Okay, I’ve settled down. Here are my follow up thoughts on The Help.
We need great movies and plays about domestic work. We those works because we need to understand what domestic work is and isn’t.
The efforts to dignify and legitimize this necessary work have never taken hold. There were failed attempts to organize domestic workers in the 70s. After that, arguments decrying the failure of white women to resolve the issue of sharing house work with their men, instead turning to black and brown hands. But now I see middle class black women exploiting Latina nannies so …
Domestic work has been present since we decided to live in groups. Who does that work and how it’s valued is important. And it’s not just a subject for women. To the extent to which domestic work disappears for men, they need to be part of the conversation because that gives them a serious leg up.
I have long argued that black people will not be at psychological peace until they come to terms with the legacy of Uncle Tom and Aunt Jemima. Americans in general need to look at this work as work, not as a fulcrum to launch us into shame. The work is only shameful if it isn’t properly paid and there are abusive conditions.
That being said, the movie still bothers me. Every black woman has the same look and basically the same story. Was everyone straight? What about the relatively well to do blacks? After all, morticians and preachers weren’t dependent on white support. They carved out different spaces for themselves.
There’s a great and important movie in there somewhere. Here’s to whoever’s got next.
And I confess – the skillful sentimentality got to me 🙂