Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Is 'The Help' the Best Hollywood Can Do?

Here is an exchange that I really enjoyed.

I had every intention of going to see the movie 'The Help', but waited too late and had to see it on DVD.  I know of the controversy surrounding the book, but because I can rarely enjoy a book after seeing a movie on which one is based, I probably won't be reading it now.

But as we get closer to the time of the Academy Awards, I too am interested, indeed conflicted about the nomination of Viola Davis for 'Best Actress' and Octavia Spencer for 'Best Supporting Actress' (although I'm pretty sure that as wonderful as Ms. Davis was in her movie, I'm pretty sure Meryl Streep will win for 'Iron Lady').  But I'm actually not conflicted because I object to their portrayal of two maids. I am conflicted because the controversy regarding their portrayal again raises the question of difficulty of getting other movies with a greater diversity of characters made at all.

I disagree with the idea that it takes a 'movement' to get a good movie made with  'positive' portrayals of black life. 
The movie 'Malcolm X' was an excellent cinematic depiction of the life of the human rights leaders and spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Yet, while Denzel Washington's career has fared well - to say the least - Spike Lee still has trouble getting movies made. 
The dog-eared criticism of Tyler Perry's 'Madea' belies the fact that it appears that there are no more substantive movies coming to him to produce, even though he has his own studio. 
The issue is more than artists and the roles they choose, or sensitive directors or producers. It has to do with distribution and the financial wherewithal to make and get into theaters a broad range of movies that tell the story of black life. 
But while we work on this problem, its equally important to know that Hispanics and Asians have the same complaint - with even fewer opportunities to get on the screen! 
Perhaps what we really need is a society in which we stop stereotyping one another and see one another as genuine human beings with stories to tell that can entertain and teach all of us. 
That means we've got a lot of work to do...that's not Hollywood's job. 
Watch the second half of the interview with Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer here...

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