Hollywood Rewind | The Help: Emma Stone plays the White Savior in this problematic but well-played set
“You are kind. You are smart. You are important.” This is such an important message to pass on to our children, and such an important reminder to our adults. That when things or people around you get down on you, you must always remember your own worth, you must be confident in what you can do. And while remembering your strengths is vital, vulnerability is also an important asset, but African Americans do not have had the time and space to be vulnerable, to share their grief and the inhumanity they suffered. Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer-star The Help shows how they got this lucky by literally putting everything who were close to their hearts in the 2011 film.
Help is based on the book of the same name by Kathryn Stockett. It takes place in 1963, in Jackson, Mississippi during the civil rights movement. The narrative centers on two domestic workers – Viola Davis’ Aibileen and Octavia Spencer’s Minny, who, together with Emma Stone’s Skeeter, help bring change to the then racist city. The intention here is clear and honorable to bring out the perspective of the oppressed. But before we talk about the good parts, it’s important to shed some light on the problematic points of The Help. The first is of course the fact that the movie (I haven’t read the book) suffers from what is commonly referred to as the “White Savior Complex”. Emma’s Skeeter is shown as the brave who writes the book about the maids of her hometown, she is the one who has this brilliant idea and so it is Skeeter, the young and privileged white, who is ultimately called the heroine.
Her story and her compassion are what seems to be the main arc. And while the other characters are rounded and complex people as well, she certainly seems to be the one with the most layers and the most meat. It’s projection and that’s a problem with a film that claims to bring the other side to the screen. Additionally, despite the fact that Skeeter’s maid Constantine had such an effect on the protagonist, we’ve just been told that after being fired by Skeeter’s mother, she died of old age and a “ broken heart ”. What happened to his daughter Rachel who had come to visit him? And how can Skeeter so easily forgive her mother with all the righteousness she has in place? Some will say that people forgive things when death is near (Skeeter’s mother had cancer), while others will point out that you can only show a little in a 2.5 hour movie. And these people may be partly right, but even then the film barely erases the surface when it comes to describing the horrors black people must have endured at the time.
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But there is one essential and redemptive quality of The Help – its wonderful group of actors. While this may be one of those rare serious Emma Stone performances with little comedic flavor, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer were phenomenal. Viola, especially in the way she played Aibileen with a big heart but firm, was simply stellar. Her streak with the little girl she is responsible for looking after is both sweet and touching, and the part where she talks about her son’s death is heartbreaking. Jessica Chastain’s Celia was immensely likable, while Bryce Dallas Howard’s Hilly made you really hate her. All the others adapt their roles to the T, a rarity in huge ensemble pieces.
The Help received critical and commercial acclaim after its release. He was nominated for four Oscars and won one; Octavia Spencer won the Golden Statuette for her seductive performance. The film hit $ 217 million out of its modest $ 25 million budget.