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Last week, I borrowed the book from a friend, read it, raged more.* is billed as inspirational, charming and heart warming.
It’s all very distressing and the injustice of what happened in Rosewood is, at times, unbearable because it is based on a true story. I am troubled by how complacently we are willing to consume these often revisionist stories of this country’s complex, and painful racial history.
The first time I saw , I turned to my friend, and said, “I don’t want to see a white person for three days.” She said, “That’s not fair.” Fortunately, it was a Friday so I locked myself in my apartment and by Monday, I was mostly ready to reengage with the world. * Watching historical movies about the black experience (or white interpretations of the black experience) have become nearly impossible for the same reason I hope I never read another slave narrative. History is important but sometimes the past renders me hopeless and helpless.
Aibileen’s magical power is making young white children feel good about .
Whenever Mae Mobley is feeling down, Aibileen chants, “You is kind. You is important.” She showers the child with love and affection even while having to listen to young white women discuss black people as a subhuman species, deal with the indignity of using a bathroom outside of the main house, and while trying to cope with her grief. At the end of the movie, Aibileen offers her inspirational incantation to young Mae Mobley even after she is fired for an infraction she did not commit because that’s what the magical negro does—she uses her magic for her white charge and never for herself.
These powers are used to save and transform disheveled, uncultured, lost, or broken whites (almost exclusively white men) into competent, successful, and content people within the context of the American myth of redemption and salvation.” (see: there are not one but twelve or thirteen magical negroes who use their mystical negritude to make the world a better place by sharing their stories of servitude and helping Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan grow out of her awkwardness and insecurity into a confident, racially aware, independent career woman.
It’s an embarrassment of riches for fans of the magical negro trope.Spencer is also formidable as Minny Jackson, the “sassy” maid (where sassy is code for uppity), who works, at the beginning of the movie, for the petty, vindictive and socially powerful Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), president of the Junior League.Hilly Holbrook’s claim to fame is among other cruelties, proposing an initiative ordering all white homes to provide separate bathrooms for the “colored” help.The angry mob destroys nearly every building, house, and structure in the town. I watch movies like and realize that if I had been born to different parents, at a different time, I too could have been picking cotton or raising a white woman’s babies for less than minimum wage or enduring any number of intolerable circumstances far beyond my control.There are some heartbreaking subplots but mostly the story hinges on a little white lie, so to speak. More than that, though, I am troubled by how little has changed.When Minny is fired from that job, where she uses her negro magic to look after Hilly’s elderly mother, she goes to work for Celia Foote.The women of the Junior League in Jackson ostracize Celia because she was pregnant when she married, is considered white trash and has committed other petty social sins.While I wondered how so many talented people signed on to this movie, the cast is not the problem here.As others have noted, is endemic of a much bigger problem, one where in 2011, the best role available for a two-time Tony Award and one-time Oscar winner like Viola Davis is that of a maid.Emma Stone plays Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan who has just returned to Jackson after graduating from Ole Miss.She gets a job as an advice columnist for the local paper but she has bigger aspirations and a whole lot of gumption.