Audience members wanted...
Starring Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Sissy Spacek, Allison Janney; Directed by Tate Taylor
Politi-Flix is looking for someone who is willing to sit for almost two and one half hours to watch the recent film called The Help, about African American domestic service workers experiencing bigotry and poor treatment in the homes of white families in Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960s. This is a great opportunity for an individual willing to learn about a time and place in our nation’s history from a perspective rarely seen in the cinema.
Anyone who tends to get offended by entertaining yet poignant depictions of serious social issues such as racism, bigotry and racial indignities need not apply. Similarly, anyone who finds it inappropriate for another filmic job where a white person (here in the character of a young unmarried white woman who desires to be a journalist and wants to tell the story of the oppression that black domestic servants are experiencing) helps to liberate abused black people should look elsewhere. Instead, we are looking for candidates who are willing to tolerate such narrative devices and appreciate that these depictions can still be instructive about racism while also providing some measure of entertainment and emotional resonance.
Duties: Not talking while the film is depicted; not using cell phones or other electronic devices during the film; feeling free to express emotion, e.g., outrage at the bigotry and abuse, laughter at the humorous parts, sadness at the achingly poignant moments; not feeling guilty about chuckling during the humorous moments even though the film is about the abhorrent treatment of the domestic servants and the racial bigotry swirling around society (after all, these are human beings that still manage to remain human in these troubling times); not discharging stomach contents when a character eats a pie made by a black domestic servant with gross ingredients as a form of retribution against mistreatment and racial bigotry; coming away from this work with a respect for all people no matter what their race or station in life and an empowered sense that we need to attack racism in all of its manifestations.
Viola Davis and Bryce Dallas Howard in The Help
2011 Walt Disney Pictures
Experience: No previous viewing of films based on this era and the racial turmoil is required, but such viewing is preferred as the film tends to gloss over some of the important aspects of the Civil Rights movement and events — nevertheless, you will experience a more nuanced depiction of the racism that was encountered by many in everyday activities, from cooking and cleaning, the restrictions on the use of bathroom facilities by black domestic service workers in the homes of their white employers, black service workers forced to listen to young white women spew racial epithets and scurrilous stereotypical hygienic fears while also serving them at their bridge parties, to the raising of white children by black women; must also be willing to endure a purported “softening” of the violent abuse that many domestic service workers experienced at the hands of their white employers and society in general.
Benefits: The work will include a generous benefits package including: witnessing some outstanding acting talent, especially by the lead actresses playing the domestic servants; an authentic look and feel for the era; the various coiffure styles popular at the time; witnessing the gradual racial enlightenment of some of the white characters, such as a married woman who treats her black domestic servant with respect when she asks her to teach her how to cook; appreciating the hypocrisy of white society of this era when it raised funds for global causes (such as the poor in Africa) while ignoring and repressing poor people of color in their own homes and communities.
References: Must tolerate side references to the Civil Rights struggles (the murder of Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers, the JFK assassination, Jim Crow laws, etc.) as a backdrop but not a primary focus of the film’s racial tensions.
Doug Young is the film reviewer for The Statesman. He has twice won first place awards for his film reviews in the Colorado Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest.