Why My Husband Won’t Be Seeing “The Help” by Amy Wise
Okay, I have read and listened and sat back and watched all the controversy regarding The Help. I, too, read the book when it first came out. My Mom sent it to me, and said she was interested to hear my perspective because I’m a white woman married to a black man. She explained that the book was written by a white woman but the characters in the book were mostly black women. She was curious to see how I would perceive the story. First let me say, I thought the book was good — not great, but good. Everyone else on the planet loved it and I only liked it; shoot me. Shortly after I read The Help, I read the modern day version called Substitute Me. To be quite honest, I preferred that book. Interestingly enough, Substitute Me was written by Lori Tharps, who happens to be a black woman.
Now back to the controversy surrounding The Help. I do have the unique perspective of being a white woman married to a black man with a mixed race child. I feel like I can see many different sides of a situation. That being said, I asked my husband the other night if he wanted to go see The Help with me. I should have known what the answer was going to be, but I asked nonetheless. He said, quite emphatically, “Hell no!” I asked why, and he said, “Why would I want to go see a movie about a bunch of black maids getting treated like crap by a bunch of rich white women?!” Yes, that is what he said. Speaks volumes, doesn’t it? I told him about the book, and that the movie had rave reviews. He didn’t care. There was still no way he was going, nor did he have any interest in listening to me explain the plot to him. Black maids … well that was enough to turn him off. I can give you another example of a movie that he despises and I love, and the reasons for the opposite perspectives — Gone With the Wind. I see a classic love story and amazing special effects for the times, and he sees slavery and abuse. So you see, no matter how much we try and sugarcoat things, history is history, and sadly it wasn’t pretty and it still hurts. The difference is, the hurt affects him much differently than it affects me. How could I ever really “feel it” like he does? I can’t. The Help might be getting amazing box office results, but is that because the white audience embraces this story while the black audience is reminded of the painful past?
We still have such a long way to go, and, trust me, my husband and I have dealt with and continue to deal with racism and stereotypes on a constant basis. I have seen my husband falsely arrested with a gun at his head because of the color of his skin, I have seen him pulled over for no reason at all, I have seen people leave an elevator because he is “big, black and scary,” I have had people refuse to shake my hand because of the color of my skin, I have been “shunned” by people, I have seen my daughter called the “n” word. Oh, how I could go on. Our experiences are the “modern day” version of racism, which is nothing like what the women who are portrayed in The Help experienced. We get about an ounce of what they had to deal with, but the sad thing is, we are still dealing with it in 2011.
When writers write, they are creating characters and plots. I’m a writer as well so I understand about writing characters, but when it comes to race, there is such a fine line. I write about the good and the bad of being in a mixed race marriage on my blog The Many Shades of Love, and I try and teach people to look beyond skin color and see into people’s hearts. I was hated for years because I’m a white woman who took another “brotha” from the ‘hood. Now the very people that hated me, love me, because they can see past my skin and into my heart. So, again, my perspective is unique because I truly live both sides of the coin on a daily basis. I will NEVER profess to understanding the full impact of the pain that black people experience due to past and present racism. However, I do understand the pain of the person I love, and the pain of the child I gave birth to. When they hurt, I hurt. That is why I’m so passionate about keeping this conversation alive and continuing to make change.
In the end, The Help is a painful story for the black audience and a piece of history for the white audience. Nothing can change the fact that these maids were “less than” back then, and no matter how much the children “loved” their nannies, and the mothers “appreciated” their maids, these women had no choice and no say — ever. So if black America is upset about this movie, well, I think it’s fair for them to feel that way. More than fair. The Help was still written by a white woman portraying an ugly piece of our history, and yes, it was her experience, but the experience of the maids can’t, and never will, be hers.
I will still go see the movie, and I’m sure I will like it, but I will be seeing this one with a girlfriend. Rest assured, I won’t be convincing my husband to attend this movie – as he said, “Hell, no!”
Want to continue the conversation? Read Lois’ take on The Help here.
Read all about Amy’s book, Believe in Yourself~Inspire Others~Spread Joy, here.