Amid ongoing protests across the country against police brutality, The Help, a 2011 period drama that tackled race relations during the civil-rights movement in Mississippi, has skyrocketed to the top of Netflix’s most-viewed movies. The film’s ascension in popularity hasn’t exactly been met with delight by the #BlackLivesMatter community, and the news has reached Bryce Dallas Howard, who portrayed the film’s socialite villain. “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,” she posted on Facebook. “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.”
Instead of The Help, Howard recommended a “not comprehensive” list of films and television shows that center on black lives, stories, creators, and performers. “Stories are a gateway to radical empathy and the greatest ones are catalysts for action,” she wrote, urging her followers to learn about “the civil-rights movement, lynchings, segregation, Jim Crow, and all the ways in which those have an impact on us today.” Specifically, Howard suggested adding the following titles to add to your streaming list: 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, and When They See Us.
Despite The Help receiving four Academy Award nominations after its release, one of which led to a Best Supporting Actress win for Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis later admitted that she regretted taking her role. “I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard,” Davis said in 2018. “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.” Ava DuVernay, who worked in public relations prior to becoming a filmmaker, also said that her negative experience as a publicist for the film “pushed” her to make her movies.