abiding Citizen”). I’ve been looking forward to seeing this movie since finishing the book earlier this year, and I suggest people read the book, before making this into another “Dangerous Minds” because it isn’t the case (as long as the movie follows the book).

  98. Liz

    I had trouble reading the book because My mom & I cleaned houses when I was growing up. We didn’t suckup to anyone. I didn’t like it and that was what my mom planned. We didn’t whites to tell us how to be treated fairly. It took a young white girl to help these black maids. Duh. Black women have always known when folks treat us right. The film may help young folks learn history, of which they know very little because it is not taught in school. It may teach some about how it was back then.

  99. Shirlene Pryor

    I will NOT be seeing the movie. However It is because I am a 75 year old African American woman and have first hand knowledge of the racism of the era of “The Help”. I am now a retired teacher, but to get the credentials to become a teacher I was more than once part of “The Help” and would not relive those days through viewing a movie or reading another book.
    I do think that EVERYONE black and white who do not know the experience SHOULD read the book and watch the movie.

  100. Tonya in Dallas, TX


    I did not misrepresent you. Go back and read your post and as for your quote “Black people see themselves through the eyes of their oppressor,that’s pathological,deal with it.”-maybe you do, but most people with any kind of sense do not. Do you profess to speak for all Black people? Don’t heap your self-hatred on others. I am educated and enlightened enough to read a book, view a piece of art and go to a movie without “seeing myself through the eyes of the oppressor.” If you are not, that is your limitation- not mine. I would think that at 50 years old and living in Mississippi to boot, you would have had enough life experiences to overcome those issues. So to throw your words back at you-if you can’t face reality (and living in Mississippi you know darn well it was reality), then you deal with it. And by the way, at what point did Blaxpoitation movies like the ones featuring Cleopatra Jones become top notch cinema? Weren’t those movies stereotypical in themselves? The exaggerated makeup, the hair, the drugs…This is America and everyone is entitled to their opinion, if you want to watch Blaxpoitation movies that is your right, but insinuate that the next person is a passive agressive mammy or pappy because they choose something different.

  101. We can’t have it both ways. We are concerned about the lack of work from blacks in Hollywood and about the fact that we are stereotyped. The stereotypes are there but we must support our fellow African Americans as they showcase their on-screen prowess. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We know who we are and Whose we are. This film doesn’t define us.

  102. John

    I can understand Dr. Boyce’s opinion but I will reserve judgement until I see the film for myself. I can’t assume that the film is not worthy of our attention, particularly if it is telling a true story about our past that is not well known.

  103. Sandra

    No, I do not plan to see the movie. I do not support promoting black stereotypes. This movie sounds like the same soup warmed over. It would be different if we were shown in a wide variety of roles, i.e. positive and negative, but we are not. We are mostly shown as buffoons, servants, criminals, prostitutes, and other negative images. I can find better ways to spend my money. So, I do not plan to go see this movie or to rent it. Even if it comes on TV, I will not watch it.

  104. journey360

    I want to see this film and I’m glad they made it. Why is it okay for us to embrace our black history of baseball, inventors, and pastors such as Dr. King, but we are forced to be ashamed of our black history of being domestic subservient maids for white people?
    I’m trying to figure out why it is today that black men “hate” (just despise) black women and I’m hoping to get some answers to that from this film.

    It’s gotten to where black men today do not speak to black women, won’t make eye-contact with them… just flat out dislike them with a deep-rooted hatred. It is so demonic. I was sitting in a chair in a lounging area at the mall this weekend, (a sofa and two chairs) two black men (in their 40’s) walked near. One wanted to sit down the other one saw me frowned and they both walked down to the next lounging section to sit with an over-weight white woman which whom they were more comfortable sitting with.

    In this day in history (2011) where the white woman is far more preferred by the black man than a black woman, I am eager to see this film. I need some answers as to why the black man adores the white woman in rejection to me and other black women. Thus far, I have no answers as to why. I watch white woman treat black men kind and horrible. I watched Basketball Wives as Ocho-cino and his white woman Evelyn interact as she curses him, calls “black-ass” and tells him to “shut the fuck up” live on TV. She talks horribly to him because she was raised in a ghetto and he seems to be cool with her having a bad attitude because she is a white woman. I have asked black men what it is they hate about black woman and they have a long list of things that they give the white a pass for.

    Therefore I’m at a loss as to why the black man truly hates (dislikes) us black women. I believe it is something demonic that has caused it but I can’t quite put my hands on it. Just maybe I will see something in this film that will help to highlight a few areas of enlightenment concerning this puzzling mystery. Aside from that, black women were the ones trusted with the white kids and they played a huge role in molding them during slavery and post-slavery. I want to see that played out on the big screen. That is our history. Black men call the black woman evil and hateful not to mention view her as ugly. I wonder why the white kids the black woman helped raise do not call her evil and hateful. I’m eager to learn why in this film.

  105. M LaLa

    In rememberence of my family members who raised their families while raising the families of others as “The Help”; I will be seeing “The Help”, tonight.

  106. Leggia

    …First of all Dr. Boyce is saying that he wont be going to see the film because of the racial history connected to negative portrayals of blacks in films regardless to how they are structured. Seeing these types of roles in the twenty-first century brings up injurious feelings about a dark past. America has a legacy of displaying negative images of blacks that cannot be discounted. Black people should see it for what it is and we should be sophisticated enough to see how hollywood is clever in its historical intention to use racist media against us. As it is, Blacks have been locked into racial stereotypes as far back as Blackface minstrels in 1848. Interestingly, this movie rears its head at a time when the first Black President and First Lady are occupying the white house. On a subtle level it speaks to the notion that we can and will always be seen as a group of people with the stigma of slavery, which is to subordinate us to a marginal existence. This is how mammy/maid roles became powerful holds in this country. If blacks do not waste their money on these kinds of stereotypes – Hollywood would learn quickly that black people are no longer interested in seeing these images of themselves on the BIG SCREEN. How about showing whites as barbaric cave dwellers at every turn so that this image become indellibly seared into their psyche!

  107. Ruth Roman Lynch

    It’s obvious that many of you who view this book/movie as something derogatory and an afront to the intellectual abilities of Blacks. Having grown up in Mississippi durning the 50s, 60s, and 70s, I know first hand this story. My grandmother was a domesticate and in doing so was able to feed and clothe an entire community along with her fellow maid friends/family. I sometime think we get just a little too intellectual about our history, when in most cases it was just about survival. Therefore, it’s hard to know where you are going, unless you know where you’ve been. This story, in my opinion, allows us to see those women who endured so much for so long as the SHEROES that they are. Lord knows, if it wasn’t for my grandmother, half my family would not have survived. I do plan to tell that story one day. Everything about our history here in American is not pretty and should be told like it was.

    Dr. Boyce, I enjoy your intellect and perspective on issues daily, but on this one you speak like a true academician.

  108. sirius09

    I don’t think that all or even most black men hate black women. Most black men who are with women are with black women. The media, including the Internet, perpetuate the false belief that black men hate black women. It is very true, that a considerable number of athletes and other celebrities do indeed choose to not be with black women.

  109. I love this article, it put into words how i feel about these type movies, and I could not have said it better myself. I wish other people could read this (especially white people and have a true understand of what this article is all about.)

  110. M. Allen

    I will NOT be going to see this movie. My mother was a maid and she hated everyday she worked as a maid. Yes, she did it to give us a better life because she did not want us to become like her. With all the accomplishments of blacks throughout history, isn’t it tipical that a white person would chose to write a book or tell a story about black servitude. Honestly, how many of us are suprised about this? Are there quality black films out there, yes, but not many. Are there black film makers and actors trying to make quality films, yes. Is it easy for blacks to make quality films in hollywood, NO. Why, because hollywood believes that blacks only want to see films that are based on their past. Why does a film about blacks have to be based on history? Why can’t blacks just get roles in films, whether it is factual or not? White actors and actresses do it all the time.
    I will NOT go see this movie because I don’t want it to become a blockbuster. Furthering the belief of hollywood that this is the kind of film that I want my children and their children to see. It was this type of reality that made our young children pick the white doll over the black doll as superior. I teach and will continue to teach my children about their history because I too believe that to know your history is to know your greatness. I will not leave out any of our history because it is wonderful when you include ALL of it.
    And just for the record, if you lived back then, I don’t believe you would want to relive it again on film, so you can watch hollywood sugar coat it.

  111. intimacywithjesus

    I think the point that a lot of people (especially lovers and defenders of the book, which is complete fiction by the way. It’s NOT based on a true story and came strictly from the imagination of a white woman) are missing is that, in this day and age, there are so many varied film genres (romance, action, horror, etc.) and roles (lawyers, students, business people, etc.) that it just seems a little silly that we don’t see more black actors and actresses in these types of roles as well. And I don’t mean in black productions with all-black casts. I mean mainstream Hollywood movies.

    I think if we saw MORE of a fairer balance–actresses of color starring in the same roles Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank, etc. get, roles where maybe they can be glamorous, sexy, educated, rich, powerful, etc.–then maybe the maid roles wouldn’t be as irksome.

    As soon as I saw the previews, I also got annoyed when I saw all the slim, “beautiful” white housewife characters coupled with all the tired, haggard-looking black maid characters, and had decided that I wouldn’t see it. As an African American woman, I just think enough’s enough!

    Thank you, Dr. Watkins. I truly appreciate your commentary.

  112. Ughagainreally

    No I will not be seeing this film and have encouraged my friends not to do so as well. Why does Hollywood continue to gush and oh and awe when films like this are made that place us in subservient roles but continue to ignore genuine efforts of great actresses in films like For Colored Girls which I thought was done very well. Black people spend a lot of money at the money (cough because we dont save a dang thing) and I could care less if they don’t make another movie inclusive of our people if it has to be something of this nature,. We don’t have to take everything they dish out because we do have movies produced by Black people (where we are not maids and drivers of Miss Daisy) that we can support instead.

  113. Ughagainreally

    Sorry I intended to say Black people spend a lot of money at the “movies” not the “money” 🙂

  114. Pro-Lif3

    I won’t be viewing the movie or reading the book. I admit the film was on my “Must See” list when I first read about it. I have heard that Skeeter is not the protagonist, though the trailer would have you think differently, so it’s not another Blindside. My problem with the source material is the depiction of Black men. The Black men in the film are neer do wells and abusive. I keep reading that we should honor our female ancestors that worked as domestics by seeing this film. Where is the honoring of their husbands, sons, uncles, and brothers? I hear all the praise for Abilene’s character. Isn’t she the woman that compares her skin color to that of a cockroach? The author of “The Help, who coincidentally was born after the time the story takes place, sounds like someone who thinks she knows how Black people of the era thought and lived, but she has no clue.

  115. THE HELP: Movie Review
    3.5 out of 4 STARS! At this time in our nation’s history “The Help” is a must see movie.
    Note: Picture of actress Viola Davis and Vera Richardson was taken January 2009 at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, CA.
    Vera Richardson
    Author of Screwed by Former Governor and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer

  116. Regg'e

    The first shall be last . . . and the last shall be FIRST (so saith, The Lord).

  117. B. Chandler

    Oprah Wimfrey twitted she saw the movie and liked it. If you are black then atg some point in your life you have had the “black experience” of racism, inequity, or injustice. So, I understand wanted to see movies that don’t take us back, but move up forward and “lift us up”. I have not seen the movie because I feel it takes “us back” to where white society feels most comfortable with us, as subservient, no matter that we “out smarted them”, we were still maids. But the bigger questions here are did this movie “lift you up”? “Would you recommend it to your daughters? If so, by all means, go and see it. But , if not, like myself, don’t even whisper such a thing exist…let it go away quietly…I will never to back. Where is the glory in going backwards?

    don’t even whisper that such a thing exist.

  118. linda caldwell epps

    It is very dangerous to forget one’s history! Please wake up. It is a shame that our children know so little about their lineage, our struggle, our progress. There is no shame in honest work- work that sustained many a family under extremely difficult circumstances. I am proud of my ancestors for caring enough about the future of their off spring enough to get up everyday and face oppression. Our children should know about and understand the love that existed in families, in neighborhoods, among black people. We were not afraid to trust and care for each other then as we are now. I would not go back to Jim Crow but I do not want to run away from a past that many whites want to return to. We must remember so there is no danger that we will return!
    Linda caldwell epps

  119. After watching the movie, I dedicated several paragraphs in my most recent blog post to my experience during the viewing of the movie and my thoughts after it. I’ll post the snippet below. That posting was one of the few times that I interrupted my humor blog with a serious message. For me, that’s the reason why I’m glad I saw the movie. Sometimes we just get comfortable and need that reminder that we weren’t always afforded the opportunity to do the things we do so freely now. Granted, I don’t want to be beaten over the head with the theme of the movie on a daily basis, but it is also good to remember that while some of us are going to the schools or jobs of our choices, using any restroom or eating wherever we want, having the privilege to enter the front door and sit anywhere on the bus, that isn’t because those freedoms… were afforded us because we’re human beings and we were always worth that. No, instead, people had to fight for that—Blacks and Whites. And just like people take issue with “the great white hope” theme, we can’t black wash it either and act like we always had the power and it was in us as Blacks all the time.

    There were no Blacks amongst Lincoln’s cabinet when the Emancipation Proclamation was drafted which freed the slaves. How many blacks were on the U.S. Supreme court during Brown VS. The Board of Education ruling? When schools were desegregated, was it Black people who sent the U.S. Marshalls and the Army in to various locations to try to ensure our safety? Matter of fact, which states were we running as Governor or some other high ranking position where we had the ability to change things without the help of some White people. Oh, and was it a Black president who submitted the Civil Rights Bill to Congress, and how many seats did Black people hold at the time? Although I understand that people are tired of hearing “the great white hope” story, we can’t act like we were the sole reason for our wins either—especially the major ones.

    This dialogue right here is why I appreciate movies like “The Help.” The Civil Rights Movement ended less than 50 years ago. Ask many of us that were born after that period how much we know about it and the people involved beyond the major names Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, etc. Seeing the movie made me start doing all types of research to find out more about what my people went through. I wanted to know more about my history. I jumped off Facebook and put my cellphone down and actually did some research. That’s why movies like this are important so that the stories continue to be told and don’t get lost in a “Jersey Shore” world.

    Excerpt from my blog at http://www.justmichael.net/blog.

    Lastly, although I don’t typically do movie reviews or plugs on my blog, as a writer, sometimes I’m exposed to something that evokes so much emotion that I’d be remiss to not at least mention it. This past weekend I went to see “The Help” with a few of my friends. It was the first movie that ever made me laugh and cry in one sitting. For the record, because I’m so macho and manly, I didn’t allow any of my buddies to see the tears falling, but there definitely were tears. Actually, this isn’t going to be so much of a review of “The Help” as it is a huge nod of respect and appreciation for those that came before me who risked so much so that I, as an African American, can have a better quality of life. Sometimes it’s good to have a reminder that life wasn’t always as easy—relatively—as it is for us now.

    Since the movie was about a writer struggling to tell a story from the perspective of Black maids who worked in Mississippi during the 60s, I was able to relate to the subject matter on several different levels. Of course, I’ve never experienced life as a maid, but the idea that about 50 short years ago, simply because of the color of my skin, I would have had to find a back entrance marked “colored” just to shop or to eat at a restaurant is unthinkable. To know that the freedoms I have today—to read, to write these words, to be educated, to enter through the front door of an establishment, to not sit in the back of the bus—weren’t given simply because I’m a human being and worthy of equality, but instead only given because people risked their lives fighting for that freedom, is a concept that is completely unfathomable to me. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that there had to be a civil rights movement to end legal and blatant racial discrimination.

    I also identified with the movie’s theme of having something to say or needing to get something out but being too afraid to share it—kind of how I feel about writing these very words, a huge departure from the humorous messages that have gotten me the readers I have. For the record, I am not bitter. I’m not an angry Black man. It’s just that certain parts of my ancestry make me sad and uncomfortable, but that is not the point of these words. This message is to pay homage to all of the individuals who played a part in me being able to sit here at this table in Barnes and Noble. This message is to show respect for those who took steps to ensure that I’d be able to go to the school of my choosing and pursue the opportunities of my desire. This message is a nod to those who fought for me to have the ability to unintentionally arrive to work two minutes late when at one time I could have been fired, beaten, or worse for simply eating from the wrong dish, using the wrong toilet, or having an opinion. This is my way of showing appreciation for the people who made it possible for me not to have ever seen the words “coloreds” or “white’s only” at a public establishment in my lifetime thus far. This is for who I consider to be the original human resources team. We take so many things for granted. Better yet, I take so many things for granted. To the named and unnamed, this is me sending many thanks and many tears for the plight of all those individuals throughout history that felt that we mattered—that I matter. Thank you.

  120. Clara

    I use to go to work with my mom in the late 50’s and early 60’s when I was out of school for the summer. She worked for a couple of Jewish women who treated her well, however, she had to carry and id card to justify being on Miami Beach after a certain time; otherwise she would have been hauled off to jail or harrassed by the kind police officers. She was a maid, but she did not wear a uniform. She cleaned, cooked and watched the soap operas with her employers and was allowed to use the same toilet that they used. My point is that it happened, the movie is just a dramatization of facts. It is story being told from the perspective of the writer. I don’t feel inferior or ashamed I just wish that the young people would see this movie and realize the price that was paid for pavement of a better way of life for them.

  121. Thelma Rosenfeld

    I am glad I saw the movie. I needed to be reminded of the cruelty and the injustice black people suffered…..something that should never be forgotten.

  122. Elizabeth Cavette

    I am sorry but this time I disagree with the good Dr. Boyce. I would not compare Armistad to A time to kill because one is true and the other is fictional. I have neither read the book or seen the movie but I intend to do both!Fact is part of our history was cleaning up after white folks. I think ALL of our history need to be told and embraced. Thats what make us strong!I just returned from Atlanta where I took my 10 year old grandson & his friend. We spent the entire day at the King Memorial where I made them read every word and explained our history to them. We must tell it and write it. Another fact:we would not have gone very far if we didn’t have their help.

  123. Bob Parr

    I am a white Australian who has seen the film and loved it. I saw that the white protagonist realised that all of the values she had were taught to her by the maid. She wanted to help them get the respect they deserved now that she was old enough to do so.
    I recently shared a train carriage from Niagara Falls to New York where all of the other passengers were African American and all known to each other. One was having her birthday. She had a wonderful character and we were invited to join in the fun they were having.
    The carriage was left spotless after the 12 hour trip. I doubt whites would have done that. Finally, Eddie Murphy is to host the Oscars as Whoopie Goldberg did. They were African American last time I looked. Be proud. You have every reason to be.
    Over the 12 hour trip there was a lot of rubbish form food and drinks. Just before we arrived in New York, they cleaned everything and left the carriage spotless. This showed a pride I doubt many whites would have.
    Fianlly Eddie Murphy is to host the ZOscars.

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