The Help Wins! 6 Reasons I’m Totes Thrilled

I was worried last year. I had pretty much exhausted the canon of movies that remind me how awful it is to be an RBP. I had gone through Tyler Perry’s joints. I had taken copious notes on how people of color were relegated to the tiniest of roles in regular movies. I read up on Lucas’s problems with Red Tails. But Oreos require constant inspiration and I was running low.

And then tonight’s SAG Awards happened. And The Help won Best Picture.

Here are 6 reasons why it’s beyond baller that it did.

1. Keeping the genre alive. Look, there’s only so much room in the canon for “thrillers” or “comedies” or “silent films.” We need to constantly push the envelope. At this time, we have amazing technology that can take us to far away worlds or put a new spin on old techniques…. But both of those things take quite a bit of work and challenge filmmakers as well as audiences. Much better to bask in nostalgia, both in the look and mentality of the films we choose to make and laud.

2.  Wildly inconsistent stakes distract from period horrors. So, the RBP ladies in this movie need Skeeter because it’s too risky for them to speak up for themselves. If they do, they’ll get fired, or worse. So it makes total sense then, that Minnie bakes her own shit into a pie and gives it to a white lady. Because if it’s such a terrifying time that black people can be killed for looking twice at a white person, I’m sure they’ll be perfectly safe by giving their former employers a Hep strain.

Because the film doesn’t make it clear how dangerous a time it was, it lets us know that it probably wasn’t all ~that~ bad in the end. I mean, there was room for shit pie.

How did she even know how to properly season a poop in a pie in the first place?

3. Totally reasonable reason for firing someone turns into abhorrent reason to fire someone and thus makes the fired seem a bit petty at the end of the day. So, in addition to emotionally molesting her friends for their stories that she’s going to publish, Skeeter also spends a great deal of time pestering her mother to tell her what happened to the mammy she grew up with. With a tearful story, her mom finally tells her.

Turns out, Skeeter’s mammy was like 174 years old and couldn’t properly serve meals anymore. Also, during a very important meeting, the mammy’s daughter bursts into the room and interrupts. This is the equivalent of me following my company’s CEO to a business lunch and then sitting down at their table as if our company’s CEO has any idea who I am.

What Skeeter’s mammy did was a perfectly reasonable firing offense. And so, again, it reminds us that things weren’t really all that bad back in the ol’ Jim Crow days, so seriously, what is everyone complaining about??

4. Reminder that it doesn’t matter if you were beaten to shit by the cops and your kids can’t go to college–if your friend gets a book deal, it’s all worth it! One of the maids, Yule May, steals a ring to help pay for her sons to go to college. This is a crime. For the infraction, she’s beaten half to death by a couple of white cops.

The next time we see Yule May, we don’t see her broken bones or bruised face from being the victim of very unreasonable search and seizure. Instead, we see her yukking it up in jail, reading Skeeter’s book. There’s no more mention of her poor sons who now can’t get an education, nor do we see how exactly her bones managed to knit after two grown men used the full force of their physicality on her. This, like with point 3, reminds us that things surely couldn’t have been all too terrible, so why can’t we all just get along now!

5. If something’s shot on celluloid or shown in a theater and doesn’t feature a black woman saying “I love me some fried chicken,” then I don’t think that thing can properly call itself a film.

Here’s some more fun with The Help. This piece wasn’t nominated for Best Short Subject Film, I’ll never know. I’m sure we can all agree that it was a snub!

6. Okay, fine. Viola is pretty amazeballsingly gorgeous. As discussed before, self-loathing makes the Oreo go ’round and I was running low. Now I get to be bummed out not only about being black, but about my complete inability to achieve this kind of statuesqueness.
What do you think? Did The Help deserve the award? Do you want it to get an Oscar, too? What do you think should get the gold this year? Let us know in the comments! 
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14 comments

  1. Oreo (don’t know your first name), but love your emails. You have three great skills. You’re smart, you’re funny, and you have a great sense of irony/sarcasm. Keep posting, Oreo.
    Dennis

  2. You’ve hit the nail on the head! And thankfully so, because I can barely find the words to describe how ridiculous it is that a snow-job, white-ingratiating fluff film like this is winning best picture. Thanks again for your on point commentary!

  3. I was blind-sided into watching this film (play on movie titles intentional). I found it to be a really good film, with really good acting; probably on the level of Training Day and Monster’s Ball. Both of those were good movies that had nothing in them that warranted any awards either. Even my teenage son thinks that for a RBP to win an award for acting in a movie, they have to bring dignity and/or power to a demeaning role, but don’t get them for playing dignified or honorable roles. Just some thoughts on your thoughts:

    1. Skeeter spoke for Black women in a book back then the same way that Lucas speaks for Black film makers now. This shows that the role of White person speaking up for Black people has kept up with advancements in technology.
    2. Looking a White Person in the eye was definitely more dangerous than feeding them a double-fudge cream pie. You can tell your husband to kill someone for eyeballin’ you, but can you actually tell him you ate a whole poop-cream pie and expect him to ever kiss you again?
    3. Sons who don’t go to college are never heard from again. They cease to exist unless a White person writes a book about them. Now if they are killed in the movie, they become central characters… like the son. If they are a main character who dies, like Denzel in Glory and Training Day, and Forest Whitaker in the Last King of Scotland, then they win awards.
    4. The bruises, oppression, or heartbreak that happen to RBP are never so bad that if one character triumphs out of 30+ million who are suffering, everyone will still feel better before the ending credits. That’s why I love movies.
    5. Viola is beautiful, but you were working that maid outfit. You even made that candy-striper outfit look good enough to cure cancer.

  4. I busted up when I saw the movie poster (“You’re welcome black people….White people solve racism”). You’re this funny, and Fox News bashed you? I think I’m in love. Ha!

  5. You’re so right, once again. I read the book because everyone was telling me how incredibly profound it was (please note that “everyone” in this case constitutes the bible-beating homeschooling military spouses that make up my current surroundings), and found myself wanting to bash my head into a wall on several occasions. I have avoided watching the movie, as I’m pretty sure I’ll end up ranting throughout most of the thing (or muttering expletives under my breath). Thanks for rescuing southern movie goers from such a display of clearly non-southern behavior.

  6. The fact that in the 1960’s Deep South, there was, apparently, “room for shit pie” from a black person.

    That accurately sums up what’s wrong with this movie in a nutshell. Good job.

  7. Uh, yeah, Ms. Viola does look “statuesque”, really beautiful. But so are you! Hey sometimes I wish I could seperate myself from MY race and sex! I mean, we REALLY screwed things up in history! I enjoy your blog, find it refreshing even, but you judge yourself so harshly. We think you’re fine person. And attractive too.

  8. I always consider it a sign of how good a film is if I find myself getting distracted creating a parallel fan-film in my head (based on watching the ‘Casanova’ film featuring the late lamented Heath Ledger where my sisters and I created a whole story for a man and his market stall holding wife who honestly stole the film at one point).

    Throughout The Help, I kept wondering who was missing and why I kept expecting a certain someone to walk around the corner and bring a sense of reality to the film; it took me until about halfway through when I realised that I was looking for Treelore, Aibileen’s dead son. Instead of killing him off in a suitably tragic way, so we would never be troubled by a black person with an independent existence, he would have been the ideal counter to Skeeter, coming back home from University ready to start something by documenting the way his mother and other women like her are forced to put up with. We know there were other men and women like him (http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/) – why not let them tell their story for a change.

    But then what do I know.

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