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Since its release in 2011, The Help has generated a number of mixed reviews from critics and the general public, and analysis of the film has only increased over the past few months. Not only have film analysts been critical of the movie, but even some members of its cast have questioned its merits. Viola Davis has been particularly vocal about the film and has admitted that she regrets taking on the role of maid Aibileen Clark. Now, the Oscar-winning actress is doubling down on why she wishes she hadn’t joined the project.
Viola Davis recently reflected on her role in The Help and explained that she initially took the role in her hopes to take a larger step in her career, which was only developing at that point. Ultimately, Davis doesn’t believe anyone actually finds the film to be entertaining and regrets joining a production that wasn’t ready to fully tackle issues of race and social class:
There’s no one who’s not entertained by The Help. But there’s a part of me that feels like I betrayed myself, and my people, because I was in a movie that wasn’t ready to [tell the whole truth.]
During her wide-ranging interview with Vanity Fair, Davis also expressed her gratitude to The Help’s cast and crew but still stressed that believes telling the truth is most important when it comes to any film:
I cannot tell you the love I have for these women, and the love they have for me. But with any movie—are people ready for the truth?
Set in 1963, Tate Taylor’s The Help centers on a young, white aspiring journalist who, after seeing the mistreatment of the Black maids in her hometown, decides to write a book exposing the racism they face. She eventually forms a friendship with two Black maids and draws from their experiences and other’s to write her book.
The Help initially received mostly positive reviews, with much praise being aimed at the performance of Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. Both would receive Oscar nominations, Spencer would ultimately win for Best Supporting Actress. Despite this, the film also had its fair share of detractors when it opened, as many noted it for glossing over deeper themes of race and using a white protagonist to convey the experiences of Black characters.
In the months following George Floyd’s death, many have been seeking out films to better educate themselves on systemic racism. Early on, The Help actually emerged as go-to film and became a top trending film on Netflix. Following this, many -- including The Help’s own Bryce Dallas Howard -- have encouraged the public to seek out films from Black creators that more accurately depict Black stories.
Viola Davis has never been one to mince words, and she certainly echoes the sentiments of a number of film critics and audience members. It’s also hard to argue with her wanting a film to depict every aspect of a story. Following her comments and those of others, it’ll be interesting to see how many people continue to seek out The Help as time goes on.