Wait, I’m confused. I thought Invictus was about how we ended racism with that soccer game. But now apparently there is still racism? Well, I sure hope this magazine article ends racism! JK, relax. Honestly, this movie looks fine, and I will tell you this: Emma Stone is a charming young actress with a very interesting career ahead of her. She’s like Lindsay Lohan without the knife-play! But I am always kind of confused about what the point of these movies is supposed to be. Is it supposed to make white people feel better about themselves because at least they’re 2011 white people and not 1961 white people? Is it supposed to make black people feel better because even though they suffered a hundred years of degradation AFTER the Civil War and continue to face systemic, politically reinforced economic disenfranchisement to this day, at least someone had the courage to tell the story of how a brave white journalist wrote a book about them? The question I’m asking is: who is supposed to FEEL BETTER after watching this movie? Clearly, based on the emotionally manipulative soundtrack, SOMEONE is supposed to feel better, I just can’t figure out WHO!

Comments (69)
  1. This might be myopic of me, but I don’t think it’s supposed to make anyone feel better necessarily–I think it’s just telling a story about a time when things were different. It’s important not to forget, and it’s important to tell the stories to the generations that didn’t experience them. Does that story need to be told with an uplifting gospel-inspired soundtrack? Why the hell not?

    • I agree. Not that movies should teach young people history, but last year when I told a white student that he could not paint his face brown to look more “Mexican” in a video he was making, he had no idea about the horrible, racist implications that action possessed. He did not know what a minstrel show was, nor did his mother. So maybe the movies will learn them about it?

      Because thats what this movie is about right? Minstrel shows?

      • I had an argument with my younger brother recently because he just couldn’t see how dressing up as a black person (makeup and everything) is totally offensive. He’s 25 years old.

        Thankfully, he wasn’t going to do it himself, and was just arguing that it’s not offensive in general.

      • You teach Roger Sterling Jr?

        • That’s funny, I think I might actually. Whitebread, privileged, kind of a dick? Check, check, double check.

          (Just kidding! The children are our future.)

      • I took two classes last summer where the topic of minstrelsy came up in the same week (totally unrelated classes, different departments, it was weird), and like NO ONE but me knew what it was.

        (Fun fact about minstrelsy: John Lennon’s grandfather toured in a minstrel show, and his dad apparently did a killer Al Jolson impression. THE MORE YOU KNOW.)

    • I think you have a point. I’ve been sitting here trying to come up with a joke about how comically evil the white people seem to be, but I keep deciding not to post them because I realize I’m going to sound like an asshole because this is not far off from how I’m sure things really were just 50 years ago in America.

    • I would agree, if these stories weren’t so often told in such a condescending, everything is cool now we all triumphed manner. I mean, just to start with the issue brought up by digtochina, gobblegirl, and others, the whole one good white person deal. The purpose of that? To give white-folk a protagonist to identify with, because it’s assumed that without that, whitey ain’t coming out. So, once us whites are identifying with the good person protagonist hero helping out them blacks, we’re also allowed, being told even, to imagine ourselves, if we lived back then, as a heroic, non-racist. (I’m getting way ahead and off-track here, but this step allows us to never consider the way that racism is socialized, so we don’t ever question our own current socialization around racism.)

      Since it condescendingly presents everything as simple, and the narrative arc always has a perfect resolution, the end answer is that racism is gone, that every racist, or with a racist thought, is purely evil, or somehow perfectly redeemed, it says there is nothing left to do. It also encourages the idea that a racist wears a sign around their neck, and that there is only Racist and Person Who Lives Perfectly without a Racist Thought Ever, not the in-between that everyone lives in.

      I would love movies, and there are some, that actually education and tell important stories, without the condescension of 98% of the crap that exists, as Gabe said, to make us all feel better.

      • “I would agree, if these stories weren’t so often told in such a condescending, everything is cool now we all triumphed manner. I mean, just to start with the issue brought up by digtochina, gobblegirl, and others, the whole one good white person deal. The purpose of that? To give white-folk a protagonist to identify with, because it’s assumed that without that, whitey ain’t coming out. So, once us whites are identifying with the good person protagonist hero helping out them blacks, we’re also allowed, being told even, to imagine ourselves, if we lived back then, as a heroic, non-racist. (I’m getting way ahead and off-track here, but this step allows us to never consider the way that racism is socialized, so we don’t ever question our own current socialization around racism.)

        Since it condescendingly presents everything as simple, and the narrative arc always has a perfect resolution, the end answer is that racism is gone, that every racist, or with a racist thought, is purely evil, or somehow perfectly redeemed, it says there is nothing left to do. It also encourages the idea that a racist wears a sign around their neck, and that there is only Racist and Person Who Lives Perfectly without a Racist Thought Ever, not the in-between that everyone lives in.

        I would love movies, and there are some, that actually education and tell important stories, without the condescension of 98% of the crap that exists, as Gabe said, to make us all feel better.”

        -Armond White

      • I agree with all of this! I also think it’s worth pointing out that it’s not like this is a historical drama. They’re not setting out to make Amistad or something, so I don’t know if the “It’s showing us what that time period was like” argument holds enough water for the overwhelming Relief of White Guilt presented. It features old American cars and Black women working as maids, which, though I haven’t been there in a while, is pretty similar to the south now? Except they took away any of the hardship and genuine scary stuff in favor of like… a humorous toilet motif, I guess?

        [White person] saves [minority] is one of the scariest movie tropes, if only because it does genuinely reinforce our subconscious prejudices that we don’t realize are still present in our society. Blood Diamond, The Blind Side, Crash, Avatar, etc. I can’t off the top of my head or with Google come up with a movie where the reverse situation plays out.

        • Well, there definitely is the “magic Negro” that Spike Lee talks about, that swoops in and saves the white people with no appreciable gain in his own situation (The Green Mile, Corrina Corrina, Legend of Baggar Vance, etc.). Although that is certainly offensive in its own way. I guess I just don’t think they all have to be historical dramas to be historical movies–sometimes nice people exist and do nice things because it’s the right thing to do, and their stories are valid too. It by no means erases the bad–I’m not arguing that.

    • Moral lessons from mediums ment to be entertaining BNPG?

    • And that story needs to be told with some terrible, TERRIBLE wigs.

    • It’s nice to see that the majority of monsters refused to take Gabe’s cynical bait. Is it just me or has Gabe become even more cynical since returning from L.A.?

    • haha, nope, this movie was definitely meant to make white people feel better.

  2. Why is it that there is only one non-racist person who is part of the majority in every “defeating racism” movie? I always thought there was a movement behind these things. Guess I was wrong.

  3. All I have to add is that this was filmed in my hometown, and I know THAT place, and THAT place, and THAT extra and yes, it’s still completely racist as three hells put together and that’s why I don’t live there anymore…. but I know THAT place!!!

    • I felt that Way About Batman (deservedly so!), and will Likely Feel the Same About Transformers 3: Transformers Kill Chicago or whatever.
      Yeah, those Robots are Racist, but it’s cool that they just fucked up the wrigley building

  4. Wait! Wait! Cancel that, I guess it says ‘helf’.

  5. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  6. I’m just glad they didn’t go with the original title: “Pooping Laws are Made to be Broken.”

  7. Tate Taylor: Keeping racism cutesy.

  8. Not to start a huge debate, but I’d like to see one of these “bravely overcoming discrimination” movies that didn’t show a very special white person/straight person leading the discriminated blacks/gays/whomevers out of the figurative Egypt (Passover metaphors, topical).

  9. I would like to think that if 37 toilets where dropped into my yard in the middle of night I would notice at at least number 12.

  10. Based on the novel: “RACISM IS EVIL!!!!!!” by S. Winwood

  11. My mother-in-law is going to love this movie. So inspirational, what that nice white girl did for those people.

    “No Racism-o” – my mother-in-law

    • My mother will talk about how it’s not racist or problematic because Emma Stone was helping while simultaneously side-eying her (Catholic) mother for talking at great length about how much she admires the Jews, and how proud she is of what they’ve accomplished in the face of adversity.

      Mothers.

  12. My mom reports having read this book, and it made her think about a lot of things that she didn’t think directly at when she was a child and her (white) family on the Gulf had a (black) maid. First of all, it wasn’t just rich white ladies with impossibly huge homes who had maids. Where she grew up, even her family of eight people, who lived in a tiny house in a shitty neighborhood, had a maid. Second, most women–especially black women–didn’t drive, so someone had to take the maid home at the end of the day. But a white man couldn’t be seen in the car with a black woman in the front seat, so her dad would take one of the kids along to sit in the front and force the maid to sit in the back. Etc.

    I don’t think that reading the book or seeing the movie would say much that young people don’t know. I teach about the history of race and labor in college, and my students seem mostly able to think about it. But I guarantee you that in the deep south there are plenty of white folks who work very very hard at never thinking about this shit ever. (See “segregated prom”?)

    • I totally agree with lilbobbytables above, of course, that it’s stupid that the majority thinks it can “give” the oppressed minority a voice. But I’m wary of dismissing discussions like this that are about the history of racism in the US because, while we love to talk about the Holocaust and Apartheid and all that, Americans pretty much hate thinking about the shit that has gone on here, and fairly recently, that involved, if not us, our parents at least. Like, my students cannot believe that Loving v. Virginia was as recent as 1967, but ask them how their parents would act if they brought home a partner of the “wrong” race and it’s a whole other story. I guess I’ll be more satisfied when movies can talk about shit happening now as opposed to far-off Mad-Men-land, but eh.

  13. This has been a great read, y’all. Thanks for making the internet a little less awful. I mean it.

  14. Also see? Racism is most definitely over.

  15. “Is it supposed to make white people feel better about themselves because at least they’re 2011 white people and not 1961 white people?”

    In Mississippi, the white folk are still somewhere around 1968.

    (source: http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/04/07/poll_mississippi_interracial_marriage)

  16. I think I’ll take my chances and get to the theatre LATER. Or now. But either way not to see The Help.

  17. Also, I’m not sure there’s enough sass up in this.

  18. There is something about rich people and their bathrooms. When my Italian-American father was growing up in Jersey, he would help my grandfather with his painting business. He has some pretty severe feelings against the wealthy and it had a lot to do with how they were treated. He told me that it was really common for wealthy homeowners not to let them use the toilet, even if they were miles from a public restroom. Like, he’d be painting someone’s living room and ask to use the bathroom and they would tell him no. Once a woman told him that he couldn’t use the bathroom and that if he left the job site she’d hire someone else for the job. Being really poor they couldn’t lose the job or the family would have went hungry , so he had to hold it until the day was out.

  19. Honestly, to get away from my usual internet glibness, I’ve read the book, and it’s a great fucking book. And I think, to answer your question, that it’s supposed to make everyone, but women in particular feel good. Here is a book (and movie) that is all about women’s stories, and the power behind them. It’s not about a man, although there are men, good ones and bad ones and some in-between, in the story. It’s not about thinking that one single action can cure racism. It is about humbling ourselves enough so we can accept each other as people, no matter what our circumstances are.

    I mean, who knows if the movie will be like that, but I really, really think it has great potential, and the cast is pretty damn awesome. It’s about time women had a summer movie that wasn’t totally a piece of shit, and hopefully they won’t Ya Ya Sisterhood this one.

    Ah, sincerity. Books I love will bring that out in me.

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