As the global protests against police brutality and racial injustice continue, viewers have flocked to the feel-good film based on Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 novel of the same name, propelling it to the top spot on Netflix’s internal charts last week.
While “The Help” was widely praised at the time of its release, it’s since been criticized for sidelining its primary Black characters, played by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, who won an Academy Award for her performance, in favor of centering a white savior narrative.
On Instagram Sunday, Howard, who portrayed the film’s central villain, pushed her followers to “go further” than just watching “The Help” during these times, given the lens through which the story explores the lives of Black maids raising white children.
“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,” Howard wrote. “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,” she continued. “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.
Howard’s suggestions include a trio of Ava DuVernay projects: Netflix’s “The 13th” and “When They See Us,” as well as DuVernay’s Oscar-winning film “Selma.” Howard also recommended “Just Mercy,” which stars Michael B. Jordan and is now streaming for free until the end of June, and the 2016 documentary “I am Not Your Negro.”
She also put “Eyes on the Prize,” “Malcom X” and “Say Her Name: The Life And Death Of Sandra Bland” on her watch list.
Since “The Help” was released, Davis has spoken out about her regrets around acting in the film, which she said didn’t capture the “voice of the maids.”
“I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard,” Davis told The New York Times in 2018. “I know Aibileen. I know Minny. They’re my grandma. They’re my mom. And I know that if you do a movie where the whole premise is, I want to know what it feels like to work for white people and to bring up children in 1963, I want to hear how you really feel about it. I never heard that in the course of the movie.”