With all the Oscar buzz and hype surrounding The Help has the critically acclaimed independent film Pariah been overshadowed? Grio contributor Mychal Denzel Smith, writing for The Guardian, argues that Pariah should be shown more love during awards season:
Octavia Spencer won a Golden Globe for best supporting actress for her role in the hit film The Help, and I couldn’t be more conflicted. Spencer is a talented veteran actress deserving of many accolades – but how I wish it were for another film. The Golden Globes are a strong predictor for the Oscars, and The Help will surely mirror its Globes success there, likely garnering nominations for best picture, best supporting actress for Spencer, and best actress for Viola Davis. It will further validate, for some, the portrayal of black life seen in this movie.
Meanwhile, the Oscar buzz for Pariah, the magnificent coming-of-age story about a young black lesbian in Brooklyn, fails to rise about a muzzled hum. And this despite a namecheck from Meryl Streep as she collected her Golden Globe for The Iron Lady.
I hesitate to pit these two films against one another, but this is the position we’re in. Hollywood forces us to choose by only handing out quality roles to a few black actors every other year, and then rewarding the least interesting and most divisive among them. The Help squanders an opportunity to provide a vital and revelatory look into the lives of black domestic workers in the throes of the civil rights movement; instead it sanitises their story, glosses over the realities of systemic racism, the effects of poverty, exalts the “white saviour” motif, and traffics in tired “mammy” stereotypes. Yet it has still become a white liberal favourite.
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