“The Help” and Hollywood’s Limited View of Black Actresses

Published by Ronke Reeves on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 9:20 am.

(Photo: Dreamworks)

While I wasn’t particularly jazzed about seeing the film, it didn’t really bother me that The Help was released in 2011, while we still have our first Black president and first lady in the White House. The movie, regardless of how annoying and trite some of its scenes and dialogue may be, is still a slice of U.S. history. Furthermore, Black women domestics who’ve worked hard behind the scenes to help establish this country in every corner of America always deserve to have their stories told.

The real problem is that in 2011 there is still no balance in the amount of films starring Black actors released yearly. Most people wouldn’t have a problem with The Help if it we had different African-American images to choose from at our local movie theaters (we still only get one or two movies annually). Much of the best, diverse film stories about the Black experience are either told through small budgeted indie films or shorts, but they continue to go unnoticed by the mainstream movie machine.

Despite the progress that Blacks have made throughout decades in the industry, it has also grown glaringly clear that Tinseltown still has no idea what to do with the Black actress, especially those with darker complexions. It echoes volumes that Viola Davis, one of the most talented working actresses of any decade, who has been mostly regulated to albeit dazzling, small moments on film, is offered a starring vehicle as a maid. I doubt that lighter counterparts Zoe Saldana or Halle Berry would ever be offered such a movie role.

But sadly in much of our cinematic history (with a few exceptions, mostly by way of biopics) it seems the shade of Black women usually includes two hues: the whore and the mammy.  Unfortunately, those images, the ones that Hollywood seems comfortable seeing us in, are designed to polarize us all; the working actor, the movie-going audience and sisters and brothers of all colors, all while leaving a limiting and damaging stereotypical depiction of us to the world.

Click here for a history of Black actresses who have played maids in Hollywood.

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Bigheart521 Said on

Hollywood has very limited roles for Black actresses and they don’t win many awards. Viola Davis is an excellent actress and she should be recognized as such. abc, nbc and cbs have very few black actors in their fall line up. I will not be watching any of the shows.

salt Said on

Watching the tv is like for white people they do anything for fam, me the same I`m not watching this show on tv , where they cut all the black actor off , any one know than black people have more talent, that why the black producer have to do the same dont put any white people on they show or movie.

moreno Said on

For years i have not watched a TV show or go to a movies where Blacks are not present. And what i mean by this is….a major character in the movie or tv show. Some Black people lack a brain we will watch anything that the media tells us is popular. We will run to the movies to see anything that they tell us is so called good. But how many others do you see at a so called Black movie?? Not many at all so why go see their movies. It is obvious that they don’t care about us or our movies. Black actors and actresses are having a hard time getting jobs even more so now. So what do we do…just keep on keeping on being blind and stupid. Wake up Black America we have the power but refuse to use it. Oh we want to be so included in main stream America that we will do anything. You will never be accepted can’t you see this. Well oh no some of us don’t…sad….just sad….

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shayestyles Said on

I cant see not watching black movies and shows even if they are not as well funded as their white counterparts. Truth is Black People are not stupid or lesser than as the others may want to feed into. Well…some of us. There are some of us who are quick to give support to any and everything but ourselves, our own people. I was just telling my 7 year old about why she is so strong and capable of having a strong school year starting tomorrow.I told her this is possible because of the great sacrifice our fourfathers–no family cause we aint but 6 generrations away from slavery and 4 of those generations are still a live. THe point is those Black People had to work togeter to get Us Black People the oppurtunitie we have. There is is still work to be done… we need to work together again. We can make it what we want it to be!

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