movies: the help
Viola Davis reveals she has 'a lot of issues' with her 2011 civil rights drama The Help
Viola Davis has spoken out about problems she had with The Help, the Civil Rights drama that won her an Oscar nomination in 2012, criticising the decision to sanitise the pain of the era in which it was set by leaving many of the film's tougher, more dramatic scenes on the cutting room floor.

Extremely important to read and consider, especially as The Help was so highly regarded as a progressive landmark in Hollywood for African-American women - though not necessarily by them.

“I absolutely love the premise,” she said. “I love the fact that [Emma Stone’s character] said ‘I am going to write a story from the maids’ perspective of what it feels like to work with these white women’. Operative term meaning the maids’ perspective. I don’t feel like it was from our perspective, that’s the problem I had with it. I had it from the very beginning.

While she criticised aspects of the film she felt to be historically inaccurate (including the maids rejecting money for their stories, despite the film depicting them struggling to find scraps for food), she mostly condemned the sanitising of pain in order to make the film more palatable to mainstream audiences.

“The anger, the vitriol, and the hatred that they would have towards these white women if they were asked, if they were put in a situation where they were isolated, would have been vocalised. You didn’t see none of that!”

Fiction Books Centred Around Black Women

Purple hibiscus - Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. Her wealthy Catholic father, under whose shadow Kambili lives, while generous and politically active in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home.

Half of a yellow sun – tells the story of beautiful, British educated Olanna, her lover and their experience during the Biafran war in the 1960’s.

The Help – Extremely captivating novel based in the ‘60s; this novel explores the lives of black maids in Mississippi as they work for white families for most of their lives.

The Colour Purple – A black southern woman struggles to find her identity after suffering from abuse from her father. Her story is told through a series of letters to God and then to her sister Nettie

Sugar - A young prostitute moves to Arkansas to escape her dark past. Her new neighbour, Pearl, is still grieving over her daughter’s death fifteen years ago. Their friendship transforms both of their lives and the lives of those around them.

Boy, Snow, Bird - a moving novel about a young woman, Boy Novak, who suffered from abuse from her father as a child and flees her hometown. She ends up in New England where she marries a Widower who has a young daughter, Snow. This retelling of the Snow White myth explores colourism and racism

Americanah – The love story of a young woman, Ifemelu, who leaves her home country of Nigeria to study in America. Her childhood boyfriend is unable to join her in America as he is denied a visa, he instead heads for London. Ifemelu struggles to adjust to life in the west as she comes to term with life as a black woman in America.

Jam on the Vine – Young Ivoe Williams pursues her passion for journalism. Eventually she moves out of the Jim Crow South as she starts the first black newspaper run by a woman.


“I don’t mind if the character is a small character, but I would just like her to have a journey in the film. Sometimes the characters are just there as a prop to further the man’s story. The great directors I’ve talked to, I’ve said listen, I don’t mind playing a woman that is a tiny part, but how does the story affect her? What can I play in the end that’s different from the beginning? Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense, because it’s just like being a prop.”
 — Jessica Chastain