"It wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard," Viola Davis said of the 2011 movie, which follows a white woman interviewing black maids about their experience serving white people

By Dana Rose Falcone
June 05, 2020 01:27 PM
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The Help — a 2011 drama centered on a white Mississippi woman (Emma Stone) interviewing black women about their time serving white families — is the most-watched film on Netflix amid the ongoing protests against police brutality following the killing of George Floyd.

As the movie resurges on Netflix, some members of the African American community have criticized it, urging people to seek out other films to learn about racism in America.

"I'm so sorry but the last thing folx need to be watching are bootleg 'racial reconciliation' movies like The Help," film and TV critic Rebecca Theodore-Vachon tweeted. "If you need a list of Black films, Black film critics are on here happy to suggest some really good ones. Hi, happy to help."

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Education consultant Dr. Tina Ellsworth tweeted that "watching The Help won't move you closer towards anti-racism" and suggested checking out movies like 13th, When They See Us and Just Mercy (currently streaming for free) instead.

Ira Madison III, host of the Keep It podcast, meanwhile called for Netflix to delete The Help off its platform.

Viola Davis, who played Aibileen, one of the maids interviewed in the movie, criticized The Help in 2018 for centering mostly on the white experience.

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"I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard," Davis, 54, told The New York Times. "I know Aibileen. I know Minny [played by Octavia Spencer]. 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.”

Jessica Chastain (left) and Octavia Spencer in The Help.
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Along with Stone's character, The Help, based on Kathryn Stockett's bestselling novel by the same name, also focuses on two white housewives played by Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain. Spencer, 50, won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2012 for her portrayal of another one of the black housekeepers, Davis and Chastain, 43, earned nominations for their roles, and The Help picked up a Best Picture nod.

On May 30, Netflix released a statement supporting Black Lives Matter. "To be silent is to be complicit," the streamer tweeted. "Black lives matter. We have a platform, and we have a duty to our Black members, employees, creators and talent to speak up."

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.