Monday, January 30, 2012

How "The Help" Helped Me!

>Sometimes I just hate black history month. I hate remembering the unfortunate past of our ancestors. I hate being reminded of the "evils" of white people, and the permanent damage slavery and it's aftermath has done to black people. I hate the photos, I hate the video footage, the riots, I hate all of it because it hurts too much to imagine that these things and behaviours were once standard.

I avoid it. Yes, I'm a coward in that I don't want to confront the images and stories if I don't have to. I haven't seen Amistad. I've never sat through Roots, although I've tried many a time to read it and watch the movie. Hell I'll admit it: I haven't even finished reading Malcolm X! As a writer, a communications graduate, and as a black person...I should be ashamed to admit it. But I just HATE the fact that this extreme overt ignorance is only a few generations away from my reality now.

And then I had to go and watch "The Help." Lord help me, because it was wonderful and painful all wrapped up into one film! I knew it was a good movie, but never got around to the theatre to watch it months ago. But now that Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer have been on the news these past couple of weeks with recognition for their acting...I figured it was time for me to take a look.

It's a great movie. Actually, it's the best movie I've seen in a while. It hit me on so many levels that I couldn't not like it. The black woman level. The independent woman level. The "writing" woman level. It was catching me at all angles and add in the entertainment value, and I couldn't go wrong.

Based in Mississippi in the 1960s, it tells the story of Skeeter (Emma Stone), a journalism graduate and aspiring novelist as she uncovers the untold stories of the domestic helpers in her community. I love the characters Aibileen (played by Viola Davis who was nominated for a Golden Globe, and won a Screen Actors Guild award for her performance), and also Minny (played by Octavia Spencer who won both the Globe and the SAG award). There were also great performances by acting heavyweights Allison Janney, Cicely Tyson, and Sissy Spacek. A great cast of women, as most of the men were unidentifiable.

Despite the heart-wrenching mistreatment of the "negras" and the painful references to segregation, and legislation-supported bigotry...it was an empowering story.

I loved how Skeeter was so determined to tell the story of "the help," and make an impact in her immediate surroundings with her writing. I loved the intelligent "sass" of Minny, and the quiet strength of Aibileen. I was reminded of how STRONG our people had to be to endure such bullshit for so many years!

It hurts, but at the same time it is completely uplifting because I am then reminded of how we have risen. It hurts, but it also shows me how important it is to have a strong character, and determination...even in the worst situations. It shows me that we as a people should make it a point to ensure that we are continuously uplifted, supported, and improving.

It hurts, but it heals, because it has helped me to remember my ancestry and the footsteps I am walking it. It has helped me to remember that even when you have absolutely nothing...you still have your will, your pride, and you can still affect change both within yourself, and externally.

The Help has helped me to not be afraid of this rich black history, but to embrace it for what it is, and learn from the lessons that have already been taught.

Thanks to writer/director Tate Taylor, I have been enlightened tonight!

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