Probably those who greenlit The Help never imagined it would be birthed into a racially contentious time in our history. It’s 2011 and we have our nation’s first black president – the shit has mostly hit the fan, but let’s face it – race relations have never entirely cooled down, not when Rodney King was beaten up, not when OJ was set free, not during Hurricane Katrina’s wrath, not now, when Obama and his very black family live in the very White House. We can all pretend like it isn’t still a controversial topic, and that we’ve moved beyond racism and all of that – but we haven’t. The only thing, in fact, that keeps it from stirring up is the contrived political correctness we all try to adhere to.
The other thing that can sometimes help is talking about it in a realistic way. One important voice missing in this whole debate around The Help is Oprah Winfrey. Oprah would use her show, perhaps, to address some of these issues — her show was kind of like a town hall meeting for women (the main audience for the film) and the African American community. But there is no Oprah so now people are taking sides. But I wondered, though, how this ends up helping or hurting people like Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, two strong black performances in an atmosphere that discourages them. Will they get flushed down the toilet with the rest of the shitstorm? Hm.