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The HelpLess

Thus we have to ask the question: how comfortable should we be with the fictionalized distraction of quiet struggles during the Civil Rights Era when today, at every turn, real-life conservative crackers attack the very advances that were made through loud demonstrations that ended, in some cases, in bloodshed? Brandon Bowlin thedarkroome.com

his may seem a lil Monday morning quarterbackish but I actually wanted no part in

the quarrel about the movies Oscar chances. This is the better timewhen the smoke has cleared and jealousies, imagined or not, pale in the sunlight of the aftermath. There was a lot of chaff being tossed about regarding the success of the movie The Help. Black folk seem to hold it in vessels of ambivalence strained by our progress, a Black President, his attackers, and the belief that it may be time for us to sit out the from a servants eye movies.

ranted I think that hurdle was run up on round the Driving Miss Daisy days. Back

then and there we had stomach-churning toss-ups when this film and Glory were both nominated for Oscars. One film was about Black Men literally fighting to be men. The other was a about a relationship between a White woman and her Man-Servant. Yes, Miss Daisy had some eloquent and decidedly honorable moments, but the movie was about a Southern ideal of imbalanced humanity, and it took a memorable In Living Color sketch to defuse the dredging-up of the particulars of such imbalance. And even while were all still very happy to see Morgan Freeman in both efforts, it was Denzels impudence

which resonated and filled halls with ovation-standing Oscartude. Still, Glory actually comes closer to The Help. It employs the true Hollywood tradition of NOT being able to tell a story of people of color without a supplemental White storyline. Most of the time this is financial (they dont think White folk will watch without a mirror or two on screen and they are mostly right), sometimes it is only racial. However in Glorys case it was true in context. The Negro Union Soldier did NOT exist exclusively and apart from under the purview of White officers. The story can be told without showing one White man, but the climax of White mens heroism NEXT to Black mens heroism IS the exclamation mark to the dramatic arc. Even if one half of that tale is represented by Ferris Bueller.

ut my difficulty with The Help is that I just didnt like the movie. Its shot well.

Written well. Acted well. It even has Sissy Spacek, whom I consider one of our finest actors. My problem with The Help is that nothing in that life, the Southern cotillionstringed life, interests me (aside from certain vintage cars, radios and other gizmos). Ive seen it. Weve all seen it and Im not too sure that there is a time in history that we want to keep going back to the same way; wearing the same uniforms. Also, its hard to wrap my head around the squeezing out of the quiet dignity of the story of these housekeepers when it pales in comparison to what was going on in the movement. Not that their stories arent important but its like giving one sailors perspective about the tense almost-nuclear exchanged missiles of October-tinged days of the Cold Warwhile never peeking into the either Moscows or Washingtons bunkers. The Help almost manages to take one of the most volatile moments in our history to whittle it down to a historical Desperate Housekeepers. Almost from the start I couldnt have cared less what happened to those White households. Yes, the housekeepers were courageous as were ALL the people who stood up back then, yet the first problem for me is that I know who Fannie Lou Hamer was and what she did and went through to get it done. Am I suppose to see more significance in a trick of a shit cake OVER Miss Hamers survival of torture from White Mississippian Highway Patrolmen who forced Black male inmates to beat her unconscious? Is the circle

of women agreeing to be heard through the filter of this White woman supposed to hold as much significance as Hamers speaking at the Democratic convention and her moniker, Im sick and tired of being sick and tired? The second problem for me is that I see Latino housekeepers in Los Angeles in 2012 that are just as invisible as those sistas back then. Both Black and Latina women from the far reaches on this hemisphere have helluva stories that bridge tremendous odds and human interconnection. These womens real-life landings diminished my interest in this film.

he giant twisted elephant in the room is that today, through the Republican Party, all

of those victories and, indeed, our full citizenship and humanity, are/is in jeopardy. Now the coincidence of this films release and todays espoused conservative bigotry may be a simple accident of time. The schedule of production to the screen can only be controlled to a certain degree. But now that its here it is very hard to watch while seeing Republicans in State House after State House move to dismantle voting block districts of color and even to disenfranchise citizens of their voting rights.

No, right now I dont wanna see folk quietly fighting back. I wanna see full-press indictments of the Rights evil roots which are traced back to those very days. I wanna see the hellishness of the White Citizens Council or the Kochs actual father or Pat Buchanans nascent separatist beginnings. I wanna see how the same rhetoric today was used to disenfranchise, disfigure and even kill people merely standing for their rights

back then. No, I am in no mood for housekeeping, maid uniforms, yes maams and victories through a lil White Girl. A made up White Girl.

es. Thats the most stunning part of all this. The Help is fiction. Fiction supposedly

based on true stories as related through a maid by a friendblah blah blah. Thus we have to ask the question: how comfortable should we be with the fictionalized distraction of quiet struggles during the Civil Rights Era when today, at every turn, reallife conservative crackers attack the very advances that were made through loud demonstrations and bloodshed? I am not saying that The Help wasnt a story that should not have been told but, from Hattie and Butterfly to Rochester to the fictional Jane Pitman to the slightly less fictional Roots to Sally Hemings, and so on, Ive seen the rubric of the black servant device before and, to me, it was not effective in this instance.

Could be contextualcould be expectationsor maybe, truly, weve moved on. Maybe we no longer say Im for the Black film because Blacks are in it. Maybe we want to veer away from the easy role. The one we know all too well.

I will let experts on culture and zeitgeist paddle back and forth about whether or not such films should be made. Theres enough history and talent to argue on both sides. For me, its about celebrating the success of the actors and crew for achieving good things with their film. butI just didnt like it. brandonbowlin