The Help: Paving the way for remembering the past or resurrecting the mammy?

By Shana Russell, Guest Contributor

In August of this year, the blockbuster film, The Help, based on the 2009 best-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett, premiered in theaters nationwide. Scholars like Tulane professor Melissa Harris-Perry and the Organization of Black Women’s Historians, were quick to criticize the film in the media, claiming that it’s portrayal of black household workers was historically inaccurate and a violent reproduction of the nineteenth century mammy figure. Despite this harsh criticism, the film certainly resonates with black women, who contribute to the success of the film and novel. Thus, there must be some appeal to the film’s conceptualization of sisterhood among women across lines of race. Either way, it is evident that this film is making a significant dent in the way that black women’s labor is understood and remembered in popular discourse. It will be interesting to see how it continues to shape both academic and popular dialogue.

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