Academy Award-winning actor Viola Davis has spoken out against her role as Aibileen Clark in the 2011 film The Help. 

After the death of George Floyd reignited a global push for the Black Lives Matter movement, Netflix US reported The Help had become its number one most-viewed film at the time. It showed people wanted to educate themselves on Black history and racial injustice, but The Help just isn’t the best film to do that.

Despite opening to mainstream praise, including an Oscar nomination for Davis’ role in the movie, The Help has been torched for its White saviour narrative. It was directed by a White man, based on a book by a White woman, and tells the story of a White woman’s decision to write about the lives of Black maids.

Davis has voiced her regret about starring in The Help before. In 2018, she told The New York Times that ultimately, it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard in the movie. In a stunning cover feature with Vanity Fair, Davis further elaborated on the issue.

“Not a lot of narratives are also invested in our humanity,” Davis said. “They’re invested in the idea of what it means to be Black, but…it’s catering to the White audience.”

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"Not a lot of narratives are also invested in our humanity,” says @ViolaDavis, who’s set to star as Michelle Obama and blues legend Ma Rainey in upcoming projects. “They’re invested in the idea of what it means to be Black, but…it’s catering to the white audience. The white audience at the most can sit and get an academic lesson into how we are. Then they leave the movie theater and they talk about what it meant. They’re not moved by who we were.” At the link in bio, the Academy Award winner speaks to @soniasaraiya about championing Black stories, her journey to Hollywood, and what she hopes her company, JuVee Productions, will provide to young non-white actors." Story by @soniasaraiya Photographed by @dario.studio Styled by @elizabethstewart1 Makeup by @autumnmoultriebeauty Hair by @jamikawilson Gown: @alexandermcqueen Earrings: @jenniferfisherjewelry Cuff: @celine ????@vanityfair

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She said The Help, like many other films, was “created in the filter and the cesspool of systematic racism.”

“There’s no one who’s not entertained by The Help,” she continued. “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].”

Davis said she has nothing but respect for director Tate Taylor and the cast. “But with any movie – are people ready for the truth?”

Bryce Dallas Howard, who starred in The Help as racist Hilly Holbrook, also spoke out against the film when Netflix first announced the results.

“I’m so grateful for the exquisite friendships that came from the film – our bond is something I treasure deeply and will last a lifetime,” she shared. “That being said, The Help is a fictional story told through the perspective of a White character and was created by predominantly White storytellers. We can all go further.”

Instead of watching The Help, Howard suggested 13th, Selma, Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland, and When They See Us among others.

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I’ve heard that #TheHelp is the most viewed film on @netflix right now! I’m so grateful for the exquisite friendships that came from that film — our bond is something I treasure deeply and will last a lifetime. This being said, The Help is a fictional story told through the perspective of a white character and was created by predominantly white storytellers. We can all go further.⁣ ⁣ Stories are a gateway to radical empathy and the greatest ones are catalysts for action. If you are seeking ways to learn about the Civil Rights Movement, lynchings, segregation, Jim Crow, and all the ways in which those have an impact on us today, here are a handful of powerful, essential, masterful films and shows that center Black lives, stories, creators, and / or performers: ⁣ ⁣ 13th ⁣ Eyes on the Prize⁣ I am Not Your Negro⁣ Just Mercy⁣ Malcom X⁣ Say Her Name: The Life And Death Of Sandra Bland⁣ Selma⁣ Watchmen⁣ When They See Us ⁣ ⁣ This is not a comprehensive list so please add to it in the comments below!

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13th and When They See Us are available on Netflix Australia and you can find I Am Not Your Negro on Stan. You can also rent a number of these titles on services like Google Play and Amazon. Watchmen is available on Foxtel’s Binge.

In February, it was announced Davis will star as Michelle Obama in First Ladies. The series will peel back the curtain on the personal and political lives of first ladies throughout history. Season 1 will focus on Eleanor RooseveltBetty Ford, and Obama.

Image: The Help