Katherine Stockett’s excellent novel, The Help, is about the African American maids who worked in white households in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960s. Stockett reflects the brutal realties of 20th Century slavery being carried out in pretentious southern white households that continued from the Slave Era through Emancipation and Reconstruction and the Jim Crow Era to the modern Civil Rights Movement. Pray that Hollywood does not attempt a film adaptation or we will see yet another white-wash of racial reality.
Whether Hollywood is an art form or a commercial enterprise seems unworthy of debate. It is all about the money. But is the motion picture “Power Elite” still as staunch in its belief that movie-goers must always ethnically identify with the screen protagonist for a film to be profitable? The 2009 rags-to-riches Bollywood feature, Slum Dog Millionaire directed by Englishman Danny Boyle, made much money and received much praise, though it did not surpass the intelligence of Mira Nair’s gritty and independent Salaam Bombay (1988). Ashutosh Gouariker’s big budget Lagaan (2001), which was set in Victorian-era India, generated white cross-over appeal as well, as had Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982) and Gurinda Chadha’s Bend it Like Beckham (2002).
Racist and anti-Semitic websites and blogs abound on the internet. Many of these missives reflect a notion that there exists an overwhelming presence of Jews in Hollywood and imply that a Jewish presence influences the images in Hollywood films. To deny that social and political realities are independent of Hollywood imagery would be a direct contradiction of this particular blog. But the issue is less “so what” than to plead for caution in playing into the hands of bigotry.
One would think that in 21st century Hollywood, the image of the Asian female as exotic and sexually subservient would have moved way beyond such a racist and sexist stereotype. Anna May Wong (1905-1961), the famous Asian American actress who spanned the silent and sound