This has been one of the hardest writings that I have had to put on “paper”. The subject is touchy to say the least and I'm not always the most politically correct person to discuss a sensitive matter such as race relations, but here goes. I would like to talk about both the book and movie THE HELP. I also want to discuss the pressing issue of racism in this day and age.
The book is a well written debut novel by author Kathryn Stockett. Taking place in the middle of the civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s in Jackson, MS, telling the stories of the black maids/nannies, The Help is a triumphant novel for all people. The book tugs at all emotions, making you cry and laugh on the same page. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book from page 1 to 530. I can see why the book is the favorite around some groups and again I say I enjoyed the book, but it did not hit a home run for me. While reading, something just was not right for me. It seemed to be a bit fake and contrived. So, I turned to the last page and saw that Kathryn Stockett was white!!! And then it made sense. The book was written by a white woman in this era about black women of the civil rights era, hmmmmmmmm nope I can’t go. No matter how good the author is or how much research is done on the subject, a white person cannot tell the story of a black person, I'm just saying. I do not think that it reads well for a black person, but it is probably the closest others will get to the true story.
The movie is written, directed and acted superbly. I can find no fault in the actors or actresses and the story came across absolutely genuine. Now as far as the movie following the book, thats a completely different story. I think that one of the few things that the movie got right were the names of the characters. It was a bit disturbing to watch the movie not follow the book. Although there are some similarities between the two, the storyline is a bit off, to say the least. The movie also made light of situations, that to me, were not laughing matters. Again, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed watching the movie. I think that the acting was superb and I'm sure there will be Oscar nominations throughout the cast and crew. Again, I laughed and cried and everything in between. For me the movie was a bit more realistic because I got to see black faces portraying black people (call me shallow) and not someone telling the story of how they thought a people felt in a certain situation.
Having read the book and watched the movie I came to the conclusion that I had to judge each as if the other didn't exist. Separately they are amazing works of art, written well and directed/produced/acted well. The problem I have is with the content. The book does not paint an accurate picture of what MY people went through. And though it may be an accurate story of some, it does not seem to speak to the majority. The movie, while done really well, again does not tell a true and complete story of blacks in Jackson, MS during the civil rights movement. And I am just a bit appalled on how comical the movie came across.
Another point I want to make is on the theater experience itself. There were five blacks in the theater when I went and saw the movie, myself and a friend included. It was crazy to see that we, blacks, found certain scenes funny while others didn't and vice versa. There were times when I wanted to get up and ask someone what was so funny about what was happening, i.e. the maids saying that they would help Ms. Skeeter with the book or the church scenes. I definitely had to calm myself when leaving the theater because I was a bit hostile and really did feel some type of way towards some people.
There are people who don't understand that this movie was set 60 years ago. That's a stones throw in time. I was fortunate enough to have spent time with my great grand parents and grand parents before they left this earth. I listened to the stories that they told of this time. I watched how they acted towards people. I saw the fear in their eyes in certain situations. This is not ancient history people. Our parents lived this, our family lived this, some of US lived this. You have to respect that. Forgive but NEVER forget.
The first question that I want to pose is, if you saw the movie, how did it make you feel to be in the theater with other races?
If you read the book and saw the movie, did you prefer one to the other?
Did the book portray an accurate story for you?
Do we wear blinders about racism in today's world?
Lastly, have we forgotten what our people went through just a few decades ago?
Antoine Banks-Sullivan is a Contemporary Ballet Dancer in Las Vegas, NV