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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

When Black Stories Are Written By White People

From left, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis are shown in a scene from "The Help." (AP/Disney)

From left, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis are shown in a scene from "The Help." (AP/Disney)

The movie, “The Help,” has been nominated for four Academy Awards. The musical, “Porgy and Bess,” has gotten raves for star Audra McDonald on Broadway. And the HBO television series, “The Wire,” has been cited by television critics as one of the greatest series ever made.

But all three have raised objections in the African American community, which may have to do with the fact that they were created by white people.

For instance, the Association of Black Women Historians says “The Help” distorts and trivializes the experiences of black domestic workers.

Here & Now pop culture critic Renee Graham, whose African American grandmother worked for well-to-do white families, agrees.

Graham said the portrayal of the maids was stereotypical and she adds, “The book is called ‘The Help.’ But it’s really about the white protagonist who helps the help by writing a book.”

Graham has fewer problems with “Porgy and Bess,” as she finds it less centered around white protagonists.

As for “The Wire,” Graham says that it takes swipes at the failings of law enforcement, politicians and the judicial system.

But she says, “At the same time I could never get past the fact that the show seemed like a glorification of criminality and black-on-black violence.”


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  • Shelley

    I grew up in the 1950s in Montgomery, Alabama. My family was white, and we had black maids and yard men. The book, The Help, to me, rang very true. It seems a very accurate depiction of the times and its people, right down to the dialect of the blacks and rigid social protocols of the whites. I would like to say that one can’t judge one era by the standards of another. Most of us in the South are extremely glad that those days are gone, but we realize society changed one person at a time. 

  • Yellowdogred

     Taking Renee’s Graham’s shopworn objections to their (ill) logical conclusion, no white people can play the blues or sing gospel, Kathleen Battle cannot sing opera, and Dickens has no business creating a Miss Havisham because he was a man.

    Ms. Graham sounds like she has some anger issues to work out. C’mon, join the 21st century already.

    • Questioner

      How did you conclude the above from what Renee Graham said?  I don’t understand you.

      • Yellowdogred

        If you don’t understand my comments then can you tell me what you DID get from her interview??

        • Questioner

          I didn’t listen to the interview, I just read the above article.  And it would be helpful if you told me how you came to that conclusion.

          • Yellowdogred

            First go listen to the interview. Then see if you agree with her that a person of a particular cultural background, gender or skin color cannot write fiction based on the human experience. Now change “writing fiction” to “performing music” or any other artistic endeavor.

            Or is it that you don’t know who Kathleen Battle or Charles Dickens are?

          • Questioner

            I listened to it.  I don’t think you paid attention to all she said.  She doesn’t like the Help because she doesn’t think it’s an accurate portrayal of black maids’ experiences, moreover, the author admitted that she never really got to know the lady who worked as her maid.  She likes Porgy and Bess, even though it is written by non-Black people and is about black people, and even though some black people don’t like it (as Terry points out).  She does sound angry (though I think she probably has very good reasons to be), and I personally don’t think that is a problem, however, many black people hate it when non-Blacks  accuse them of being angry (accurately or inaccurately) and when you do so, most of the time you shut down any chances of reasonable discussion.  She also states that her own grandmother was a maid for white people, so she explains where her point of view is coming from.

            I read the Help.  I thought it was “cute” (not in a complimentary way) and not to be taken seriously by anyone.  I didn’t bother to see the movie.  My mother (who is black, as I am) and who works in a hotel as a maid read the book and seems to think it’s ok (her boss told her about it, and she seems to like the book.  My Mom told me about the book).

            I do know who Charles Dickens was.  I have no time to read all his books but I read a Tale of Two cities and I like the plot and the opening line. 

            People can write whatever they like and people are free to dislike whatever they dislike for whatever reason.

            I don’t care to know who Kathleen Battle is.  Wait, apparently she’s the black lady who sang in Porgy and Bess.  Whatever.

          • Yellowdogred

            P.S. Dickens wasn’t French and so “A Tale Of Two Cities” goes on the trash heap with the rest.

          • Questioner

             I don’t care.  But maybe you do because the purity of art is important to you.  Do you see what I’m saying.  I don’t know why you insist on mischaracterizing Ms. Graham’s words.  She just says, write what you know and if you’re writing about something that’s not a part of your identity do research and keep it as authentic as possible.  The men who wrote Porgy and Bess are white men, yet Ms. Graham likes it (and she explains why) but you choose to not comment on that.  France and Britain have a long history.  Charles Dickens is British, he chooses to write about French and British relations.  I suppose some French people may dislike A Tale of Two Cities for the same reason that Ms. Graham dislikes the Help (mischaracterization of reality).

          • Yellowdogred

            Ms Graham splits hairs, that’s my comment. If the French dislike A Tale Of  Two Cities for the same reasons as Ms Graham then they are equally silly. As if we don’t have enough racial problems she has to go and invent another one.

          • Questioner

             But that’s what critics do.  Especially literary and film critics, they split hairs and call it close reading, or analysis, or whatever.  I think you just don’t like how she split the hairs, but if she split them in a way that you liked you wouldn’t be calling it silly.  I’m sure the author of the Help knew that not all black people would like or appreciate her book (and the movie).  I don’t think Ms. Graham invented a new racial problem, that problem existed before the Help, specifically, the issue of how some black people feel about the portrayal of blacks and minorities in the media, which is based on bigger issues of race which are too complex and too deeply rooted in the history of America for anyone to solve.

          • Yellowdogred

            Grahams criticism goes beyond artistic concerns and concocts a racial divide that some of us clearly are not interested in playing along with. Human beings write about human beings. The End.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/DQHMYSHXRSTOLVI2FXWMWLYLDU Pamela

            In honor of Black History Month, I have agreed to step up when other white people are out of line. You are out of line. Questioner is correct. “The End.”

          • Yellowdogred

            EPILOGUE: Since we are discussing fiction I will allow that you can imagine my remarks as inappropriate. I will also imagine a world, your world, with no books by Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, or Toni Morrison who were also out of line for writing across racial lines. Here’s to a world where the color of your skin is as significant as the color of your hair.

  • Anonymous

    Ms. Graham is black, read only a few chapters of “The Help,” but saw the movie twice. 

    Robin, I have an offer for you.  I am French and read the first few chapters of Les Miserables (an awfully long book), but I did see the movie once and saw the musical twice.  I even own the CD of the musical  Please, with the bar so low for getting on your program to offer opinions, when you need some expert opinion on whether Les Miserables accurately followed the plight of the French people during their revolution, I am your man!

    • Yellowdogred

      I just found out that “Danny Boy” was written by a British lawyer. Oh, is nothing sacred????

  • http://twitter.com/patricia_grace Patricia Grace

    Men write novels from the perspective of women. Vice versa for female authors. Adults write from the perspective of children whose childhood is vastly different from their own. That’s what people do. White people write from the perspective of a black person. Black people are free to write from others’ perspectives also.

    As for movies, Hollywood often deals in stereotypes and (gasp!) dramatizes serious situations for humor. That is what big budget movies are about–entertainment primarily, with perhaps some food for thought thrown in.

    As for “write what you know”??? Great advice. Some writers have chosen to explore new territory and “write what they don’t know”. It’s made for some great reads.

    As usual, the black professional takes an angry dismissive view of a work done by a white person that involves black people.

    Two things will remain true: We will never have a truly whole society, free from racism and prejudice until BLACKS decide THEY want that. For many blacks, victimization is like an exclusive club; wanting to belong is a powerful motivator, but that longing can blind one to making the best choices.

    • Questioner

       I don’t think all black people want to belong, and black people aren’t the only people affected by racism and prejudice.  I don’t think we’ll have a truly whole society, free from racism and prejudice, and anyone who thought we would — black or white or whatever race — is short sighted indeed.  

      • Yellowdogred

        Racism has been part of HUMAN history forever. So has murder, rape, slavery, discrimination, intolerance and a long list of destructive behaviours. Accepting this as “the way things will always be” kind of makes you part of the problem eh?

        Acceptance is important but so is defying the odds that you can make a change for the better in the world even if it’s only in your tiny corner of the universe.

        Fiction is fiction and if my dog could write I would love to read what she has to say about humans……black, white, pink, tan or green.

        But then, she is colorblind.

    • Catherine Jones

      I was going to agree with you until your last two paragraphs.  I am a black professional.  I do not have an “angry dismissive view”.   
       
      You must not know any professional blacks in your inner circle or perhaps you know the wrong ones.  I do blame the color of my skin for the problems or issues I face daily.  Yes, racism does exist (as evident by your comment), but it can be overcome.  I suggest you make some different choices and examine your “angry and dismissive view” and stop being a victim of your perceived racism.

      • http://profiles.google.com/felix.scotfl2 Felix Scott

        Indeed racism is live and well in America in-spite of our having an honestly elected president of the United States who is a person of color. I am 61 and I am sure that when I die racism will still be a reality of life in America. My son is 22 and frankly I believe if he lives a normal life of 65 years, racism will be a part of his life as well since it is a part of his life now. I appreciate Catherine and Patricia’s points of view as well.

  • Catherine Jones

    I am black woman who loved The Help.  No I was not a maid in the segregated southern states.  Nor do I speak for anyone but myself.    I think Ms. Graham should do the same and not speak for anyone but herself.  Like Ms. Graham my Grandmother worked as a maid.  Everything does not have to educate people they can be just for entertainment values.  While I watch The Help and enjoy it as entertainment, I know it is not an accurate portrayal of like in the south for many blacks. 
     
    Same thing when I watch any movie. Movies are entertainment if you want to be educated watch a documentary.

  • Paul Ahrens

    Hi all-

    It seems not just in this interview but in virtually every discussion about film nowadays the issue of authenticity arises and, more often than not, the underlying question is: can someone who is not a member of a particular race/ethnic group/class/country/neighborhood/gender/age/planet/disability/profession effectively portray those who are members of that group? 

    The answer is, of course, works of fiction are fiction.  Yes, it is regrettable if authors/filmmakers often fall back on stereotypes or fail to do the research needed to present something other than simplistic general characterizations or worse, caricatures.   Yet, why do we hold dramas to higher standards of realism than, say, action, horror or comedy genres?  I’ll tell you.  A movie like the Help seems close enough to reality to provoke interest in “what was it really like?”  This is, in my view, a good thing.

    Finally, it is essential to bear in mind that films and books that are fictional are best understood as “stories of individuals” just like the person you happen to meet on the street in an individual- not a representation of all the categories they happen to fit in.  Otherwise, every movie and book will drive you insane as you keep saying to yourself, “not all _______ people are like that.”

  • http://profiles.google.com/felix.scotfl2 Felix Scott

    Charles Dicken’s birthday is today. He could write well about Great Britain and poor children and people very well. He had well developed characters who were wealthy as well since he did become successful early in his life and worked his way into wealth,  however he would sound like a fool writing about ghetto life in 1950. You do write what you know otherwise it comes out messed up. I was listening to the Bobby Womack song as the segment was going off and I though Bobby can definitely write about what it was (is) like to be a black American man in the twentieth century. If you have not lived the life your writing is suspect. I have to agree with Ms. Graham. In the case of Kathleen Battle she is singing and interpreting a European Art form but she is not composing so there is a difference. So far as blacks and whites in the South of the 1950′s, it would be difficult for me to understand whites although I could relate to some things. I could not write accurately about whites from my personal experience since I am not white even though I lived during the 1950′s. I lived up North in an urban/industrial city as a youngster during those years. I would not be able to write about the experiences of the first generation young white kids I knew who had long Eastern European last names. They were the children of deported persons and steel workers of that era. There were always a few Hispanic kids, from Mexican as well as Hispanola, the islands and South America as well. I could not tell their story. Gene Shepard and several others wrote about life in the Calumet Region very well from their perspective. I enjoyed Studs Terkel and others from that kind of working-class background. They brought back a lot of memories of Northwest Indiana and the South Side of Chicago but they could never tell my story.

    • Yellowdogred

      If Dickens wrote about ghetto life in 1950 it would be called Science Fiction. You can split hairs to infinity (ie. Kathleen Battle) but we are talking about writing works of fiction and not memoirs. My Irish ancestry does not make me an authority on all things Irish. Certainly having experience informs one’s work but to say it is a necessary component to composing, writing or interpreting art invalidates all works fiction. Renee Graham draws the line at skin color (apparently) but it is no different from gender, cultural or individual differences. And even if you do write “what you know” you don’t know what is truly in a person’s heart, what motivates them or what their actual thoughts are.

  • http://profiles.google.com/felix.scotfl2 Felix Scott

    I love this country because it allows all of us to express our opinions on anything, whether we know anything about it or not. I was a soldier in Vietnam. I can tell you a lot about it anecdotally. You can write about the “Nam” from research or anecdotally from what others say, however I lived it. That does give me a little edge in authenticity.

    • Yellowdogred

      Yes, but you were never Vietnamese were you? Therefore you can only write authentically about yourself and no other person whose life you did not live. Plus you will actually have to learn writing skills and learn how to spin a good yarn, or does that even matter?

  • It

    I must admit that as a white male I pre-judged a story that was titled “When Black Stories Are Written By White People”. Your guest however blew me away. She was great.  Her quote “a white protagonist who helps the help by writing a book about the help.” Was so perfect to the type of thing that drives me crazy also. This is why I listen to your show.

  • Beverly Mire

    I love hearing Renee Graham on your show.  I want to be her when I grow up.

  • Levi Ethan Cecil

    I too am really annoyed by Hollywood’s endless stereotyping. I also get tired of seeing black people portrayed strictly as gangsters, athletes or entertainers, or as sassy or saintly. I agree that lazy writers just skip right to these stereotypes to save the time of writing complex characters. However, Renee Graham’s assessment of the Wire was hopelessly off base. How is Omar Little a stereotype? I don’t recall ever having seen the gay-gangster-who-robs-other-gangsters stereotype. Sure he was charming and likable, but in the end, he met a terrible fate. How is that a glorification of his lifestyle? How was Stringer Bell a stereotype? A fiercely intelligent black man who, even though he is a criminal, is trying as hard as he can’t to break away from that life and become an honest businessman. I don’t think we’ve seen that stereotype either.  Almost all of the likeable, yet flawed characters on the Wire ended up out of jobs, dead or in prison. There were no good guys or bad guys on that show, just human beings trying to survive and thrive in their particular environments. The entire second season dealt with middle-class white people who turn to crime as a result of their being marginalized by the powers that be, just like the inner-city black people in the first season. I didn’t see any stereotypes in that show, just an honest portrayal of the slow breakdown of American industry, politics and society. It was the first television show that actually explored the causes of crime and societal breakdown, instead of just showing cops dealing with the aftermath of crimes.

    • Questioner

       As I reply to you, disclaimer: I have not seen the Wire neither do I watch movies or tv (not really), nor have I grown up in the inner-city.
      However, I don’t think that for Ms. Graham the fact that Omar was gay means that he wasn’t a stereotype.  I think, probably she thinks the gay thing is just something the writers put in to spice up things a little and draw more people into their show.  Also, as far as movies/tv shows glorifying any type of violence or gangster lifestyle goes, the fact that the character meets an untimely death in the end doesn’t mean that the character is/was not glorified in the mind of some viewers.  As for “There were no good guys or bad guys on that show, just human beings
      trying to survive and thrive in their particular environments”, I think that’s what most writers seem to be portraying nowadays and I think it makes some people feel comfortable in their moral mediocrity and not strive for better.  Some people like to use the excuse “I/he/she is only human”, especially in issues that involve infidelity, rather than calling wrong by it’s right name and striving for better.  This is one reason why I don’t watch movies/tv.  There’s nothing in it for me.

      • Yellowdogred

        First, your awareness of film (like so many) is apparently limited to the “Hollywood” production. For that no one can blame you for a lack of interest in film as art. Secondly, your need have certain moral values glorified in works of fiction sounds more like evangelism or propaganda, not art. As an artist I find your (and Renee Graham’s) point of view rather alarming.

        • Questioner

           I don’t know why you insist on insulting me.  You know nothing about my history or what kinds of films I’ve seen. 

          I find many people who consider themselves to be artists to be condescending (like you).  You do realize that when you produce art, people are free to critique it and dislike it.  You need not find my point of view alarming, you just need to understand that not everyone thinks like you.  To me it is a waste of time to watch, listen to, or read things that have no moral or uplifting value (unless it’s the news).  I don’t need to have my moral values glorified in works of fiction.  It is not a need, it is a wish, a want and a desire.  The fact that it is not does not significantly impact my life.  As I said before, I get nothing out of such things.  My sister considers herself to be an artist also.  She’s a great singer, but when she critiques Rihanna’s ability to sing, as if it’s something really important, I let her know that to me it really doesn’t matter.  Yes she gets angry when I say that, but she should not take it as a personal affront. 

          • Yellowdogred

            I don’t know why you imagine you are being insulted unless you share Renee Graham’s unrequited anger over other people’s works that do not meet your confining expectations.

            For me to restate that your “moral or uplifting values” are a criteria for judging art (as if it even needs to be judged) is not an insult. As an artist I know the difference between criticism and insult. Insults are usually funnier. So relax, it’s just a movie.

          • Questioner

             ‘First, your awareness of film (like so many) is apparently limited to the “Hollywood” production.

            Or is it that you don’t know who Kathleen Battle or Charles Dickens are?’

            To me, those are insults.  You don’t define what counts as an insult is for another person.  That’s just like white people telling black people when and how they need to get over the history of racism in America.

            Even if art doesn’t need to be judged, people do judge art.  There are art critics and movie critics and book critics.  Anyone can judge art by their own standard, because people have minds and opinions. 

          • Yellowdogred

            Questioner: As I reply to you, disclaimer: I have not seen the Wire neither do I watch movies or tv…

            Questioner: I don’t care to know who Kathleen Battle is

          • Robert Long View

            “i can not define art  but i know i know 
            pornography when i see it?”

    • Yellowdogred

      In Renee Graham’s black and white world bad people must always be bad and kick puppies while good people must always be good and like puppies. “The Wire” was all about “gray”…. kind of like how the real world is. Bad movie reviewers are not always bad though, they just sometimes need to read a book (all the way through) or take a walk and get away from the computer.

  • Tdh712

    I am a white woman, grew up in the south, was a child in the 50s, when there were segregated water fountains, rest rooms, hospital wards, everything.  My parents employed maids. One was with us for several years. Like Ms. Graham, I couldn’t read the book, The Help. From the beginning it seemed very stereotyped to me. As a child and growing up I could not accept racism. I think my mother was not a racist and somehow I got it that we were all human, difference in color are skin deep. Anyway, the woman who worked as a maid in our house was NOT stereotypical…she drank, sometimes came to work, in her uniform, smelling of beer, she wore sunglasses because she had lost an eye in a fight over a man, and I don’t ever remember her being affectionate with me like a typical “mammy” that you see in movies. However, I felt very safe with her always and she was family to me, yet there was always that edge of the racial divide, which was painful.  I loved the movie The Help because it made me cry and wonder about her, a person who raised me and who I have no idea if she is alive, probably not; it made me think about how she felt, how her kids and grand kids felt and I cried about that, thinking about the abuse they endured; it showed I think very well the abuse and shame that white people heaped on black people, that maids and all black people had to deal with all the time in a way that took enormous strength to withstand I’m sure and still infuriates me, when I see racism today…the undercurrent that exists still, especially among people in my age group and older….I saw that movie in real life and I think, really, it’s a great film.

  • Yellowdogred

    No black stories by white men, no white stories by black men, no French stories by Englishmen, no Yellow stories by Red men, no women stories by men, no children’s stories by grown ups, no dog stories by cats, no fish stories by fishermen, no movies by broadway stars, and no Christmas for anyone.

    • Samuel Pancakes

      You don’t seem to understand that in America black people grow up in a white culture. While white people grow up in a white culture as well. This means that it takes a lot more effort for a white person to learn about blacks than for blacks to learn abotu whites. Because as soon as a black person leaves the house, and goes to work they are plunged into white society again. Not so for whites who can leave a white household and then go to a white workplace and then back to a white  house again.

      There is not a 1:1 ratio of cultural exchange in this melting pot. What do you know about midgets? What do you know about eskimos? What do you know about giant people? Just talking to one or 2 isn’t enough. 

      This book lacks streetcred.

      • Yellowdogred

        So what did Mark Twain or Harriet Beecher Stowe know about African Americans? Did they have ‘streetcred”? Do Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou get a pass for writing about non-African Americans because of some poetic license version of affirmative action?

        Perhaps you would like to see DNA testing for all authors before publication.

  • Jon Altman

    I understand her concern about “The Help,” but I thought that the intention of the filmmakers was to tell Skeeter’s story.

  • Jon Altman

    Really, Skeeter’s story (and those of the other Caucasian women) was the only one Kathryn Stockett really COULD tell.  My wife was born in Greenwood, MS in 1960 (making her about “Mae Mobley’s” age).  As I listened to the dialogue between Skeeter and her mother, I thought someone had followed my wife and late mother-in-law around with a tape recorder.

  • Jin Talbert

    Listened to today’s discussion about “The Help,” as I was driving today.  Wanted to pull over and email from my phone.  

    As I read the book and again as I watched the movie I kept saying to myself, “Why hasn’t this story been told by a black person, preferably a woman?”  Let me be precise:  “Why hasn’t  black America produced at least one story about household servitude as appealing as this one?”

    Having listened to Renee’s comments I still ask that question first and foremost.  But I also ask, is it fair to criticize Kathryn Stockett for writing a story about a young white woman who writes about black maids?  Even allowing for her stepping inside those black women, as authors do, is it fair to criticize her for doing that?  

    I mean, J.K Rowling steps inside a young man, a wizard no less.  Dickens stepped inside Little Dorritt.  Steinbeck stepped inside Rose of Sharon Joads.  Authors needs must do this.  Are you saying its wrong for whites to write about blacks?  Well, if authors can only write about that which they have directly experienced we’ve got a lot of books to throw out.

  • Suepur911

    as a fiction writer i would pause before including any characters of any race but my own.  that would be more ‘authentic’.  i would not put any men into my stories (since i am female).  i did survive childhood, so i guess i could include children, if i remember it ‘authentically’…
    ms. graham doesn’t seem to trust that white people can read a book or see a movie, and just accept it as entertainment, not as historical fact.  i like her reviews, but if there are 2 races shown in the piece, this argument ALWAYS comes out.   sorry renee, i go to history books if i want a more ‘authentic’ treatment.  i don’t learn it from hollywood or a fictional book.  see, i write fiction, so i know it’s all made up.

    • InvisibleGirl

      Renee Graham would presumably prefer works of fiction to be limited in imagination and scope based on skin color or perhaps cultural background. While I can appreciate her role as reviewer and critic, she has in her blinding anger not simply criticized a work of fiction but challenged it’s very right to be written. Novelists beware!

  • Bahati Sobukwe

    Hattie MCDaniel did  not refuse to take her hankerchief head maid roles, because she said, it was better to play one than to be one”.  I guess we’ll be working on that same principle for years to come.  McDaniel probably did more for the perception of the ‘black mammy” than any other African actress. 
    Quick question, why didn’t they get a “high yellow” to play the role?  As always they were atypical in their casting, they always get the dark skin African female  to play the not so ‘flattering’ roles, eg. “Precious’.  That a chilling message to give to our brown and dark skin girls perceptions of self!  The black skin actresses play maid and prostitutes roles.  In addition, the ‘bad’ blackman is almost always dark brown or black.

    And while I’m on a roll, why would a black writer, in a movie as important as  “The Red Tails” write  in a scene of a black man chasing a white woman without one  black female character for balance?  Surely, one of the men had an African girlfriend or wife, that would have made a nice love story.  I know two of the actors have white wives and it appears that it quickly becoming the norm, but my goodness!
    Oh, well!  happy Oscar to you guys, because she is more than likely to win best actress.

  • Berneena

    Really like this discussion. Had uneasy feeling about the book – had to put it down. Have not seen the movie. Excited about the attention to the actresses/performers involved.Fiction is just that. If a “fiction” moves us to discuss/ read/ ask/research/ listen or hear for the first time, It’s doing its’ intended purpose.

  • Bpfussmucker

    As guess if a black wrote it, the help would’ve been more authentic like Big Mommas house, oh why can’t Tyler perry get his Oscar?

  • Bristaylor

    This story left me puzzled and annoyed! Graham never explains what it is about “The Help” that misrepresents the black experience—she just complains that it does not. I wish Robin had asked for specific examples to back up her opinion.

    • InvisibleGirl

      She does not criticize the content as you might expect a professional critic to do. Instead she objects to the very fact that it was written at all. Ms. Graham was hoisted on her own petard and I am surprised that Robin even broadcast the segment at all.

  • desantos

    I watched this move and thought it told a good insight into the life within a white home around those times.  I didnt really get that good of insight from an African American side.  That which I didnt really care for because I knew it was written by a white person before I saw the movie.

    I am of Caribbean descent and born in the UK.  If I wanted to know about how the people in the generations above me even if there stories are from a land i’ve never lived in I can just ask my older family members.  This is the thing a lot of African Americans just don’t get.  Why on earth do they think they are going to get any say in how another community are generating revenue for in their own economy is beyond me.  This time period is not some distant prehistoric age ago, hell, some of these African Americans that these characters portray are still alive and kicking today and more than prepared and informed to tell the real account of living in this time period. 

    African Americans have the potential economy of around a trillion dollars, nearly more than every other country with African and people of African descent residing in it and you guys cannot even fund a story that properly potrays the period of those times.

    African Americans will NEVER be portrayed correctly until they take hold of their economy by supporting there businesses and collectivly practising group economics as explained by Dr Claude Anderson (search youtube) and create these movies themselves.

    This movie to me highlighted segragation back in that period and reminded me of how vastly segregated the white dollar is against the black dollar.

  • Mjwtx

    Maybe The Help was about both:  the book and its subject, the hired help.

    I agree it would be good to have the viewpoint of the black, hired help.  So, here is a laptop and a printer, get to it.  Write.   We are waiting to hear from you!

  • Booker

    One thing this movie proves to me, as a white person who grew up in that time period in similar circumstances, is that there need to be recovery groups for white people who grew up in racist homes, racist cities, etc., to help people come to terms with the damage that so much hate did/does to children’s hearts and minds. Black people have been in recovery for years and what they endured is huge.
    Really good movie.

  • jsmith0552

    I find it fascinating how upset it makes some white people when another ethnicity says, “you didn’t get ‘us’ right” when speaking about a book or film.  How people will start jumping to conclusions about the speaker, or reinterpreting what they said.  This thread derailed  off into some weird tangents pretty soon based on a misconception that the speaker said no one can write what they have no first hand knowledge of, which the speaker clearly did not say.  She even says that Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown gets it right.  What she did say was that it takes work to create believable characters who are radically different from the author, and that many fall into writing stereotypical versions of those characters.  And this is true.  

    The writer of The Help in the truest sense was not writing a story about the Help so much as her white protagonist, but the book in the eyes of the mainstream was perceived as a book about black maids.  The scary thing is that her fictional antebellum trope resonated with so many people.  As another poster mentioned fiction is fiction, but we as a nation no longer have an oral tradition.  Our new myths and story and sadly even our knowledge of history is a media-centered one, and tired stereotypes like The Help do not “help” anyone in the long run, yet it’s template seems to be the one that always seems to get Hollywood treatment and accolades by mainstream America.

  • Helenldowning

    While the Help may have trivialized the experiences of African American domestic workers, at the time of its writing there were many African American authors who could have “taken up the mantle” and written the story from a different perspective.  I am saddened by the fact that a white woman saw the need for this type of story rather than an African American woman.

Robin and Jeremy

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