Video Discussion: Is 'The Help' Part of the Racial-Equality Solution, or Part of the Problem?

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I saw 'The Help' at a daytime screening two weeks ago, and I've never been more grateful to be in possession of a pair of sunglasses than I was when I left the dark theater and emerged into the light. Yes, reader, I cried, and I defy any sentient being among you to get through this film about women and race in the Jim Crow South without doing the same. Not that it's an overwhelming bummer of a film: the insanely talented might-as-well-be-all-female cast -- Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Sissy Spacek, Allison Janney, etc. -- deliver plenty of laughs, and more than a few infuriating shocks to the conscience. I went along for the ride -- all 2 1/2 hours of it.

Still, I had reservations. As I stepped onto the sidewalk, I heard two black women who had just seen the film complaining about one black actress's "step 'n' fetch it" performance. When I returned to the AOL Huffington Post offices, I dropped in on the women's editor, Lori Leibovich, who raised a skeptical eyebrow when I informed her that, in my opinion, 'The Help' is a damn good movie. "Really good?" she asked, in a tone of voice that immediately had me wondering how it might stack up to, say, 'All About Eve.' Rebecca Carroll, then in the midst of a mad rush to launch the new HuffPost BlackVoices, was, if anything, even more dubious. She'd kept up with the controversy surrounding Kathryn Stockett's wildly popular book, and was generally having a hard time stomaching the notion -- central to the film -- that a white woman, real or fictional, could accurately capture the experiences of black domestic workers in pre-Civil Rights Jackson, Miss.

Which is how this video came about.

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