The Trouble with the Movie MA

mamovie

I never finished watching The Help.

This wasn’t due to trying, it was mostly out of frustration and exhaustion. I hate the “noble negro” archetype used in the film, one of black people putting aside their personal wellbeing and happiness for the benefit of a white person. When one of the characters declines payment for her contributions because she “just wants to tell her story”, I nearly rolled my eyes out of the back of my head. It was a white fantasy, like Lord of the Rings, a magical place where systemic racism doesn’t exist and minor characters are happy to serve in the background. I was also slightly insulted that a movie like that could exist when so many people were having conversations about Crash, another white fantasy race conciliation film. Several years later one of the stars of The Help, Viola Davis, spoke out in 2018 about her regrets of being involved with that film. In an interview with the New York Times, she spoke of her current opinions of the film as, “I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard. I know Aibileen. I know Minny. They’re my grandma. They’re my mom. And I know that if you do a movie where the whole premise is, I want to know what it feels like to work for white people and to bring up children in 1963, I want to hear how you really feel about it. I never heard that in the course of the movie.” These sentiments were largely shared by black audiences who were exhausted of movie narratives where black people’s stories were marginalized for a white protagonist. Later, in 2018 a film came out that would go on spark some of the same debate, stoking more controversy by winning a Best Picture Oscar. That movie being Green Book, which was produced by the Help actress and MA star, Octavia Spencer. Her new starring role in MA, reunites her with The Help director Tate Taylor.

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