“When I read ‘The Help’ two years ago (I couldn’t put it down) and watched the film last Saturday (which made me laugh and cry), I could feel the pain of another white 40-something Mississippian who wants to make it all better.
“She’s pining for a happier ending for our state, and she’s using her talents to make it so,” Donna Ladd, editor of the Jackson Free Press, an alternative paper in Jackson, Miss., wrote on Wednesday. Jackson is the setting of the much-discussed film and novel “The Help.”
Ladd, a native of Philadelphia, Miss., was in this column last month as former chair of the Diversity Committee of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, commenting on efforts to diversify alternative newsweeklies.
“Did she intentionally write a fairy tale?” Ladd continued. “Certainly, her tale is infused with bits of truth about the horror of the time for black women and tragedy of white women raised to love, hate and abuse them all at the same time.
“But those nuggets are, seemingly, uninformed by voices of real black women, from former maids . . . to female intellectuals like bell hooks and, now, [Melissa Harris-Perry], who can teach us if we’ll just listen.
Donna Ladd “. . . For me as a hell-raising white woman, ‘The Help’ bothers me even more. I love the strong women in it, but I know our history well enough to see how the movie’s naive ending softens our history for newer generations. The story touches on the Citizens Council and Medgar Evers‘ murder by a Citizens Councilor, but viewers will not know just how entrenched Jackson was in 1963-64. Bill Simmons, the head of the Citizens Councils of America, used to spread race hatred from his Fairview Street home before it became an inn. He used to say he knew where every white person in Jackson stood on the race question.
“. . . ‘The Help’ just could not have ended as it did. Hilly, or her man, would have called the Council on Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter. My guess is that Aibileen would have been severely beaten and never hired again in the state; anyone related to Skeeter would have been destroyed economically and at least one cross burned in her mama’s yard; and Minny would have been killed and her house burned.”
“The Help” has received mixed reviews from African American critics and columnists, but is doing well at the box office.
“After debuting in the No. 2 spot last weekend, the film about sisterhood in the racially divided 1960s’ South has [led] the midweek derby on strong word-of-mouth and should closet a total of $70 million by Sunday night,” Paul Dergarabedian wrote Friday for the Associated Press.