Context and a Movie: "The Help"

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Help, based on the popular book by the same name, opened in movie theaters yesterday. Sheri Parks, professor of American studies at the University of Maryland and author of Fierce Angels: The Strong Black Woman in American Life and Culture, and David Edelstein, film critic for New York magazine and NPR's Fresh Air, provide historical and cultural context for the book and new feature film.

Listeners: Did you see the movie yet? Did you read the book? What are your thoughts about "The Help"? Call us or comment here!


David Edelstein and Sheri Parks

Comments [20]


The trailer was nauseating. I had to pick my eyeballs up off the floor. Enough of this $#@! already.

Aug. 12 2011 09:30 AM
rose-ellen from jacksin hts.

Black irish are the way the original celts looked -prior to other european invasions Hence the welsh and breton celts also have more dark hair and darker skin then northern european-non celtic- tribes do.

Aug. 11 2011 02:39 PM
Katie from Huntington

To John from The Office: He was dark haired Irish--I already checked out the ancestry. I remember his father (my grandfather); my dad looked just like him. Dad also worked outside all day, and fished all weekend; he tanned nicely (something I never did), so he was very dark, but not mulatto, but what difference?

Aug. 11 2011 12:10 PM

Another embarrassment for Hollywood. Sounds awful.

Aug. 11 2011 12:03 PM

I haven't seen this film but I suspect the subject matter is not past tense.
I am an independant worker (in horticulture) and many of my accounts are residential, all of my clients have baby sitters, house keepers, etc. Race and especially class issues are very much alive and kicking.

Aug. 11 2011 11:58 AM
Alex from Manhattan

That "The Help" is being framed as a work for white readers see the struggle of black women in the Jim Crow era South is highly problematic. It is a subdued, digestible version of an extraordinarily violent era of American history, and the book and movie are an excuse for whites to assuage guilt and "understand" the black experience without doing the hard work of hearing the black perspective on this disturbing time in American history.

Aug. 11 2011 11:57 AM
Nikko from Queens

I'm particularly interested to see if this movie will spark conversations about our attitudes and perceptions of domestic work, particularly in the context of the recent movements across the globe (Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka) to curtail the domestic laborer diaspora and recent efforts in several states to gain a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

Aug. 11 2011 11:56 AM
The Truth from Becky

I repeat.....WE are not amused!

Aug. 11 2011 11:56 AM
KD from Brooklyn

What is this nonsense about usurping others' stories without crediting? Does this mean that I as a woman of color cannot write a book that tells the story of white women. Enough already!!

Aug. 11 2011 11:56 AM
Sandra from New York, NY

I've almost finished the book. I'm a black woman, age 56 raised in NY, so I've no experience as referenced in the book. I loved the book, well written, hurting, funny at times. I did not see Aibeleen as the "Aunt Jemima" type. I saw her as the smart one. Looking fwd to how the film is done.

Aug. 11 2011 11:55 AM
John from office

I am so tired of hearing that whites are unable to understand the black experience. Every group has had problems and oppression.

Aug. 11 2011 11:53 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

i don't think the conflict is about "how difficult to make black films"--that's facile, at best. just look at the preview--the whole premise, as is customary with hollywood, is all about a white person (in this case, a female journalist) liberating struggling black people (in this case, female domestics). proof that hollywood often destroys what could be a good story, if only they didn't need to please focus groups and their own illusions about humanity.

Aug. 11 2011 11:52 AM
Burroughs from Harlem

My mother worked as a maid in NYC and I distinctly remember how angry she would be after a days work. Her anger has made me dislike and mistrust white people but I have an understanding of its source that allows me to deal with it. This anger is within me and it has not dissipated. This is a scar that will never heal.

Aug. 11 2011 11:52 AM
steven trollo from harlem

Parks is an amazing author and worked I part of my SUNY thesis on this novel. I always have wondered what how her use of the Siamese cat "bukakke" represented the Asians plight

Aug. 11 2011 11:49 AM
MP from Brooklyn

I can't say anything specific about the book or movie, as I have neither read nor seen and do not intend to, but I learned years ago that if it is on the NYT bestseller list, I will probably hate it.

Aug. 11 2011 11:47 AM
john from office

Black Irish are darked haired Irish, as a result of the Spanish Armada being sunk and the spanards fleeing to Ireland. But they were white Europeans. Katie, your dad sound like a mullato, time to ask some questions.

Aug. 11 2011 11:46 AM
janny from jersey city

My 15 year old daughter and i both loved the book, and plan to see the movie together. I remind my daughter that this took place in my lifetime - still astounding to me. I am glad I am raising her in such a racially diverse city as JC---i think it's hard for her to truly understand the awful divisions, injustice and cruelty that was every day life back then...

Aug. 11 2011 11:45 AM
The Truth from Becky

An overtold story - WE are not amused!

Aug. 11 2011 11:44 AM

I read the book and loved it. It brought me back to the 50s and was so familiar. I didn't live in the south, but I remember the turmoil and treatment of blacks at that time. My dad was 'black Irish,' meaning darker skinned and tan, and my Mom and I were both fair skinned redheads. While in Virginia on vacation, they would not serve us in a restaurant. I didn't understand what was happening at the time, but it made the unfairness of segregation very clear to me. I think the book showed how strong all the women--the protagonist and the Help characters--were. I hope the movie does as good a job.

Aug. 11 2011 11:35 AM
Jennifer Williams from Brooklyn

Aug. 11 2011 11:29 AM

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