There was a lot of work to be done over the weekend. Police brutality protests continued in cities around the world, in response to the murder of George Floyd. Some people protested, and then some people read books or made phone calls or wrote letters or donated (if you’re still not sure what to do, here’s a good place to start). And then some people watched the 2011 film The Help. Scratch that – Netflix says a whole lot of people watched The Help this weekend. Bryce Dallas Howard knows that there’s an endless number of movies people could watch if they really want to, ahem, help. She might have played the shit-eating villain in The Help, but she’s here to let people know The Help is probably one of the shittier resources when it comes to allyship.
Mashable says that The Help is now the most-watched movie on Netflix, and the fifth-most watched piece of media on the platform altogether. Ridiculous, but not totally surprising. Mashable writes that in the wake of the protests and online support for Black Lives Matter, there has also been an encouragement to white people and non-Black POC to better educate themselves on America’s history with racism and systematic oppression of the Black community. So essentially, people probably thought they giving themselves a two-hour lesson in racial reconciliation. Because on the surface, that’s kind of what The Help set out to do. But as a lot of people know, it went about it in a very white, very problematic way. The Help tells the story of Skeeter Phelan (played by Emma Stone), who exposes the racism perpetrated by rich Mississippi housewives, by writing from the point of view of their “help” (the Black domestic workers and child caregivers). Jessica Chastain’s costumes are cute, but that’s pretty much the only thing about it that is.
Viola Davis, who played Aibileen Clark, has spoken out against The Help, saying she regretted being in it. That was two years ago! You would think that we all would have gotten the message, but evidently that’s not the case. Bryce Dallas Howard addressed The Help’s sudden popularity on social media yesterday, and she provided a helpful list of things you should be watching instead of The Help.
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I’ve heard that #TheHelp is the most viewed film on @netflix right now! I’m so grateful for the exquisite friendships that came from that film — our bond is something I treasure deeply and will last a lifetime. This being said, The Help is a fictional story told through the perspective of a white character and was created by predominantly white storytellers. We can all go further. Stories are a gateway to radical empathy and the greatest ones are catalysts for action. If you are seeking ways to learn about the Civil Rights Movement, lynchings, segregation, Jim Crow, and all the ways in which those have an impact on us today, here are a handful of powerful, essential, masterful films and shows that center Black lives, stories, creators, and / or performers: 13th Eyes on the Prize I am Not Your Negro Just Mercy Malcom X Say Her Name: The Life And Death Of Sandra Bland Selma Watchmen When They See Us This is not a comprehensive list so please add to it in the comments below!
That’s a good list. No one asked my opinion, but if I had to suggest a title, I’d say, Poetic Justice, because it’s iconic for about a million reasons. And really, there’s no wrong answer. As Bryce specifically pointed out, the best way to learn is literally to choose films and documentaries that were written and directed by Black creators. And that’s not The Help, which was directed by a white person, and based on a book that was written by a white person, and focuses on a white person’s character development. Bryce put in some work, and like she said, we can all go further with our learning. But I think we all could agree that we also would have accepted it if she had simply written, “Only watch The Help if you want a lesson on terrible wig work.”