The Help
Directed by Tate Taylor
(United States, 2011)

It was disconcerting to realize while watching this Hollywood movie set in the deep South during the 60s that my progressive political and ideological sensibilities vis à vis race & racism were being flattered excessively — counted upon even — and yet I was still consistently entertained, moved and angered at injustice more than a few times.

So I can certainly see the problems here but find it hard to get particularly worked up about them. There are lies in this film but not the sort of dangerous ones told in something like Mississippi Burning. I’d rather white people feel good about and be encouraged in their anti-racism than feel good about the opposite, or not care at all.

Based on what I’ve read, the source book is just as simplistic and simple, and fictitious, but I still don’t understand extreme reactions to the film like the one from Roxane Gay in The Rumpus, in which she claims she needed a three-week, segregated recovery period. It’s like the film forced her to experience Jim Crow for 2.5 hours, and then she needed to really get away from white people. I don’t know how old she is, but that just seems a bit self-indulgent to me. I also think the tone of complaints from some white critics, including Ben Sachs from the Chicago Reader and Adam Cook on Letterboxd, is more than a little self-congratulatory — they’re those other, more enlightened white people — which I guess means this movie is more subtle in its critiques than most of us thought.

Having said all that, I’d suggest that instead of watching this, watch anything by Charles Burnett.