A Help-Style White-on-Black Interview
With the Oscars just around the corner, I'm busy getting caught up on my best-picture nominees! This week, I watched The Help, which is a movie about how poop is hilarious and racism gives you cold sores. In it, a white lady-journalist collects and publishes the stories of black domestic workers in Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960s. The movie maneuvers around the awkwardness of white women speaking for black women by framing it all as an interview: The black ladies tell their own stories to the benevolent white lady. See? They have their own voices! Super-empowering! (Thanks to the white lady.) Recently, I, a white lady-journalist, watched The Help with my roommate, who is a black person. Soooooooo... taking a cue from the movie The Help, I just interviewed him about it! Here's what my black roommate has to say about The Help:
What did you think of The Help?
It was good. It was okay. Kinda boring. I'm not going to say it wasn't offensive, but I'm considerably less offended than I thought I would be.
There was a LOT of poop in this movie. What do you feel the poop symbolized?
Uh... is that offensive?
Do you feel like the message of the movie was a little bit paternalistic and condescending? Like, that white people are patting themselves on the back for getting black people out of a jam that they, the white people, created in the first place?
Yeah, but it does that less than most movies. I didn't like the part when the white lady helped the black lady start a shrimp company, though.
No, but seriously, it seems like there's been a lot of backlash to this movie.
I feel like there have been movies that addressed the larger issues of racism, like, you know, Mississippi Burning (murder), The Color Purple (the aftermath of slavery). But there aren't a lot of movies that address just being treated shittily. Things like murder—it's easy for white people to be like, "I'm not racist—I've never murdered anyone!" But it gets a little hairier when you get into, well, do you actually just treat some people shitty? So it's the beginning of addressing slightly subtler forms of racism, which rarely get addressed. So on that end, I commend it. But it's still a Hollywood movie about, you know, white people saving the day.
Is it racist that I'm interviewing you about this movie?
I think it's racist that you're making me vacuum while you do it.
I'm sorry about racism.
That's essentially what we've been looking for this whole time—just a "My bad" from white people.
Well, you're welcome.