The Help, Hollywood, and White Happiness
The latest in a long list of Mighty Hhitey (White Savior) movies The Help, has been getting largely positive reviews from, you guessed it mostly white film critics:
“The Help” is the sort of film that studios typically save for the holiday prestige season in November or December, when Academy Awards voters start thinking ahead to the films they want to anoint…Come awards time, many of them likely will be thinking of “The Help,” whose remarkable ensemble of women offers enough great performances to practically fill the actress categories at the Oscars.”
“The movie isn’t perfect; it sometimes shows its stitching. But mostly it’s a stirring salute to subjugated women who hold their heads high.”
“A deeply touching human story filled with humor and heartbreak is rare in any movie season, especially summer. That’s what makes The Help an exhilarating gift…It’s an intimate epic, not a historical one. And the tale written on the eloquent faces of Davis and Spencer speaks to the heart.”
Although I’ve never seen it (and I don’t plan on ever seeing it), I know just by watching the trailer alone, that it’s a movie about a white person helping downtrodden black folks. Most critics have painted this movie as the ‘feel good’ film of the year worthy of awards galore. However, it recycles the usual theme in certain movies about race relations, that people of color (POC) are in an unspoken predicament (sometimes implying that they are the cause of their own plight) and that the only means to their salvation is a white person who becomes the story’s hero everyone should root for.
Audience members, mostly of the Caucasian persuasion, feel warm and fuzzy inside. They believe they know more about history and POC just by watching the films. Any sense of shame or guilt is eased by the image of the white knight saving those who are portrayed as helpless or hopeless, and it is replaced with a sense of happiness and hidden racial conceitedness and arrogance that feeds their egos. It matters if it was ‘based on a true story’ as they see it as proof that white people are not all bad. It doesn’t matter to them even if some such movies were written, true story of not, to make white heroes seem more like angels than human beings. It doesn’t matter if actual history has either been transformed or completely omitted to satisfy the plotlines. And it damn sure isn’t important if POC become offended or outraged.
At the expense of historical and contemporary facts and the self esteems of POC in general, Hollywood produces movies where white people are, in some way, shape or form, superior to everyone else. The usual argument against that truth is that it is just a movie. It’s just entertainment. But Hollywood and the media in general are both powerful institutions. However, they are not immune from the sickness of racism. What can be considered ‘entertainment’ for one can be offensive to another, and race can never be ruled out of the equation. White savior movies help maintain the racist illusion that POC, usually black and brown, are the causes of their own problems, not the system or history of white supremacy. Nothing and no one else is responsible. They are simply ’uncivilized’ compared to whites. Some films project the illusions that white people in general got their shit together, and that racism is an individual problem. Some films will even try to “lighten up” history itself as a way of teaching more lies, any lies to make whites look great.
And some people simply can’t get enough of that garbage. They are addicted to happiness like a drug, and The Help will certainly provide them over two hours worth. In a white supremacist nation the constant mission to make white people feel good and supreme no matter the cost is more than obvious within the media networks. Does it matter to them what effect this has on POC. Hell no! All that matters is the money they would rake in from people still in the dark about this truth. We should not expect anything more from an industry owned and operated by mostly whites. After all, they only see things in white and green, and as far as they are concerned, it’s all good.