Thursday, October 6, 2011



There is a movie that was released this year, sort of controversial called, ‘The Help’.  The main problem, or so it seemed to me, with the movie and the book it was base on, was that it was written by a white authoress and she was describing an experience that incorporated what many people of color consider ‘proprietary experience knowledge’.  Apparently, she comments from the perspective of the black domestics perspective and I would read reviews that were both positive and from others who took a dim view of the movie.  A blogger gave their opinion of the movie, which was one that was uniformly positive.  I don’t think I was too blunt or negative in my reply but the blogger who saw it is pretty clever and they picked up on something in my comment and THEY gave it a critique.

Because my opinion of the movie relied was ‘sourced’, which is to say that I listened to and read reviews of the movie.  In their reply, it was found surprising that I would let someone else make a judgment for me.  I then asked myself if I was guilty of letting someone make my opinion for me in regard to the movie, “The Help”.

First, several of the reviews that I have sampled of the movie, "The Help" seemed to be fair and objective, as they did not shy away from the controversy that the film stirred up.  What the reviews did do was make me question the capability of those who were telling the story.  If you can’t find the trust in the storyteller, what can you make of their story?  Not being familiar with the creative people behind the movie, I had my doubts about whether they could handle some of the subject matter that comes with a movie set in that time in American history.

Okay, solving for that, what is the next preconception I would have against the movie.  As much as I pick at the Tea Bags for their ‘misremembering’ and general dumbing down of history to fit a particular narrative (I’m lookin’ at YOU Sarah Palin..!), the same kind of crap goes on in liberal circles as well.  That I took in reviews of the movie is not simply giving away the responsibility of forming my own opinion by not experiencing the book or movie on my own.  After all, the purpose of criticism is to help us reach a conclusion, am I right?  We hope that the opinions are objective and free from bias, but that is not always the case.  Which is why I try to get both perspectives, the objective one and the one that represents ‘the other side of the story’ (which exists in objective opinion, according to Chris Wallace of Fox News!), to help me form what I will accept as ‘my’ own thoughts and opinion.

To me, it is no different from writing a research paper.  You make a claim and then you go on to support your ideas, balancing your perspective against possible arguments and then reinforcing your main idea.  Up to now, everything is still up in the air, though I still have reservations that begins with the possible revision of the events that may be in ‘The Help’ story.

Liberals are not immune from the guilt of ‘the white man’s burden’.  Some of the things that has gone on between blacks and whites in America has included a lot of well-meaning people doing some of the crappiest things.  Who is to say that with the ‘holes’ open in the storyline by respectable review sources that the authoress isn’t guilty of ‘fudging’ here and there?  Besides the questions that I would have about the portrayal of the racial dynamic, then there is the ‘women good and unfairly oppressed, men bad and vengeful’ aspect.  In the same way that it is hard for some people to accept that a white woman can tell a story from the black perspective, the story that provides an experience that is within the realm of experience, the inequality that white women lived beneath during that time.  Who’s to say that there wasn’t a little poetic license taken for the purpose to gloss over events, and in doing so, reframe the discussion?

So far we have discussed my sources that helped me arrive at my opinion, from the blog entry that drew out my comment, the possible skills of the creative people behind the film project, and to the possible political-social influences that may factor into the storyline.  Now if that wasn’t enough, let get to the actresses themselves.  

Looking at the commercials, there were a couple of actresses who I have seen work before and I unimpressed by their talents.  And now we have found the straw that stirs my drink!  Weighing all this and still being a little undecided on if I think the film is worth my time, that there are performers who does not impress me as actors.  So now your really have a cat who is not really going to be ‘into’ the movie because of all the questions and doubts I have of the performers ability to ‘sell’ the story to me.


I am sharing this story because this is a very broad piece of my critical thinking at work. , and when I say ‘broad’, I mean ‘simple’.  Even when I am talking with someone about pretty much anything, this is the kind of things that go on in my mind.  This is another reason I am quick to apologize if I say something that bothers another person because it is better that I do that, and avoid my clumsy attempt to describe the dense esoteric that forms my opinions.  Additionally, it is another reason of why I am reluctant to further crowd my thought with getting to know another person.  But I digress.

School is school and we are at the half-way point for the semester.  I am keeping up but my stride is a little uneven right now… don’t be too worried (cause I’m not!) because like fatigue, doubts are fears trying to leave the body and mind!


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Don't know much about The Help.

Hard to believe half way through the semester already, it will be over before you know it.

That corgi :) said...

I think I get what you are saying about The Help, Mark. I haven't seen it, but had heard good things about it; yet unless I guess you were a maid/help in that environment or knew of someone that was, we really wouldn't know how close the movie was to real life or how much they glamorized the story to make it one that would sell.

Wow, time is marching on with your semester!! Seems like you were just starting it!!


Toon said...

If the final product (a movie, novel, piece of art) is good and I enjoy it, I may not care that the creator wasn't flawless in their methods/motives.

Lovebabz said...

Interesting. I like your thinking around this. A real intellectual work out.

I am a fan of Viola Davis. I trust that she would not play a character if it demoralized her, or misrepresented her convictions. I have not seen the movie, but I might when it makes it way to the small screen.

I am not moved by critics or reviews. I follow my own heart and instincts. I have in the past saw a film and gone back to read reviews but that's about it. I do my own due diligence. Besides, I am catching up films I missed that were release eons ago! LOL!

So no I do not think you are thinking too deeply. I suspect that's just how you are about most things. If anything, I think perhaps you have to pick and choose what you want to intellectually delve into. I mean this kind of analysis would be overkill say if you were trying to decide toilet paper, or laundry detergent. But who knows maybe that's what you need to do in order to be and feel intellectually satisfied.

FrankandMary said...

I'm with you on the well-meaning people doing the crappiest things at times. But I also think sometimes they weren't THAT well-meaning, either. I believe some people suffer from I REALLY WANT TO LOOK LIKE A GOOD PERSON BUT KEEP ALL THE TOYS FOR ME, TOO.
ps I think too much too, so I am not going to cast that stone(except in times I feel you are really hurting yourself with all the thinking).

Mark said...

The question I like to ask about "The Help" is how we might have felt about the very same movie written and directed by an African-American. Or, by definition, would it have been very different?
How would we judge, for example, Tyler Perry's films if he was a white director? Would the same characters suddenly seem offensively stereotypical?
I don't know. But as a gay person who has many of the same concerns about the depiction of gays in movies, i finally tend to judge the work, period. There were some choices in Brokeback Mountain that really bugged me, but why did this couple have to "represent" gay men? Couldn't they just own their own particular stories? (Invented by a straight woman, directed by a gay man)
I thought "The Help" was a little bit formulaic and broad-stroked, but so what? It wasn't trying to be particularly high-brow - it was trying to bring to life a bestseller that was a sharp idea for a first-time writer seeking success to come up with. Why burden it with the task of conveying a very complex history in one film? I think many of its harshest critics secretly wish they'd come up with the same idea. Take it from a writer.

Jonthy, Alice the uppity white cat's babysitter said...

Mark, I will not see "The Help." It implies that it is a cultural truth. While the movie is pure fiction, it has no right to shape viewer's ideas about the way things were. The greatest ethnic studies are done by the very people in an ethnic group. Some try to "go native" in their research but unless you are in a certain ethnic group, you will never understand (no matter how many interviews you have conducted) a different ethnic group.

eight principles should be considered for observing, recording and sampling data:

The groups should combine symbolic meanings with patterns of interaction.

Observe the world from the point of view of the subject, while maintaining the distinction between everyday and scientific perceptions of reality.

Link the group’s symbols and their meanings with the social relationships.

Record all behavior.

Methodology should highlight phases of process, change and stability.

The act should be a type of symbolic interactionism.

Use concepts that would avoid casual explanations.

Jonthy, Alice the uppity white cat's babysitter said...

I guess that is seven principles.

The closest non-African American study was probably "Black Like Me" where the writer dyed his skin color from white to black. He found out what it was really like to be scared shitless as a black man in the South.