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Viola Davis says The Help was ‘created in the cesspool of systemic racism’

‘Part of me feels like I betrayed myself, and my people,’ Oscar nominee said

Adam White
Tuesday 14 July 2020 13:52 BST
The Help trailer

Viola Davis has said she felt like she “betrayed” herself by starring in The Help, which she has argued was “created in the cesspool of systemic racism”.

Davis was nominated for an Oscar for the 2011 film, in which she played a maid in 1960s Mississippi. The film has been controversial since its release, with many criticising its depiction of the Civil Rights movement from the perspective of Emma Stone’s white protagonist.

Davis, who has previously expressed regrets about the film, told Vanity Fair that she adores the film’s director Tate Taylor and her fellow cast members, but that it did not represent “the truth”.

“There’s no one who’s not entertained by The Help,” she said. “But there’s a part of me that feels like I betrayed myself, and my people, because I was in a movie that wasn’t ready to [tell the whole truth]. [It was] created in the filter and the cesspool of systemic racism.”

She continued: “Not a lot of narratives are also invested in our humanity. They’re invested in the idea of what it means to be black, but… it’s catering to the white audience. The white audience at the most can sit and get an academic lesson into how we are. Then they leave the movie theatre and they talk about what it meant. They’re not moved by who we were.”

The Help, which was adapted from a 2009 novel by white author Kathryn Stockett, has come under renewed criticism in the wake of international Black Lives Matter protests.

As the movement earned more and more mainstream attention in June, The Help shot to the top of Netflix’s most watched movies ranking. This was despite many critics arguing that it does not serve as a valuable educational tool to those who wish to learn more about civil rights.

Bryce Dallas Howard, who played a racist white woman in the film who inadvertently eats a pie filled with her own faeces, advised her fans to watch other films about the black experience instead.

The Help is a fictional story told through the perspective of a white character and was created by predominantly white storytellers,” Howard wrote on Facebook. “We can all go further.⁣”

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