Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Should I Feel Guilty for Liking "The Help"?

I finally saw "The Help." It was on a day when I was not feeling well and I needed a little entertainment. I read the book (and blogged about it). And I wanted to see the movie, because, you know, Emma Stone. But then the movie came out. And then the firestorm. You know, white woman, black women, inaccuracies about Civil Rights. I don't want to belittle those concerns. Those are legitimate concerns. I want to talk about those things. I do. And I have.
But here's the thing: I liked the movie. I enjoyed it. It was hard to watch. I thought Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis were both amazing. And Emma Stone was good. And it made me cry.
After I returned the movie, I sat on the couch and wondered if I was a bad person for liking this movie. Am I ignorant? Unfeeling? Stupid?
My guilt over enjoying this movie made me think about when I saw "The Last Temptation of Christ." I was a student at the University of Oregon in 1988 (good lord, I am old!) and when I went to see it, at a little theater, there were a bunch of well-meaning Christians and their children with signs about how the movie was bad and I shouldn't see it. I remember thinking, "Rambo III is playing across town. Wouldn't it be more appropriate to protest that?"
I have somewhat the same response to objections to "The Help." On the one hand, I understand the objections. Yes, it is inaccurate in some aspects. Yes, it's not right that a book by a white women about black women gets more attention then the numerous books by black women about black women.  I get that.
But, if the book and the movie, get us (as a culture) talking about race, and how messed up we still are about race in 2012, isn't that a good thing?
I mean, many, many, many movies come out and they are good, but they don't cause us to think about who we are as Americans.
So, I guess my question is, how is that a bad thing?
And also, I just want to like it. Okay?


Ann said...

A nice, thoughtful examination of your response. But since I think people should never have to defend their taste when it comes to books and movies, I'm gonna answer your question with a big fat "no."

Lisa B. said...

I entirely agree with Ann. And I liked that movie, too, many many things about it. My southern-raised mom, too, loved the book and the movie--and that's one of the things to appreciate about both, that it creates a space where people of so many backgrounds and generations can talk about, as you said so nicely, who we are as Americans, when we talk about race.

Stephanie said...

I agree with both Ann and Lisa.

Living here in the South, there was a lot of hubbub about the film when it came out. Several of my friends went to see it simply because Octavia and Viola's characters reminded them of their own mothers, aunts and grandmothers who went out to be "the help."

This film is an interesting contrast of images and discussions when I think of the "million hoodie marches" now taking place.

I can't help but wish it was "just" movies that encouraged us to talk about race instead of the tragic death of a young man.