Friday, March 02, 2012

My Weekend Crush

My God, do I respect the hell out of Viola Davis. She’s smart. She’s articulate. She’s talented. She’s amazing. An enormous part of me hoped Viola and Meryl would tie for the best actress Oscar, as both women shone brighter than the sun in their roles this year. And while I, clearly, rejoiced in Meryl’s win I have nothing but glowing adjectives to say about Viola’s work in “The Help.” But it’s not just her acting that makes me respect her; it’s her integrity as an artist.

Because, let’s be honest, the Africa-American stars of “The Help” took a lot of crap from their own community for starring as maids. They did. There was a lot of controversy and ambivalence about the film, not only for the portrayal of domestics but also the idea that the white women essentially rescued the black women. And so they were in the precarious position of both defending their roles in the film to their own community while petitioning for more quality roles for black women with the wider community. It was a tight rope, that’s for sure. But one both Octavia Spencer and Viola handled with class and passion. In fact, if you haven’t already, watch their truly fascinating and illuminating conversation with Tavis Smiley from earlier this year. Go, I’ll still be here when you’re done.

And then when Viola said this, this really hit home:
“My whole thing is, do I always have to be noble? If I always have to be noble in order for the African American community to celebrate my work that is when I say that you are destroying me as an artist. As an artist, you’ve got to see the mess. That’s what we do. What we do as artists is we get a human being. And It’s like putting together a puzzle. The puzzle has to be multifaceted mixture of human emotions and not all of it is going to be pretty.”

This, this rings true for all minority groups. In the end, even as we continue the struggle to be truly equal and included and accepted, we are all just humans. And that, that is the ultimate struggle and goal – to reach a point where we aren’t just the noble black woman or the noble gay man or the noble Asian child, but just humans with all our flaws and all of our wonders. Like I was saying, mad, crazy, total respect.

Though, while we’re talking about her, holy crap is Viola hot. Back, front, arms – damn, girl. It is all working for her. Plus, come on, how awesome was it of her to rock her natural short ‘fro at the Oscars? So awesome. As I was saying, respect. Happy weekend, all.

UPDATE: Things you should know. 1) I am not a white woman. Though interesting some people should automatically assume that I am a white woman by default in the absence of standard visual cues. 2) I call anyone I think is articulate, articulate. Because I enjoy and admire articulate people – women, men, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, liberal, conservative, whathaveyou. 3) If you watch the entire interview with Tavis Smiley, which I linked to in this post, you will hear a very articulate, very smart conversation between three very articulate, very smart people talking about exactly the issues I bring up in this post. I suggest you do. It’s a lovely exercise for the mind.


44 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's NOT about Viola Davis always having to be "Noble." Prior to the movie "The Help" I had never even heard of Viola Davis. That is not to imply that I've never seen her in a role 9I just did know who she was), however the moment she is brought to the forefront of my attention she has to be playing a maid.

Historically in Hollywood it's always been portrayed that "whites" either rescue or torment people of color, and for people of color it's even worse when they are portrayed as less than desirable hooker, pusher, gang member etc.

As a white woman you seem not to understand that the only other time a woman of color was honored with a Best Actress nomination was OVER 70 years ago with Hattie McDaniel for playing a Maid!

This is one area where you need to Back Off! You do NOT have the education that is required to understand the effects that symbolism has on the paradigm of a person of color nor do you understand the impact that years of cinematic "Invidious Comparison" has on African American audiences.

So yeah I and everyone else who was offended by the concept of "The Help" was justified. I don't care if Davis' performance was the Meryl Streep of maids, the offensive part was that after 70 years the role available is of a maid.

Mainstream Hollywood still refuses to portray African Americans as leaders. This is why George Lucas had to personally finance the making of Red Tails, as Hollywood execs d=said that it made white people [Nazi aviators] ,look bad, being defeated by the Tuskegee Airman [an all black fight =er pilot squadron].
Hollywood wants=ed whites to "look good"? even if they are Nazis.

You want to honor Black History month? How about you should have posted about Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the FIRST womyn president of the nation of Liberia or Misty Copeland who is the Principle Dancer of the American Ballet Theater instead of defending Hollywood's never ending racist assumptions of black women.

Anonymous said...

"She’s smart. She’s articulate."

Reminds me of when I was in a supermarket and a white woman heard me speak and commented: "You are so articulate."

As if that should be a surprise because of the color of my skin. as I previously wrote: This is one area where you need to Back Off.

The last thing I or any other educated person wants to read about is white astonishment over the syntactical skills of African Americans. Because that is when we will call you a rascist.

patsy bailey said...

I think everyone can agree on Hollywoods ridiculous standards. But if you want to inform people, don't tell them to back off cause they're not educated enough for you. You could just inform them, maybe in a friendly manner? Also, you simply assume snarker is white and therefore uneducated on the subject. You don't know if she is or isn't, but because of it you think it's valid to not even discuss the point she was making on the subject. Arrogant much? Not helpful.

patsy bailey said...

'she's smart. She's articulate'. I've seen snarker using those words for A LOT of women, black, white, asian, marsian, what the fuck ever. You obvs don't read her blog very well. Don't assume what happened to you is also the case here. I'm pretty sure we, snarker and her readers, hate racism with a passion. But you're not fair at all.

Sarah said...

Viola really was terrific, and I would've loved to see her take home the Oscar this year. Or Rooney. Or Michelle. God, what a year for leading actresses! Really, though, Viola portrayed the vacancy of depression, the joy of friendship, and the anger, sorrow, and fear of her turbulent life just winningly. What a truly talented artist.

As for the controversy surrounding the book and film--personally, I think it's a tiny bit reductive to say 'The Help' is about a white woman saving black women. Really, it's about women helping women.

Skeeter helped the maids by publishing their voices, sure, but Aibileen helped Skeeter escape her small-minded town to fulfill her dreams. Minnie helped Celia tremendously. And frankly, Aibileen helped herself (and the other maids) by taking a risk. And by the end, can we really say that anyone but Skeeter was really "saved"? (Sorry, I don't mean to spoil the story for anyone who hasn't experienced it.)

I do understand that race is a sensitive subject, and it's unfortunate that such a beautifully nuanced performance was used to portray a Southern maid in the 1950s and not, say, the president or first lady of the United States in 2012. I'm sure that role is on its way.

But for now, I think Viola deserves praise for her present artistic efforts.

egghead said...

Did Halle Berry win an Oscar for best actress? I seem to remember something about that.

But Anon, whoever she is, is right about the WHITE MALE DOMINATED Hollywood system? I would assume so from what I've seen of their product output, especially in the last decade. I find some of this product so offensive I've developed a kind of phobia, like asking myself, do I really want to waste my precious time on this again? As a result I've come to rely on INDEPENDENTS and Foreign film. I keep asking myself why oh why did they remake Dragon Tattoo? Probably wanted to do that rape scene just one more time? OMG. Do I really live and breathe in this kind of country?

P.S. I hope everyone here has seen Birth of a Nation. There's a good refresher course as to what some of Hollywood still is. Then, yes, go see Red Tails. What we have to realize is that a lot of AA history has been buried purposefully by whites throughout American history in order to prove out their conjured stereotypes of African Americans. This of course goes for the buried histories of women too.

My maxim has always been, if in doubt, always blame the white protestant male landowner, and certainly not Ms. Snarks.

Sarah said...

Oh c'mon, egghead, Lisbeth was such a fucking badass fighter, not to mention a technology prodigy. The rape scene was *hardly* the highlight of the movie. Rooney Mara deserves props.

But thanks for the other film recommendations. I'll have to check them out.

Kristan Hoffman said...

I feel like people who are only seeing these women as maids are entirely missing the point of the book/movie.

Cay Helm said...

Hollywood (society) is stale in pretty much every way when it comes to forward representation. It's not that there is no wealth of opportunity to portray more nuance and reality. Are there more interesting and representative stories to be told about the great diversity of people being pitched? being made? - sure as hell there are!

Hollywood stays the course and is run by those who reap the profit and power from enforcing and exploiting the fear of difference or more to the point the fear of being.

Let this not be a politic about race or gender or class or [ahhhhhh] - this is about people. People First. All of us together. The great diversity of nature.

Is Viola Davis fricken' awesome - darn right she is! Is this movie a story worth being told - darn right it is! Are there other stories that need to be told - darn right there are!

Why are we shooting each other down with labels and enforcing the division instead of saying let's come together.

Someone called me articulate the other day as well. Did they say so with a hint of surprise and prejudice - darn right they did.

And do you know what, they are right. I am articulate. Besides their self for a second they saw part of my self. I am not [ahhhhhh]. [ahhhhhh] is not me. Articulation is good, their realization is also good. It is good for me to articulate and it is good when i stumble. It is good when they stumble too - that is the moment when change comes about. That is the moment when one grows, when we can grow together.

There are better stories everywhere, let’s stop fearing nature, let’s help each other to come out!

Ace said...

Geez, Anonymous, chill a little. And check your facts before posting a rant, perhaps.

Seventeen African-American women (including Hattie McDaniel) have been nominated for Best Supporting Actress Oscars, and five have won (Hattie McDaniel, Whoopie Goldberg, Jennifer Hudson, Mo'Nique, and Octavia Spencer.)

Nine African-American women have been nominated for Best Actress Oscars, and one (Halle Berry) has one.

Most of the roles nominated were not maids.

I'm not suggesting that African-American women are not woefully underrepresented onscreen, paricularly in major roles, as well as behind the camera. And I'm certainly not dismissing the effect that has on any community.

But work with real facts instead of just making up crap.

pecola said...

Melissa Harris-Perry has done some great analysis of The Help in "The Nation" and on her show last week, so I'd recommend checking that out if you're interested in a broader critique of the movie…but just a few points:

Yes, there was a significant amount of disappointment that an actress of Viola Davis' caliber, still, in 2012, was resigned to playing a maid--as if the role of African-Americans in cinema hasn't grown since Hattie McDaniel won the Oscar for playing a maid in Gone with the Wind in 1940. This isn't a criticism of Viola Davis or Octavia Spencer playing maids, it's a criticism of a Hollywood that still wants them to play maids.

It's not a criticism of Viola Davis, it's a criticism of a Hollywood whose politics have kept her from a starring role until now. It's not a criticism of Octavia Spencer, it's a criticism of a Hollywood that'll ensure that following her Oscar-worthy performance, her next movie will have her as some white woman's sassy black friend (see also: Jennifer Hudson). There's a bigger issue here and it ought not be minimized or personalized.

And, yes, there is a segment of the criticism of The Help that was dealt with this movie as yet another movie featuring the "white savior complex." To be black in a movie is to be nobody until a white person comes along and saves you. I'm disappointed, but not surprised, that there's not more sympathy for this perspective when lesbians are subjected to the pregnancy and "lesbian who sleep with a man" tropes so regularly.

But, my real issue with The Help is this: it's fiction masquerading as fact. This is no more the story of black domestic workers during the Civil Rights Movement than Disney's Pocahontas was a tale of America's discovery. The Help is, as Melissa Harris-Perry noted on her show last week, the Disneyfication of American history.

A lot of people remember Rosa Parks as the woman who sat down on Montgomery bus in 1955 and refused to give up her seat for a white passenger…but it's also worth noting that Rosa Parks was once Aibileen Clark or Minny Jackson. Letters discovered just last year, penned by Parks while she was a domestic, detail the daily threats of sexual violence and abuse she faced. Parks' tale of fighting off a would-be rapist mirrors the experience of so many domestic workers during that time…but very far away from the tale spun in The Help.

Maybe there's an audience out there that doesn't look at The Help and think it's an accurate representation of history. Maybe people know that black domestic workers faced perpetual threats against their person and that The Help invokes the security of a comfortable past that never actually existed.

Maybe…but I doubt it.

Jasmine said...

Honestly, you anons need to settle down.
*Chris Crocker voice* Leave Snarker alone!

Listen, I'm black, not African-can-American or however you guys across the pond title yourselves but anyway, my point is this - gay, Asian, black, disabled [insert other minorities here] people are often hard done by the all-ruling majority that is 'the man' (read : heterosexual white males over the age of 45) and so as a minority we are used to having our rights taken away from us, just 'because' - it often takes the sympathy/support/advocacy of larger groups (e.g white people sticking up for black people against slavery and such other such racial injustices) in order for the rest of the people to sit up and say 'hold on a minute, we should treat these African Americans as real people as opposed to lesser peasant slaves!'.
The Help is a prime example of this, we can argue about it all we want but at the end of the day, it's probably a pretty accurate portrayal of how shit went down in those times (I would imagine, I wasn't born then) but yes, obviously African Americans did stand up and try and protect their rights but as we are witnessing today with say, gay marriage and even the occupy movement, sometimes our little minorities need that extra push from the big dogs to get us the rights we deserve.

And as for slating Snark's complimenting of Viola Davis, that's just dumb. Let the women compliment other fantastically strong women without ridicule. Bloody hell...

Heather Anne Hogan said...

Anonymous #1. Seriously. Come on. For starters, it might interest you to know that Dorothy Snarker isn't white. She's a gorgeous woman of color.

Secondly, here's a quick list of people she has called "articulate" over the years on this blog:

Joss Whedon
Rachel Maddow
Tina Fey
Jennifer Beals
Keith Olberman
Aaron Sorkin
Naya Rivera
Erin Cummings
Portia de Rossi

(Thanks, Google!)

It's not like she's shocked that a black woman is articulate; it's that she's a writer and admires people who speak well. Sheeesh.

Lots of people -- Melissa Perris Harry, as Pecola noted above me -- have given really broad critiques of The Help. That wasn't the purpose of this post. Snarker was simply explaining some of the reasons she has a crush on Viola Davis.

You might want to save your indignation for someone who could actually use the lesson. And you might want to learn to address people in a way that doesn't come off as bullying, 'cause you know what? It just sounds like white noise. You might feel better, but you're never going to change anyone's mind screaming like that.

Anonymous said...

"But if you want to inform people, don't tell them to back off cause they're not educated enough for you."

Oh I WILL tell them to Back Off particularly when one has a daily forum espousing things she has no knowledge of. It's not the place of a white woman to assume that she knows what people of color feel as a result of their experiences, unless she is biracial and has personally experienced the phenomena that I described.

Neither is it my responsibility to inform people of information that they are responsible for attaining themselves. The Internet has created a Nanny State.

I am not a baby sitter, nor am I a child who says "Teach Me." When I was a child I was curious enough to discover things independently and even then I didn't expect anyone who wasn't a teacher to inform me of that which I was curious about.

All this writer had to write was that Viola Davis is her weekend crush cause she's HOT and discuss her acting credits. NOT go into how articulate she is [as if an educated actress would be inarticulate]. Or how she caught so much heck over appearing in The Help.

"it's unfortunate that such a beautifully nuanced performance was used to portray a Southern maid in the 1950s and not, say, the president or first lady of the United States in 2012. I'm sure that role is on its way."

It took over 70 years since Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar. Halle Berry won Best Actress and what did she play? a Jezebel stereotype in "Monsters Ball."
So if you're expecting a "beautifully nuanced" movie like this with a character portraying a MIchelle Obama, it won't happen in our lifetimes sorry. Did you watch the news? 97% of the voting Academy of Motion Picture Ares and Sciences are white male over the age of 62. 2% are "black" 1% Female.

It's NOT going to happen in our lifetime.

Anonymous said...

"You might feel better, but you're never going to change anyone's mind screaming like that."

My original post wasn't in CAPLOCKS. What is wrong with you? Grow Up.

Anonymous said...

"You might want to save your indignation for someone who could actually use the lesson. And you might want to learn to address people in a way that doesn't come off as bullying, 'cause you know what? It just sounds like white noise."

You took the time to read my comment and you took the time to ineffectively respond to it, so it obviously wasn't white noise to you. but this is white white girl do as you circle the wagons in defense of your babysitter: Diminish that of which YOU have NO salient counter perspective. Please Spare me.

Oh and it doesn't "sound" like anything D-U-H.

Anonymous said...

It's always a treat to read indignant and glib 20 somethings, rant about that which are clueless about. So stomp your feet and shake you fists, it means nothing online.

And of course NO One on this site wants a lesson, that is reserved for people who want to actually acquire knowledge. Hello.

Anonymous said...

"Did Halle Berry win an Oscar for best actress? I seem to remember something about that."

Yes she did for playing a Jezebel stereotype in Monster's Ball [Look up the Jazebel stereotype].

Hattie McDaniel was the first woman of color to win an Oscar it was for Playing a Maid in Gone With The Wind. Whoopie Goldberg won for her buffoonish portrayal of a psychic in Ghost. Denzel Washington won for his portrayal of a corrupt cop in Training Day.

Anonymous said...

@Heather, I'm guessing Anonymous #1 didn't bother to read your first paragraph since s/he is STILL referring to Snarker as a white woman.

Danie said...

Um.... I'm just a (barely) 30 white woman, but um... for the most part aren't a whole lotta the roles that women win 'Best Actress' for usually prostitutes, or serial killers or other 'hard and dirty' types??

I was amazed when Sandra won for her 'mom' portrayal and Meryl this year, I was stunned.

Isn't that one of the 'keys' that's joked about in talking about the Oscars, that for women you either have to play a prostitute or 'get ugly' to win??

Now, that's depressing from another point of view, but...

Anonymous said...

Gasp! Someone said something WRONG on the internet. OMGZZZZ!

maya said...

Melissa Harris-Perry talked about The Help with Lawrence O'Donnell when it came out in theaters ( http://video.msnbc.msn.com/the-last-word/44098555#44098555 )and held a round table about the movie on her new show before the Oscars (http://video.msnbc.msn.com/the-last-word/44098555#44098555 ). The round table was a really great, insightful discussion. I am ambivalent about the film, but I agree with what Viola Davis said. The job of an actor is to find the truth in one character, and she does it beautifully. Then there's the bigger question of how is the narrative of people of color canonized and presented by the film industry in toto. I think that is where the problem lies, as well as the work for people who care about this sort of thing. I don't know. It's a sticky wicket. But you, Ms. Snarker, are blameless. :)

maya said...

Oh and one more thing...Apparently, this "Anonymous" person is the arbiter of "colored"-ness. Halle Berry, not colored enough. Snarker, not colored enough. Me? Probably also not colored enough. No, to be able to have enough credibility on this subject, we have to be sufficiently colored in. Read: BLACK.

linster said...

Nothing displays courage of conviction like writing as "Anonymous."

Anonymous said...

I've tried multiple times to write this post without sounding anti-american (it is not my intention) so please forgive me if I cause offence. The original anon just provided a perfect example of a cultural phenomenon that confuses me and I'm hoping someone will provide an answer.
Can someone please explain to me why americans often lead with their minority, African-American, Irish-American, Jewish-American, etc. As if it provides some sort of moral absolution?
As though your right to an opinion is dependant on how poorly your ancestors were treated.
I suspect that anon is right in assuming that Miss Snarker does not know exactly how it feels to be a middle aged, black maid in fifties America. I also suspect that anon has not experienced this first hand; yet the fact that he/she is African-American gives licence to an over-arching belief that not only does anon know exactly how every African-American experienced discrimination in the past but also how every African- American feels about current portrayals of historic events.
Surely segregation of thought and experience helps no-one. An African-Americans discrimination is not qualitatively different to an irish-Americans discrimination, or a Jewish-Americans discrimination, or a Gay-Americans discrimination.
However, instead of finding similarities and using shared experiences to create a dialogue and bring groups together, you re-emphasise your difference and seperateness.
Surely if you don't think someone understands you, you try to explain yourself, you force a dialogue, you create empathy and exact change.
Or is it just easier to say "BACK OFF" and play the martyr off the suffering of those before you?

Anonymous said...

Dear Dorothy,

Haters Gotta Hate.

Love,

Canada

Kate said...

Wow. Anonymous #1 is spewing some pretty racist, ignorant BS. She/it is quite the bully. It must be quite lonely living with all of that righteous, self centered indignation. Please get your head out of your ass and pay attention to what was actually written in this particular post. Also, you are clearly unfamiliar with this blog at all, so maybe educate yourself about where you are before embarrassing yourself again.

Tammy said...

I... wow. I read your blog everyday. I thoroughly enjoy what you have to say and your fun, witty, and intellectual assessment of pop culture, as well as issues of importance that move beyond pop culture. I would like to thank you for the perspective and entertainment I have received from reading your writing.

I am frequently in awe of the things people will say to writers on the internet. It's horrifying. Especially when the writer is not making any comments with the intent of offending or belittling people. The first time I felt the need to step up and defend an author for the right to publish their OPINION about something entertainment related was when Heather Hogan was being vilified for her writing about U.S. Skins. I couldn't believe what people said to her. Recently, Rin and Sophy of Rophy fame were attacked for their opinions about Glee. And now this.

It has convinced me that I need to be more proactive in thanking people for sharing their creativity and opinions in their blogs, recaps, articles, etc. Because to create through writing is to put a part of yourself out there, and you guys shouldn't have to ONLY receive negative comments for what you do.

I have never commented on your site before. But I will today. Thank you for having the courage, talent and intellect to express yourself so articulately. You are appreciated.

Katie said...

I am so confused. Is it racist to comment about someone being articulate? Because I'm fairly certain that the comment had less to do with Viola's color and more to do with the appalling lack of vocabulary many people these days exhibit.

I enjoyed The Help, granted, I'm a young (27) white woman, but to me the movie wasn't about a white woman rescuing black women. It was about black women rescuing white women and themselves. Perhaps I watched it wrong, or am unknowingly racist. I can understand the frustration with a system that ignores African American actors and stories, but it isn't as though the domestics in The Help bore any resemblance to the Mamie character in Gone With the Wind. Granted, I haven't seen GWTW in years but from what I remember, she was fairly content with her lot in life, more than willing to continue serving. How is that the same as this movie? Sure, the job is more or less the same, but the way the characters are portrayed is COMPLETELY different.

I loved Viola in Doubt, where she gave a very powerful performance. If my memory serves she received critical acclaim for that role as well, but since it was a small part it seems to have been repeatedly overlooked. Now that she has given another incredibly powerful performance, she's back on my radar and I couldn't be happier to see her. She's amazing, no matter what she plays, and her nuanced and heart wrenching portrayal of Aibileen didn't fall into the stereotypical domestic/maid/slave category. At least to me.

Anonymous said...

Damn, my whole comment got erased. Long story short, as a black woman, I wasn't particularly offended by this post. All you have to do is read Snarker's last post on Lucy Liu to understands that she knows what she's talking about with this particular issue.

And I don't blame Viola Davis for doing the best she could with this role. She said on the red carpet that she tried to bring as much dignity to it as she could and I feel like that's the challenge for a lot of actresses of color in Hollywood. I didn't see The Help because I find the trope tired and insulting, sure, but that doesn't mean I wasn't hoping Viola Davis would win. Her approach to the role seems sound enough. Now I'd just like to see her get offered a role Streep would be offered, not one based around her skin color. I blame Hollywood for that, not Davis.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #1, I agree with you in your critique of Hollywood and the movies in general. Very rarely is there an amazing role for a nonwhite actress. Very rarely is there a director or a movie that does anything radical (like Julie Dash in Daughters of the Dust). Very rarely do the Oscars actually recognize the best work of the year in any field (it's a disgusting political game).

I think, however, that you went way too far in attacking someone personally to make that point. I guess you don't read this blog very often because Snarker wrote here in 2008, yes, almost four years ago, that she is Asian-American (her term) in a post entitled "My Presidential Crush." I think you would find friends and likeminded people here if you were open to see them.

Anonymous said...

"Can someone please explain to me why americans often lead with their minority, African-American, Irish-American, Jewish-American, etc. As if it provides some sort of moral absolution?
As though your right to an opinion is dependant on how poorly your ancestors were treated."

OK, I'll bite. One thing you need to always keep in mind about the United States is that by and large, we're a nation of immigrants, whether voluntary or forced. Identification with the religious or national origin of our ancestors is universal. As a result, it's not unusual in discourse in this country to see reliance on that form of hyphenated description to add credibility to what is being said. While it's true that some use it to play the martyr card, it's more likely that they're just looking to be taken seriously because they've walked the walk.

As far as "Jewish-American" goes (and I'm one), keep in mind that anti-Semites throughout history have always portrayed Jews as not being real citizens of whatever country they lived in (see "Hitler, A.") so you can call the coining of "Jewish-American" as a not-unexpected result of history.

dc said...

Oh my. I wonder if the people who are upset that Viola Davis "played a maid" in The Help *actually* saw the movie.

I have to admit that before I watched it, I was a tad concerned that the film might portray the usual racist cliches. However, I was stunned by her (and Octavia Spencer's)performances.

Viola Davis breathed life into her character and gave her complexity and depth. She created Aibileen: an astounding and compelling three dimensional heroine that blew me away.

btw, I'm also not white, if that makes a difference.

Belle said...

I sign for every word you wrote about Viola. She's so great, and yes, so hot.

Bea said...

If you'll excuse me, Dorothy, I won't try to defend you, because the accusations that you are a racist white woman are so clearly coming from the anger within rather than from anything you have said that they essentially dismiss themselves as irrelevant.

I'd like to say to the anon that posted at 4:43 and asked 'Can someone please explain to me why americans often lead with their minority, African-American, Irish-American, Jewish-American, etc. As if it provides some sort of moral absolution?' that I agree with everything you just said. That is something that perplexes me as well, and that exists also to a certain degree in my own country and I could never understand. It is one thing to understand and respect one's heritage and another to lead every point you make from that heritage.

lorinb79 said...

Viola Davis has 60 entries on her IMDb filmography and a couple of Tony Awards on her mantle. For the sake of an Internet rant, let's not reduce a distinguished career to one film in which the only "role available is of a maid."

Just for curiosity's sake, I looked up Asian-Americans who have been nominated for lead roles. There was a British-born Indian actress in 1935, and Ben Kingsley and Yul Brynner both won Best Actor. That's it. I'd like to speak out against the obvious injustice here, but as a white woman, the rules of discourse apparently preclude me from talking about racism.

I think all my other counter-points have already been, dare I say, well-articulated by the other respondents.

Mary Going said...

I'm grateful for the link to this video. It articulates (haha) for me an uneasiness I have been feeling for several years. Films like Waiting To Exhale, or Jumping The Broom, bore me with their one-dimensional characters. Those films seem to be made with the idea of "image and message," rather than, as Viola Davis said, "with execution." Bravo that she stood up to the attack on her choice to act in this film.

Of course, this does not negate the fact that there are way too few roles for people of color. Heck, people of color are cast as white people (Hunger Games!). And, I'll also lament the lack of non-feminine roles for women. I'm sorry, but Shane is not butch.

And, Viola's point is spot on. Let the artist be an artist.

egghead said...

oooh, I just love it when women get together and discuss . . . and to think Dot started it . . . :)

I've learned something from every post above.

The 350 years of pain, as Viola speaks of is real and must be acknowledged some way. I pray everyday -- somehow, someway someone comes along and soothes this particularly unique AMERICAN pain.

My ex, and still my beloved, was African American (I'm a mongrel - Native Amer/Irish) and so beautiful to me in both style and physical beauty, grace, and the way she spoke to me and cared and made love. She shared so much with me that she did not need to, but she did. I don't why. I am so not worthy in so many ways.

That picture of Viola on Dorothy's front page sears into my heart. So much depth of really living in those eyes. And hey! "Boobs o'clock" --- YO! My ex worshipped my breasts, and I hers, of course. :) Her body was so perfect I still shudder to myself to this day. She taught me to love my body, and she was so much younger than me by the numbers but not by the soul. It was I that should have been doing the teaching?

Anyway, I was reminded of this quote from Shakespeare when I saw Viola on the red carpet last Saturday all swaddled in green as she was:

"O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!"

Ellie Heller said...

Dorothy,
I too think she's lovely on the inside and outside and applaud your choice.

You can "crush" on whomever you want for whatever reason you want. I hope all this hissing in the comments hasn't deterred your joy in the moment.

Anonymous said...

So do you or do you not have a picture of Viola Davis in a tank top?

Norma Desmond said...

I'm not even touching the very heated debate going on in the comments above. I am particularly amused, though, by the assumption that you are white; clearly, the angry reader is not a regular, or they would know that you're not.

Anyway, all I wanted to say is that, per usual, I 100% approve of and agree with your crush. I mean, seriously, those arms? How are those even real? (See what I did there? I chose to hide behind objectification. It's a little odd to me that that's the preferred relationship to the objects of your posts amongst your readers, but whatever. Who am I to judge? I am, after all, a lowly white white.)

Oh, one more thing. Commenters, what is with the ageist rants? Yes, I'm a 20-something, but how does that make my view of the world or what I have to say any less valuable than what older, not-necessarily-wiser women have to say? Hint: it doesn't.

Anonymous said...

I didn't come to this forum to quibble over the number of African Americans who've been nominated for an Oscar. Try to conceptualize the BIGGER picture because it is much deeper than an amount of nominations received. Sheesh.

You know what the real issue that causes some African Americans to put down The Help [I mean despite the fact that most are SICK and TIRED of white people reliving their Glory Days as "Massa."] the real issue [at least for me] are movies that make white people more clueless, stupid or hatable than many of you are deserving of.

I mean look at how the election of Barack Obama has released the Grand Dragon (or Wizard) on the internet! For example: Sarah Palin? Really? an under-educated white woman is more desireable to be president or vice president than a Harvard educated black male?

I have a white mother, who fiercely loved me as a child. I know that she doesn't appreciate being viewed as an idiot racist, and she wonders why so many whites don't seem to mind. Come on you KNOW that you don't mind the rest of the world looking at you as buffoons while you attack me.

I have no desire to promote a movie that makes whites anymore detestable than you already are, and most of you know that you are pretty destestable.

See the problem with White Supremacy is that it goes on for gernerations and instills into the children a sense of acheived status.

However this status has never legitimately been acheived but ascribed as a result of birth into a particular race.

Ultimately those afflicted with the delusion of white supremacy are so fragile that reading the truthful words of someone who is unlike them offends them. White Supremacy renders whites so helpless that they are unable to withstand injustice even when it's inflicted upon them by their own kind. It's in the movie The Help: The writer's mother fires the maid who raised her daughter for 29 years because the president of the chapter told her to.

Well this is the 21st Century and I am not about to coddle any person or group that loses its mind and attacks my perspective by dimini9shing my views as "Rants" or "Raves."

It is not my place to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. Nor do I seek to instruct or change anyone's mind. I could care less, if you are old enough to get online, then you are old enough to do independent research and LEARN.

If you want the benefit of my doubt then EARN it! I owe you nothing.

Seriously Let It Go.

Anonymous said...

I'm assuming that the writer of "Seriously Let It Go" is Anonymous #1, and so I must ask: Have you heard ANYTHING that anyone here has said in response to your original posting? If you had, you would recognize how many people are agreeing with most of your "points." (However, when you become enraged because you believe a "white" (sic) blogger has no business recounting what she has heard about black/African-American responses to "The Help," it is not "quibbling" to point out that the blogger you are tearing into is not white. Since you said it in at least two different posts, it seems rather important to correct the assumption.) I agree: you're obviously not here "to instruct or change anyone's mind," because if you were, you would give other people's responses the thoughtful attention they have given yours. Instead, after starting this thread with an attack on Dorothy based on your own incorrect assumptions about her, you have refused to acknowledge that fundamental error, you are irritated by anyone who tries to get more deeply into the points you raise, and you wrap up by calling whites detestable and telling everyone who has tried to participate in a healthy discussion to "let it go." So what was the point, again?

skrailly said...

le sigh...

I know I may be joining the conversation a tad late but this posting and the subsequent comments have left a bad taste in my mouth since Friday.

First, let me say, I agree Viola Davis is hot, for both her body and her mind.

Secondly, while I do not agree with the majority of the comments anon1 made, I am utterly dismayed at the reception of those comments. It seems to me that far too many of us went into a defensive mode instead of considering not only her points, but more importantly, her feelings on the topic. And I do realize that she may not have considered the feelings of Ms. Snarker or the other posters, but that is irrelevant. Assuming of course, that everyone here belongs in some way to the GLBTQ community, I think it crucial to recognize her membership as well, and even if she is not approaching this with an apparent willingness to engage in dialogue, our responsibility (if we choose to reply) is to treat her with respect and not respond to her in the same way the rest of the world would.

Next, Ms. Snarker-
I have been a long-time reader of your blog, and though I know you are of Asian descent, when I read your post, I, as a Black American, still cringed at your use of the word 'articulate.' And of course, I realize your past use of this word, in describing your attraction to intelligent women, no matter their ethnicity. I share in that attraction. But, you've got to know, that even if you do not harbor the racist sentiments that are often behind that word, the word still carries the negative historical connotation. Especially for African-Americans.
As for the movie, I do not fault Viola Davis in the least. But, I do agree with Tavis Smiley in that the image presented of Blacks carries more weight because they're are so seldomly seen on screen.

Lastly, as for a number of the comments here; I find it ridiculous the way many in our GLBTQ community act as though their inclusion in one minority group allows them to oppress others. Let's stop pretending that hierarchies of racism don't exist. Passing does provide some privilege to individuals. Discrimination to Latinos, Asians, Blacks, and Indigenous people is often different from others because there is rarely such ambivalence about their appearance. I have no problem saying this is much more true than just being gay, or some ethnicities which fall under Caucasian. It's not about credibility; it's about sensitivity. Also, let's not deny that if someone is a Latina, they can't be prejudiced against someone who is Asian, the other way around, and all combinations of such thinking.

To close off, I hope to make clear that it was not my intention to insult in any way, and these are my thoughts, not those of an entire people.