The Help is being called out after trending on Netflix amid George Floyd protests

8 June 2020, 15:51

Tessa Thompson shares peaceful Black Lives Matter protest video

By Sam Prance

The Help has been widely criticised by black viewers for being a white saviour film.

The Help has just topped Netflix's Top 10 streaming list in the US amid protests for George Floyd and Black Lives Matter.

Last month (May 25), George Floyd, a black man, was murdered by a white Minneapolis police officer. His death came after the killing of Breonna Taylor, a black woman, who was shot by a Louisville police officer in her own home (Mar 13). On May 27, Tony McDade, a black trans man, was shot by Florida police officers.

READ MORE: Minneapolis City Council vow to defund and disband the police

Following their murders and the racist killings of countless other black people, people have taken to the streets to protest police brutality, demand justice and call for genuine change. Black people are also asking white people to educate themselves about racism and the ways in which they are complicit in it.

Following these calls to action, The Help has trended on Netflix but people are now explaining why that's problematic.

The Help just topped Netflix's streaming list and people are pointing out why that’s problematic
The Help just topped Netflix's streaming list and people are pointing out why that’s problematic. Picture: Walt. Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Released in 2011, The Help tells the story of a white journalist who writes a book about black housemaids and racism in the US in the 1960s. Despite Octavia Spencer winning an Oscar for her performance in it, The Help has been widely criticised for being a white saviour story. The movie is also based on a novel by a white woman and directed by a white man.

In his review for The Help, Wesley Morris wrote: "Skeeter’s exposé is meant to empower both the subjects and the author, but The Help joins everything from To Kill a Mockingbird to The Blind Side as another Hollywood movie that sees racial progress as the province of white do-gooderism. Skeeter enjoys all the self-discovery and all the credit."

Viola Davis, who was nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards for her standout performance as Aibileen in the movie, has also since revealed that she regrets that she ever chose to star in it. In 2018, she explained to the New York Times: "I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard."

The movie also has clear-cut villains and heroes. It does little to examine the many ways in which well-meaning white people are racist. What's perhaps most toxic about it being so popular on Netflix now is that those of us who are white can watch it without being made to think about how we are complicit in racism. It's designed to make us feel good about ourselves.

In other words, The Help is not the educative movie that white people think it is and people are calling out those watching it at the moment. Writer Manny Fidel tweeted: "The Help just became Netflix's most-watched movie amid Black Lives Matter protests." alongside a video which explains why white saviour movies, like The Help, are dangerous.

Meanwhile, another Twitter user wrote: "Movies NOT to watch when trying to educate yourselves on racism: The Help, The Blind Side, The Green Book, Freedom Riders, Any other White Savior movie..."

Bryce Dallas Howard, who played Hilly in The Help also addressed the controversy. Taking to her Instagram, she wrote: "I’ve heard that #TheHelp is the most viewed film on @netflix right now! The Help is a fictional story told through the perspective of a white character and was created by predominantly white storytellers. We can all go further.⁣"

She continued: "If you are seeking ways to learn about the Civil Rights Movement, lynchings, segregation, Jim Crow, and all the ways in which those have an impact on us today, here are a handful of powerful, essential, masterful films and shows that centre Black lives, stories, creators, and/or performers."

She then went on to list: "13th, Eyes on the Prize⁣, I am Not Your Negro⁣, Just Mercy⁣, Malcom X⁣, Say Her Name: The Life And Death Of Sandra Bland⁣, Selma⁣, Watchmen⁣ and When They See Us." She also added: "This is not a comprehensive list so please add to it in the comments below!"

View this post on Instagram

I’ve heard that #TheHelp is the most viewed film on @netflix right now! I’m so grateful for the exquisite friendships that came from that film -- our bond is something I treasure deeply and will last a lifetime. This being said, The Help is a fictional story told through the perspective of a white character and was created by predominantly white storytellers. We can all go further.⁣ ⁣ Stories are a gateway to radical empathy and the greatest ones are catalysts for action. If you are seeking ways to learn about the Civil Rights Movement, lynchings, segregation, Jim Crow, and all the ways in which those have an impact on us today, here are a handful of powerful, essential, masterful films and shows that center Black lives, stories, creators, and / or performers: ⁣ ⁣ 13th ⁣ Eyes on the Prize⁣ I am Not Your Negro⁣ Just Mercy⁣ Malcom X⁣ Say Her Name: The Life And Death Of Sandra Bland⁣ Selma⁣ Watchmen⁣ When They See Us ⁣ ⁣ This is not a comprehensive list so please add to it in the comments below!

A post shared by Bryce Dallas Howard (@brycedhoward) on

In other words, there are plenty of movies you can watch to educate yourself about racism but The Help is not one of them.

What would you recommend watching right now?