MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry spent a lengthy chunk of her Saturday show on one of the things that has troubled her most in the past year: the success of the film "The Help."
The movie, about black maids in the Jim Crow South and the white woman who writes a book about them, is set to clean up at the Oscars on Sunday night, with actresses Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer both favored to take home awards. But "The Help" has caused controversy almost from the moment it was released, setting off an intense dialogue about its portrayal of race and racism.
Harris-Perry was one of a chorus of voices speaking out against the film when it was released last August. She went on Lawrence O'Donnell's show, where she called it "deeply troubling," and even live-tweeted her reactions while she watched it, saying it "reduces violent racism, sexism and labor exploitation to a cat fight that can be won with cunning spunk."
On Saturday, Harris-Perry returned to the topic, covering it along largely the same lines. She said that the "real stories" of black domestic workers were far more compelling than the stories told in "The Help," and involved political activism and resistance --both of which were met with terror.
She accused "The Help" of whitewashing history, saying that, for many black women, the reality of their employment was "much closer to a horror film than a lighthearted drama. Just ask those who found themselves at the mercy of Jim Crow justice, at the end of the lynch mob's rope or a burning torch...for black maids, the threat of rape was always a clear and present danger."
While Harris-Perry said she was "appalled at the gross historical inaccuracies" that she saw, she also admitted to being "deeply moved" by Davis and Spencer's performances. But she lamented that, over 70 years after Hattie McDaniel became the first black woman to win an Oscar for her portrayal of Mammy in "Gone With The Wind," Davis and Spencer should only find themselves similarly honored when they did the same thing.
Black actors at the Oscars.