'Help' Wanted: Weighing In on New Film
Professional black women chat about The Help's portrayal of black women and the stereotypical "mammy" role.
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?
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?