The 2011 film, which has been criticized for fictionalizing the civil rights era through a white lens, became the No. 1 movie on Netflix amid ongoing protests

By Benjamin VanHoose
June 08, 2020 03:52 PM
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Bryce Dallas Howard
Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic

Bryce Dallas Howard has compiled a list of must-watch films for fans of The Help looking to expand their knowledge of racism and civil rights history.

On Sunday, the actress, 39, responded to newfound interest in the 2011 film, in which she played the villainous Hilly Holbrook, after the movie became the most-watched item on Netflix.

Given the widening conversation on racism and police brutality amid nationwide protests, Howard acknowledged that viewers should further their exposure to the issues beyond The Help, which was based on the bestselling 2009 novel by Kathryn Stockett and directed by Tate Taylor.

"I’ve heard that #TheHelp is the most viewed film on @netflix right now!" she wrote on Instagram. "I’m so grateful for the exquisite friendships that came from that film -- our bond is something I treasure deeply and will last a lifetime."

"This being said," continued Howard, "The Help is a fictional story told through the perspective of a white character and was created by predominantly white storytellers. We can all go further.⁣"

Among the shows and movies she recommended fans check out are Ava Duvernay's documentary 13th, her film Selma and her limited series When They See Us. She also identified HBO's Watchmen series, Just Mercy, I Am Not Your Negro, Eyes on the Prize, Malcolm X and Say Her Name.

⁣"Stories are a gateway to radical empathy and the greatest ones are catalysts for action," wrote Howard, who's also a director and recently completed a degree at New York University after first enrolling back in 1999.

Bryce Dallas Howard in The Help (2011)
Dreamworks Pictures/Kobal/Shutterstock

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She added: "If you are seeking ways to learn about the Civil Rights Movement, lynchings, segregation, Jim Crow, and all the ways in which those have an impact on us today, here are a handful of powerful, essential, masterful films and shows that center Black lives, stories, creators, and / or performers."⁣

In 2012, Howard was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for outstanding supporting actress for The Help, a trophy that ultimately went to costar Octavia Spencer. Spencer also won the Academy Award for The Help, which was also nominated for three other Oscars, including Best Picture.

In the movie, a white Mississippi woman (Emma Stone) interviews black women about their time serving white families as maids. The film also starred Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek and Cicely Tyson.

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Viola Davis, who was nominated for Best Actress for playing Aibileen, spoke out in 2018 about her regrets in making the movie, which has been criticized for framing African American struggles from a white perspective.

“I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard,” Davis told The New York Times. “I know Aibileen. I know Minny. They’re my grandma. They’re my mom. And I know that if you do a movie where the whole premise is, 'I want to know what it feels like to work for white people and to bring up children in 1963, I want to hear how you really feel about it.' I never heard that in the course of the movie.”

Davis added, though, that she would cherish her time on set working with her costars and collaborators.

“The friendships that I formed are ones that I’m going to have for the rest of my life," she said at the time. "I had a great experience with these other actresses, who are extraordinary human beings. And I could not ask for a better collaborator than [director] Tate Taylor.”