Tag Archives: The Help

Excerpt: What’s Going On At Marvel Entertainment?

Terence Howard (L) and Don Cheadle. Courtesy: Entertainment Weekly.

Former DCP head of fashion and home products Pam Lifford, former chief financial officer Anne Gates, and former DCP HR exec Susan Cole Hill were all represented by the same attorney with  the Pasadena law firm Hadsell, Stormer, Keeny, Richardson and Rennick which has sued Disney in other employee rights cases. According to my sources, the three women, who are all African Americans, referred to themselves as “The Help” – a reference to last summer’s hit DreamWorks movie distributed by Disney and set during the civil rights movement about black maids in Mississippi.The reorganization took place in September 2011 but the negotiations for the exit settlements dragged on. Some insiders claim the law firm didn’t return Disney’s calls because it first wanted a story damaging to Perlmutter to appear in the media. An article appeared on Thursday, and Disney and Marvel and Perlmutter now are in damage control mode. Financial Times LA-based correspondent Matthew Garrahan broke the news about these three African-American female execs, their respective job status after their boss Andy Mooney was replaced as the head of DCP, and their hiring an attorney. At the time he wrote that only one of the three women had settled with Disney.

But the FT story also reported that, when African-American actor Terrence Howard was replaced by African-American actor Don Cheadle in the role of  Colonel Jim Rhodes for “Iron Man 2″, “Perlmutter apparently told Mr. Mooney the change cut costs. He allegedly added words to the effect that no one would notice because black people ‘look the same’,”  Garrahan wrote. A Marvel spokesperson told the FT in a statement: “Mr. Perlmutter and all  of Marvel have a long record of diversity in the workplace and on movie sets around the world as evidenced by both Mr. Perlmutter’s own history and Marvel’s management team.”

- From “Disney And Marvel Do Damage Control After Media Scrutiny Of Big Boss Ike Perlmutter,” at Deadline.com

1-13-12 Links Roundup

A recent study by the Yale University Child Study Center shows that Black children — especially boys — no matter their family income, receive less attention, harsher punishment and lower marks in school than their White counterparts from kindergarten all the way through college. A subsequent article published in “The Washington Post” reported that Black children in the Washington, D.C. area are suspended or expelled two to five times more often than White children. It’s a national trend that needs to be addressed.

The demographics were surprising, experts said. While blacks were still more likely than whites to see serious conflicts between rich and poor, the share of whites who held that view increased by 22 percentage points, more than triple the increase among blacks. The share of blacks and Hispanics who held the view grew by single digits.

What is more, people at the upper middle of the income ladder were most likely to see conflict. Seventy-one percent of those who earned from $40,000 to $75,000 said there were strong conflicts between rich and poor, up from 47 percent in 2009. The lowest income bracket, less than $20,000, changed the least.

The grinding economic downturn may be contributing to the heightened perception of conflict between rich and poor, said Christopher Jencks, a professor of social policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

“Rich and poor aren’t terribly distinct from secure and unemployed,” he said.

Sony Music has been ordered to pay $1.2 million (equivalent to about $656,000 in American dollars) in retroactive compensation back to 1997 for the release of the song “Veja os Cabelos Dela (Look at Her Hair)” by the Brazilian singer, comedian and politician Francisco Everardo Oliveira Silva whose stage name is Tiririca.

The lyrics not only liken a black woman’s hair to “a scouring pad for pots and pans,” but also calls her a “stinking beast.” Oy!

The lawsuit was brought forth by 10 non-governmental organizations that fight against racism. Humberto Adami, the defense attorney of the NGOs, argued that black women were offended, exposed to ridicule and felt violated due to the lyrical content of the song.

“This decision is a direct message to show how the issue of racial inequality should be treated. It is a moment to celebrate. The compensation won’t even go to the authors of the lawsuit. The money will go to the Diffused Rights Fund of the Ministry of Justice,”commented Adami.

Because immigration violations are technically a civil issue, immigrants in detention have no right to an attorney even though the consequences—deportation—can be much worse than for those facing criminal proceedings. Multiple reports in recent years have found that the bulk of immigrant detainees navigate the labyrinthine immigration system on their own, or are isolated in far-flung detention centers out of reach to legal aid services which are concentrated in urban areas.

Young people become uniquely vulnerable in these situations.

“A lot of children are scared and their age and developmental experience doesn’t allow them to understand what is expected of them or the legal remedies that they might otherwise be eligible for,” Garcia said. “Often minors do not know what they are agreeing to or how to present their cases.”

In many cases, there is no requirement that detainees see a judge, which only compounds the problem.

“These two massive deficiencies, that you have no lawyer to help advocate for you and no guarantee you can see a judge, mean that very low level ICE agents are in many cases the first and last arbiter of your citizenship claim,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, deputy legal director at the ACLU of Southern California. Too often, he said, immigration agents don’t believe or bother checking people’s stories, even when they might make valid claims of citizenship.

One or both of these checks would certainly have helped someone verify Turner’s actual identity before she got deported, Arulanantham said.

Viola: I felt like that scene represented something that you don’t see in cinema—the everyday fear that people had. Oftentimes, when you see the Civil Rights era onscreen, people are being whipped and killed, but it’s the everyday—you’re going home, you’re tired and on the bus, and all of a sudden something happens that could be life-threatening. Then, as soon as it’s over, you’re back to your life again. It’s the everyday fear you have to live with. It woke Minny and Aibileen up to the fact that they were risking their lives writing this book.

Tate Taylor: What I really, really loved about the Medgar Evers storyline and backdrop was that he was in their neighborhood. While they were doing this clandestine project, this Civil Rights leader who’s their neighbor gets murdered, and their characters are wondering, “What’s going to happen to us?”

Kathryn Stockett: It was very important for me—and for Tate—to not make this into a Civil Rights piece, but they were being infiltrated and hunted down for their color. So when that bus driver agrees to drive the white people to their destination but tells the black people to get the fuck off, he’s reminding people of the rules. I think it also makes the audience very protective of Aibileen when she’s running through the dark like that. It hurts watching it!

Choosing between The Help or Faces at the Bottom of the Well: On Reproducing Racially-Easy Work or Constructing Courageously

By Guest Contributor Blanca E. Vega, cross-posted from Race-Work Race-Love

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning.” — Frederick Douglass

Writer’s block. This is how I woke up this morning. Confronted with the realities of beginning a dissertation and working full time as a college administrator, I came up with two words:

Writer’s Block.

I write about race and education. I research racial incidents on college campuses. Every day, in my inbox, I see some article about another racist incident, form of harassment, example of violence – I go to sleep with this, I wake up to this, I eat with this racial narrative.

I wonder about those folks who are color-blind. How do they wake up every morning?

Continue reading

Latina’s Tribute to Hollywood Maids Hurts More than ‘Helps’

By Arturo R. García

It’s common practice for a blog to time a post in conjunction with a notable movie release. But a post on Latina Magazine’s blog might have been too on the nose for its’ own good.

Late last week, this post by Lee Hernandez featured “10 Latinas Who Have Played ‘The Help,’” a tie-in, of course, with the recent release of the film of the same name.

“Latinas have a long history of playing ‘the help’ in movies and on television,” Hernandez wrote in the introduction. “Here are 10 of our favorite Latina ‘help’ roles of all-time!” Among the actresses mentioned in the ensuing slideshow: Jennifer Lopez in Maid In Manhattan; Adriana Barraza, who was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe for her work in Babel; and Lupe Ontiveros, who, Hernandez mentions, “estimates that she has played a maid between 150 and 300 times in her career.”

The problem is, Ontiveros’ experience has been radically different than Barraza’s: as she told Soledad O’Brien on CNN’s Latino In America about playing “the help” for most of her career:

It’s disturbing, let me tell you. After 30-someodd years over and over and over again. I’m an educated person. I speak five languages. I am very capable of a lot more than they think I am.

Reached for comment Monday, Hernandez said in an e-mail:

Maids are some of the hardest-working people in this country, and the actresses we spotlight do a wonderful job of capturing the strength and dignity of the job. While we look forward to the day when there are more of us portraying doctors and lawyers and political leaders, there will never come a day when we ignore an entire group of Latinas who are trying to support their families—or the actresses who do a brilliant job of portraying them.

While Hernandez’s sentiment comes from a good place, including Ontiveros with the likes of Consuela from Family Guy – who’s not even voiced by a Latina – undermines it. The way the Hollywood Shuffle has operated for Ontiveros and other Latino actors for decades wasn’t lost on Latina Fatale:

How many lead roles have Latinas played? How often do hit movies feature Latinas in strong roles, as opposed to roles such as maids, gangsters, and other stereotypical roles? I can bet that Latinas play maid roles more often than not, because other roles are not offered to them.

Quoted: How Hollywood and The Help Screw Up History

The Help Movie

There have been thousands of words written about Stockett’s skills, her portrayal of the black women versus the white women, her right to tell this story at all. I won’t rehash those arguments, except to say that I found the novel fast-paced but highly problematic. Even more troubling, though, is how the structure of narratives like The Help underscores the failure of pop culture to acknowledge a central truth: Within the civil rights movement, white people were the help.

The architects, visionaries, prime movers, and most of the on-the-ground laborers of the civil rights movement were African-American. Many white Americans stood beside them, and some even died beside them, but it was not their fight — and more important, it was not their idea.

This isn’t the first time the civil rights movement has been framed this way fictionally, especially on film. Most Hollywood civil rights movies feature white characters in central, sometimes nearly solo, roles. My favorite (not!) is Alan Parker’s Mississippi Burning, which gives us two white FBI agents as heroes of the movement. FBI agents! Given that J. Edgar Hoover did everything short of shoot Martin Luther King Jr. himself in order to damage or discredit the movement, that goes from troubling to appalling.

Why is it ever thus? Suffice it to say that these stories are more likely to get the green light and to have more popular appeal (and often acclaim) if they have white characters up front. That’s a shame. The continued impulse to reduce the black women and men of the civil rights movement to bit players in the most extraordinary step toward justice that this nation has ever known is infuriating, to say the least. Minny and Aibileen are heroines, but they didn’t need Skeeter to guide them to the light. They fought their way out of the darkness on their own — and they brought the nation with them.

–Martha Southgate, The Truth about the Civil Rights Era

We Just Can’t Avoid The Help

The Help UK Cover

This book will not just quietly die.

We first were notified about Kathryn Stockett’s The Help back in 2010. A few readers asked us if we had read it. If we had heard the NPR interview. One blogger, Onyx M, started a critique blog. We’ve been silent for a while on the book world – outside of Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, we haven’t reviewed a book in a long time. Probably because the stack of books that people have sent in still teeters on my desk. And all of the books are good, so they deserve a thorough discussion. But stealing time away to read a book, analyze it, and write about it doesn’t come easy.

And that process is even harder when one enters a book with as much trepidation as I enter The Help. Now that ads for the movie adaptation are all over TV, it’s time to go ahead and put this to rights. I have a new book review format that may help with timeliness. Now, if I can only get over my reluctance.

Even skimming the reviews makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little bit. Continue reading