Can Viola Davis Get A Little Help?

Attractive, intelligent, talented and looking for a part worthy of her.

Viola Davis, you is kind, you is smart, you is important, and by the grace of God you will be in better movies than The Help.

I’m sure it stings a bit losing the Best Actress award, but if you had to lose to someone, there’s no shame in coming in behind Meryl Streep.   I am just as happy that Octavia Spencer won an Academy Award for a performance in a movie that I will never watch as I was for Monique winning an Academy Award for a performance in a movie that I will never watch.

Once upon a time, Halle Berry was supposedly looking at playing Elaine Brown, the Black Panther who wrote “A Taste of Power.”  Anyone wanna guess why that flick never got green lit and Halle is doing crap going straight to DVD now?

I want to see Black women being able to play leaders of entire countries like Streep instead of their hired help.  Why settle for sistas always having to play subservient roles like this?  You think Denzil or Samuel L. would play a sassy butler in 2012?

I’ve been asked, “How can you criticize a book you didn’t read and a movie you didn’t watch?”  The answer, is I can’t, but then I’m not criticizing the work, I’m criticizing the part Davis and Spencer played.  Not the performance.  The role itself.

What I know about ‘The Help’ is there is a Black woman who says Kathryn Stockett stole her life’s story and made a gazillion bucks from it.  What I know about ‘The Help’ is not all books and not all movies are made for all people.   I’m not picketing any bookstores selling the book or theaters showing the movie.  By all means, enjoy them both.

However, I don’t see any reason to say I  have to support an artist when they are engaged in a project I’m not interested in.  I remember when Halle won for  her Oscar for Monster’s Ball and even Angela Basset, dogged her out for that role.  Maybe that’s someone’s favorite flick, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who really likes Monster’s Ball.   Haven’t Black folks reached the stage where we don’t have to shrug our shoulders and accept whatever old, White and male Hollywood serves up as their preferred version of entertainment.?   What’s wrong with demanding and expecting movies that makes us feel good about images depicted on-screen?

I would love to see Viola Davis in a contemporary adult love story with her paired with someone like Idris Elba,  There is a market for films pitched to Black audiences.   Tyler Perry has proven that to be true.  Those kind of films don’t get produced by Hollywood.  But Black women as maids or morbidly obese illiterates brutalized by their psychotic mammas?  Comin’ right up!

No win, but no wig either for Viola at the Oscars.

You get what you’re willing to put up with.  I’m looking for some portrayals of Black women and men that don’t revolve around telling little White girls how kind, smart and important they are.  Sue me for my unreasonably high standards.

Hattie McDaniel won a Best Supporting Actress award for playing a maid in 1939.  73 years later and I’m supposed to pump my fist for another sister playing a domestic?.    I get it that Black women have played servants, maids, domestics and all that good stuff.   They  have those roles down pat.  Can’t we move on to playing something else yet?  If  Sisters in Outer Space are too far-fetched, how about at least a doctor or lawyer?  Can an executive in Hollywood concede that’s not too wild an idea?

I don’t write scripts, but I do know there are stories to tell and movies to be made about Fannie Lou Hamer and Coretta Scott King and Kathleen Cleaver and Angela Davis and Shirley Chisholm and other sistas who ain’t wiping no little White kid’s snotty nose.

There are a plethora of stories to be told about Black women leading countries, freeing slaves, fighting for their civil rights and just to be accepted as women. I’m 56 years old now and I’m getting pretty damn tired waiting around for a decent movie about Black women who were the backbone of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. When are those stories going to get around to being  told?

Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer need something more than the recognition of an Oscar.  They need the validation of roles that allow them to stretch and show their talents as actresses.  They deserve better and we do too.

Just how good is Davis anyway?  Until she begins to receive the opportunities and roles Meryl Streep gets to showcase her skills, we may never know.

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8 thoughts on “Can Viola Davis Get A Little Help?

  1. Jeff,

    I can certainly understand what you’re saying, but we could be waiting around forever if we wait for someone else to make these movies. As Black people we’re going to have to learn that we’re going to have to stop waiting on others to provide us with the things we need. There’s enough talent and money to do these things ourselves. While we’re absolutely justified in demanding our piece of America’s pie, as long as we sit around waiting for others to educate us, provide us with jobs, and portray us properly, we’re going to come up short.

    Tavis, West, you claim that you love our people. Put your dollars where your mouths are.

    • Eric, I concur that nobody is going to tell our stories better than we can tell them ourselves, but the fact remains the only Black man who can green light a film into production is Tyler Perry, and he ain’t going to tell those sort of stories.

      We are going to have to keep smacking supposed “liberal” Hollywood upside the head with their bias against stories where Black women aren’t maids, sex-crazed losers, con women, or psychos until they give us better presentations of ourselves. I’m all for working both sides of the street.

      And those two “dear brothers” are far too into themselves to give a damn about how we are not portrayed in an accurate light by the Hollywood hype machine.

  2. We are only 13% of the population, our numbers alone cannot carry a movie. Tyler , a smart producer makes those movies on which he will receive a monetary reward and that makes good sense
    .

    • “Only” 13 percent of the population still equates to 36 million African-Americans and only a quarter of that buys movie tickets that’s a pretty profit for anyone making movies catering to that market. Tyler Perry makes movies for an underserved audience: Black women. He keeps his stories simple, basic and profitable. His production values are low so he can make money on small budgeted (or cheap) films. If that’s all you’re aiming for, Perry’s your boy. Dressing up in drag and thumping a Bible has proven lucrative, but it’s not much to build a new Black renaissance in movie making around.

  3. I find it interesting that as African Americans we seem to pick and chose who we desire to support based upon the roles they play in various movies. As long as they’re playing the roles we think is ‘right’ we’re cool. We immediately place our actors into small, closed-minded, tune vision boxes; because we have this ‘love hate’ type of relationship with media that cause us to engage in a never ending battle within ourselves (amongst ourselves) over what images we feel are accurate portrayals of who we are as people. In which based upon this blog I’m assuming you didn’t watcher her interview with Tavis Smiley, where she addresses this very same issue. Now, you won’t watch “The Help”; but I’m for sure you’ve seen “Boys in the Hood”, “Juice”, “Training Day”, possibly “State Property”, “Belly”, and “Baby Boy”. Possibly have them in your DVD collection as we speak. All moves that painted a negative picture of black folks, and ninjas’ but I’m sure you’re calling those movies ‘classics”.

    We could go on all day about this particular topic, but I don’t think neither you nor I have the energy to do so.

    I haven’t seen the movie as of late; but I do plan on watching it first chance I get (when I can find the time) because I believe that if I’m going to support black actors when they’re playing the roles “I” want to see them play, I have to be wiling and able to support them when they’re playing roles that I feel are degrading to that of African Americans. And this is what gets me about ‘black folks’; as long as people do what ‘we’ want them to do we’re all good. But the second someone steps outside of what we think is justified roles we become ‘crabs’. We’ll support The House Wives, Flavor of Love and even the Kardashians (brothers root for Reggie Bush every chance they get); but we refuse to support Tyler Perry and The Help, because it makes us look bad 0_O Please explain that to me?

    Anyway;

    Regardless of if she was playing a maid during the civil rights movement, which is an accurate diction of the employment roles of many black women during those times, or if she was playing a role similar in nature to that of Sigourney Weaver in the Aliens Trilogy (in which I would love to see another sister Besides Sana Lathan play by the way) I’ll still support her. Because as an aspiring producer, writer, director; I understand that

    A. There are very limited roles that African Americans can play at the moment. And until the ‘black folks’ who’ve made it in the industry find the courage to pull their support and funding together to create “our” own studios, actually support “our” own production companies (mind included), and distribute “our” own products so that we can see what ‘we’ wanna seen the silver screen; we limit our actors to playing such roles. Why? Because we refuse to support one another. Yes, such roles as played wonderfully by Ms. Viola Davis are what’s currently available; and if its not that, its playing a “sassy” neck-rolling, jive talking, no shit taking ‘sista’ from the the hood. She addressed this issue in her interview with Mr. (I hate on Obama) Tavis Smiley; in which I highly recommend you watch.

    B. WE as African Americans, black folks who’re besides ourselves, and “ninja’s” alike need to stop trying to tell black actors what roles we feel they need to play, shut up!, and put pen to paper. Write a script for a movie that you feel would represent us a people in what you assume to be more accurate portrayals of who we are. WE need to be wiling to show case our creative energy , brining diversity to the stage, vs just complaining about what we see. WE need to find ways to come together and get these scripts produced and distributed, and that includes such actors, producers, writers and directors as Bill Cosby, John Singleton, Robert Townsen, Spike Lee and Tyler Perry (regardless of what you think of him and his work) putting their egos to the side, coming together bring forward the produce we so desire.

    Black people are so vocal about what we feel needs to be changed in relation to “us”; yet so many of “US” refuse to take the steps needed to make those changes because it takes less effort to complain about what we think is wrong; than it does being one of the few people willing to put in the work needed to make the changes.

  4. You have an interesting viewpoint. While I did not see the movie either, I believe “The Help” is meant to be entertainment. It was not necessarily meant to be social commentary. Social commentary is a byproduct unless Tyler Perry is at the helm. Tyler Perry after all is the man who put Monique in that role in that movie you said you would never watch. Now let’s think about your comments for a moment then summize why Tyler Perry hasn’t made “A Taste of Power” or a film about some of the great women you mentioned.

    Yes, we deserve images of our women that make us all feel good. Of course that ‘feel good’ part is somewhat subjective unless the premise is we all must like the same thing. Showing how well women cope in adversity is a fete-in-itself for the actresses as well as for film makers. Let’s give actresses and maybe all involved some credit where credit is due.

  5. I totally agree with how you feel because I feel the same way. I will never watch The Help or read the book. I was conversating with some white women during the run of the movie and they were trying to convince me howw good the book and movie are and that I should check them out. Please! White people get a kick out of watching Black woman perform subservient to whites. Other movies I did not see are Driving Miss Daisy and Bringing Down the House, the later in which I walked out on. Having said all that, I am happy that Octavia Spencer won an oscar. From my understanding she served up a pie made of shit. Well done. That’s exactly what I would have done if I were in that situation as opposed to telling some little white kid how precious and good they are.

    I saw the Tavis Smiley interview and Viola Davis was very condescending to Tavis with her Black woman attitude, whereas Octavia Spencer seemed to be relaxed, enjoying the interview process and made an effort to find middle ground between Viola and Tavis. I’m sure it was a surprise to her (Octavia) when she won, and I’m happy for her! You should see if you could find the Tavis Smiley interview. It was interesting.

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