As Just Mercy and Selma streamed for free over the weekend, The Help climbed into the top three of Netflix’s most-streamed movies. The 2011 historical drama (based upon a work of fiction) was beloved by the Oscars, like 2018’s Green Book, although both movies have been criticized for perpetuating the “white savior” trope, so it’s bewildering to see The Help trend as a preferred streaming selection while the Black Lives Matter movement continues to protest against police brutality.
One of the Tate Taylor-directed movie’s stars, Bryce Dallas Howard, has decided to open a dialogue. In a Facebook post, she expressed fond memories for working with co-stars that include Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Allison Janney, and Emma Stone. However, she’d like everyone to consider that the story very much arrived “through the perspective of a white character and was created by predominantly white storytellers.” While stressing that “[w]e can all go further,” Howard expressed a desire to point people toward more essential viewing:
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.
From there, Howard suggested Just Mercy and Selma, along with a handful of other projects, including HBO’s Watchmen, When They See Us (a much better Netflix option than The Help), and Malcolm X. They’re all solid recommendations that will hopefully draw a few eyeballs in a more deserving direction. Viola Davis would likely agree; in 2018, she listed The Help as one of her career regrets, although she (like Howard) still values the friendships with the “extraordinary human beings” who starred alongside her.