By Alan Bean
The Hollywood adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, opens in theaters this Wednesday. Critics have been kind. Evaluated as a good story, The Help is engaging and emotionally satisfying. But isn’t this another Hollywood racial melodrama in which a noble white person intercedes on behalf of helpless Negroes?
Yes and no. Civil Rights activists were deeply offended by the 1988 potboiler Mississippi Burning, a civil rights era drama that gave the FBI credit for staring down the KKK in Philadelphia, MS. Why, critics ask, can’t Hollywood do a civil rights story about black people standing up for black people? The answer is simple: Hollywood makes movies for a mass audience, and that means creating narratives that appeal to white people. Sure, you always want to toss in a black guy so black viewers can relate to the story in a modest fashion; but that’s generally as far as it goes. (more…)