That word gets thrown around a lot, you know. “Racist.” The Pajiba staff hears it on a near adaily basis. We’re a predominantly white staff writing about pop culture. And because pop culture comes in a variety colors and flavors, if we miss something, our liberal and somewhat reactionary readership is pretty quick to throw down the “racist” accusation. Given my uber leftist pinko commie upbringing, I live in fear of being called racist, sexist, homophobic or any other brand of intolerance, ignorance, or negligence. And “casual racism”? That’s the worst accusation of all. That’s saying, “Your ignorance is so profound you don’t even realize it.” When I make stupid lists about hair or *sses or French people I make an effort to include all of the colors. And you know what? That effort feels grimy. Shouldn’t I not have to try? Shouldn’t the whole issue be colorblind? Is this my fault somehow? Oh, does all of this sound like guilt-ridden white, privileged whining to you? Fair enough.
Here are a few things I find racist.
Wait. Hold up. That’s not racism. That’s just fact. Oh, and you know what, for once, I’m definitely in the minority here. I think it’s poorly written and banal. I think all the women (Is that sexist? Sorry, dudes.) who I’ve sold it to are kidding themselves. When they clutch it to their well-tailored chests and exclaim that it changed their lives and just blew them away I want to scream. I want to ask them why they think this story about the civil rights movement needs to be told by a white woman. I want to ask them who cleans their houses and mows their lawns and watches their kids. OH A SPANISH SPEAKER? THAT’S DIFFERENT THEN. I find the whole enterprise smug and condescending and dumb.
That being said, I’m not sure how to feel about the film adaptation that opens on Friday. On the one hand, surely a movie can only serve to dumb down an already dumb book. Also, there’s this faintly damning piece in the New York Times that alleges:
The fail-safe response for Hollywood has been to depict racial prejudice in cartoon caricature, a technique that has made the Southern redneck a cinematic bad guy on par with Nazis, Arab terrorists and zombies. By denying the casual, commonplace quality of racial prejudice, and peering into the saddest values of the greatest generation, Hollywood perpetuates an ahistorical vision of how democracy and white supremacy comfortably co-existed.
That NYT piece also talks about “the Magic Negro” which, despite best intentions I’m sure, is a vibe I’m getting from this project. All this makes me disinclined to see the film. But. However. On the other hand, I’m happy to see a non-Tyler Perry project showcasing (some) actresses of color. (You know, when we’re not busy with Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Mary Steenburgen, Allison Janney and Sissy Spacek.) Viola Davis is crazy talented and I’m tempted to watch anything she’s in. Emma Stone is pretty f*cking cute in general and hard to resist. So I don’t know, watch The Help, don’t watch The Help, that’s entirely up to you. But don’t tell me that book changed your life. Did the book change your life? WHY ON EARTH DID THAT STUPID BOOK CHANGE YOUR LIFE?