In Bad Feminist, what does Roxane Gay say about The Help?

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caroline-harrison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay brings up The Help in the chapter titled “The Solace of Preparing Fried Foods and Other Quaint Remembrances from 1960s Mississippi: Thoughts on The Help.” In this essay, Gay describes her experience seeing the popular film The Help and discusses her disappointment with both the book and the movie. Gay argues that The Help plays into the idea of the “magical negro,” a trope in which a black character uses their power to transform “lost or broken whites” into successful and happy people. Gay points out that Aibileen and Minny both possess a great deal of strength but use their power to help the white characters (like Skeeter and Celia) find happiness instead of using it to help themselves. When, at the end of the movie, Celia and her husband tell Minny that she has a job for life, it is played as a touching moment. However, Gay points out that it is actually pretty sad and offensive that Minny’s “happy ending” is to spend the rest of her life cooking and cleaning for a white family for very little pay. Gay also argues that the fact that a talented and Oscar-nominated actress like Viola Davis can only find a role as a maid says a lot about the racism that still pervades Hollywood. Finally, Gay discusses her issues with the novel the film is based on, admitting that she struggles with the fact that a novel about African American women was written by a white woman. On one hand, Gay knows that her instinctual anger is wrong and, as a writer herself, firmly believes that writers should not be limited to writing about characters that resemble them personally. On the other hand, Gay takes issue with writers like Kathryn Stockett, who “write across race” in a way that plays into stereotypes and caricatures. 

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Bad Feminist

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