‘Help’ Wanted: Weighing In on New Film

Professional black women chat about The Help's portrayal of black women and the stereotypical "mammy" role.

Touchstone Pictures
Touchstone Pictures

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Jenée: It made me side-eye the film somewhat, but I was still open to liking it.

Me: All right, so then what did you like most about the film?  

Jenée: Crickets.

Dawn: I loved the part where chubby little Mae Mobley was calling after Aibileen [played by Viola Davis] when she left. That was heart wrenching! You knew that Mae Mobley’s own mother, who was embarrassed by her, felt a real sense of jealousy because her daughter loved Aibileen so much.

Moni: I loved that the movie was funny, yet told a human story and gave a perspective of important women who often don’t have a voice.

Me: And what had you rolling your eyes into the back of your head?

Jenée: “The “You is smart, you is kind” mantra Aibileen taught Mae Mobley was unbearable. If she was going to say it that many times, she could have said, “You are … “

Gizele: The character Constantine [played by Cicely Tyson] was actually the most disappointing part of the movie. They aged her like a hundred years and simultaneously made her a shuffling mammy. In the book, Constantine seems like a stronger and younger version of Aibileen, not an old, bent-over Cicely Tyson. I mean, I’m not against Cicely Tyson playing the part, as long as they let her stand up straight.

Moni: Cicely Tyson’s wig.

Me: I’m hearing a lot of Cicely Tyson concerns, which I had myself. She’s too regal to be relegated to the back of the bus on the credits. Do you think the “mammy” role — black women taking care of their hapless white charges — will ever go away?