Monday, July 18, 2011

Please, No More Help!

Can we please stop with the Mississippi movies on racism? There's more to my home state than this. I'm sure my tweet homie, CIH8U2, can back me up on this. Is it possible to shoot a movie in Mississippi that doesn't involve racism? And no, "Biloxi Blues" doesn't count! For every "My Dog Skip," there is "Mississippi Burning" and a "Ghosts of Mississippi." Heck, even "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" had an appearance by the KKK.

I've lived in Mississippi for almost 40 years. Does racism still exist? Yes. Do the aforementioned movies represent life in Mississippi before 1970? Yes. I'm not denying that it happened and that it should some how be swept under the rug.

I'm just saying can we be about something other than racism for a change?

Hollywood provides a look into different cultures across the world, but how can non-Mississippians that are watching know when a view is skewed? I've met people who visited Jackson for the first time and expected dirt roads, drinking wells and cotton fields. At first, I thought they were just stupid, but over time, I begin to realize that they had no other reason to think differently. They're only expecting what they see on TV. They're looking for a bunch of racist, slow-talking, sweaty, country people a la "In The Heat of the Night" (which actually wasn't shot in Mississippi).

Even when a movie didn't involve white people, it still involved race. An example is "Mississippi Masala." This movie was shot less than 10 miles from my college. In fact, me and my friends stood in line hoping for a chance to be an extra in the movie, but never got selected. We did have a classmate get picked, but he was too high to even remember shooting his part. Seriously. He had a scene dancing near a bonfire and he was high out of his mind.

But, I digress. This movie was about a black man who fell in love with an Indian woman and neither of their families were down with it. Even as a 21-year old, I thought to myself, "Dag, does anyone like black people?"

This movie was shot a few miles from my college.

I kid you not. These movies even had an affect on me as a black man. I think back to my teen years and my days in high school and college. I had plenty of opportunities to date outside of my race, but I passed each and every time. Was it because I truly preferred black women or was it embedded in my subconscious that if I stepped outside the race that I'd wind up having a future movie based on my run-in with another race?

Wait. I did go out with a curvy Latina from Ole Miss a few times :). Speaking of Ole Miss (Univ. of Mississippi), they suffer from the stereotypes, too. Because their mascot is the Rebel and they have Rebel flags waving all over the place during their games, some black kids refuse to go to school there. Could it be because their parents have flashbacks of the Rebel flags in these movies and they think Mississippi is still living in the '50's? It's possible. A lot of people want Ole Miss to do away with the team name and the flags. That's a blog post for another day.

Well, before this movie, "The Help" comes out in a theater near you, let me make this public service announcement on behalf of all Mississippians:

"Here in the Hospitality State, we have our faults. We have a lot of improvements to make in order to better our education system and job industry. Our past has been spotty, but don't think for one second that bigotry spawned here. Blatant racism was once rampant across the nation, not just in one state."

There are a lot of good things about Mississippi we can focus on when it comes to the media's exposure of us: We have arguably the three greatest football players of all-time in Brett Favre, Walter Payton and Jerry Rice. We have talk show greats like Oprah Winfrey and Robin Roberts. Well-known singers like Jimmy Buffett and Faith Hill (who went to middle school with me) were born and raised here. Great authors like Eudora Welty and William Faulkner were rooted here. Entrepreneurs like Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx or Robert Pittman who founded MTV are both Mississippians. Even people I could care less about like Ray J and Britney Spears grew up here.

So, let's get away from making a movie about races hating on black people in Mississippi. Try to recognize my state for the positive things that it currently has to offer:

Like your favorite blogger! :)

That's my brother in the tie.  He was an extra in "A Time to Kill."

* UPDATED: 8/8: * I found an excellent post on this same topic from a local blogger, but with a twist (and video). I wasn't able to comment on her page (although I tried to follow her blog) nor did she have contact information. Hopefully, she'll be able to follow the bread crumbs back to my site so I can commend her on this post.

18 comments:

  1. My favorite thing about Mississippi is the fact it separates the good from the bad in spelling bees.

    Thank you mississippi!!!

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  2. LOL! Massachusetts may have something to say about that.

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  3. Quincy,
    Ready for your first negative comment??? Nah... just kidding.
    I read the book, The Help, and loved it. A couple of my southern friends said that it reflects their childhood in NC, something I couldn't relate to at all coming from Ohio.

    This will be a chick flick, my friend. We'll look at the gossip -- not the help.

    Take care!

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  4. Karen, I'm disappointed. I thought for sure you were going to tell me how much you hated my blog post. (Sigh) Oh, well. LOL! I haven't read the book, but I've heard pretty good things about it. I will eventually see the movie once it hits HBO or something. I just wish the focus was elsewhere when it comes to Mississippi. I know a lot of good can come from these movies. However, as a native of the state who wants to see Mississippi with a more positive image, these movies don't seem to help a lot.

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  5. Hopefully the intention of the movie isn't to cast a negative light on Mississippi but rather to show how ass-backwards and screwed up thinking and behavior was back in the day (regardless of the State).

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  6. Oh, I'm sure the intention is good, but it seems to be the only type of movie shown about the state. That's the only thing that's getting to me. I've seen way too many of these movies in Mississippi. Can we be about something else other than slavery and cotton is what I'm asking. LOL!

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  7. I don't really have a meaningful comment to leave, but I wanted to drop by and say thanks for enlightening me! Never knew that about Ole Miss. Pretty wild. Nice post as always!

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  8. Just stopping in and commenting at all is meaningful enough to me, Erin! Thanks!

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  9. I've never been to Mississippi, but I was chatting with a friend who lives in Atlanta and he kept telling me how segregated everything there is, not by law but that's just how it is there. I guess it just shows how much further we have to go as a country, and making movies so that we don't forget or so that we understand better is probably a good thing. I get what you're saying, though.

    In Mississippi Masala, I think if Washington's role were played by a white guy the store would have still been exactly the same.

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  10. Good point, Tsaritsa. I think had it been a white guy instead of Denzel, that I wouldn't have even included it on my list. It's just that I'm so used to any movie involving some sort of negative racial storyline containing blacks from Mississippi. It's so cliche to me as a Mississippian. To outsiders, it's probably not a big deal. To some, they probably think it's how things actually are here.

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  11. T-Q. I want to agree with you and do for the most part. Having said that, I just pitched an air conditioner salesman out of my office for being a bigoted asswipe.

    He started telling me an "Obama" joke and I asked him to not tell me a racist joke. He said it wasn't racist and then the word "monkey" came out of his ignorant pie hole.

    I think these movies result from the still-lingering sense of guilt we whites carry with us. Somehow we think we can undo some of the terror and oppression of the past if we tell just one more story with an anti-racist theme.

    And as long as white racists exist to tell bigoted jokes, we'll continue to carry some of that guilt.

    Great and thoughtful post.

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  12. Hopefully one day racism won't matter, because it will no longer exist. Here's to hoping.

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  13. @ Mooner - You're right. White guilt sucks. I feel bad for today's white people who think they owe black people an apology for something someone else did 50 years ago. That guilt may be the cause of these movies. And I do think that these movies may help some people. But, why so many of them take place in Mississippi is what upsets me. Racism is every where. It's not just in one state nor is it just in the pre-70's.

    @ Alice - This country was built on racism, so unfortunately, if you plant an apple seed, no matter how to try to change it, you're still going to get an apple tree. But, like you, we can only do our part to change it.

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  14. Q, I am going to hate on Mississippi for one reason: I once dated a man (snicker, snicker...you know the back story to that one! LMAO) who lived in MS...and on my way to see him once, I got my VERY FIRST AND ONLY speeding ticket EVER in my life in your state. 20+ years of driving...and I get a ticket in MS. Your State Poopers are not nice either. Just rude. Not nice at all.

    Other than that, I won't hate on MS too much...one of my BFFs is from there (Philadelphia) and I get to hear "SMTTT" more than I would like to (Southern Miss To The Top!), so I feel like a Mississipian by proxy. I've also eaten some very fine crawfish in MS, which ALMOST makes up for the speeding ticket.

    And P.S. HOLY SHIT! I didn't know Matthew McConnaghey was your brother! (you said the dude in the tie, right?) lol

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  15. Yes, Matt is my brother. He just loves Texas. LOL! Reck, I know your story about your MS experience. It could be a movie as well. :)

    Philadelphia is about an hour and some change from Jackson. Very nice casinos up there. Choctaw Indians own a lot of that area and they're currently going through a scandal now. The first female chief was voted recently and they just did away with the ballots and decided to re-vote. Maybe they should be doing a movie on equal rights for women instead.

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  16. I am glad you posted this because honestly, when I use to think of the South that is exactly what I thought. Most of my views come from my mother who didn't care too much for her child hood, but she grew up in a completely different era in the 50's /60's, so I can imagine it was no joke.

    Times have changed and so have allot of people. Now, I won't lie, in California we have our few select idiots that arise when the occasion calls for it, but they usually get shot down pretty quick. Hollywood is no help either because they simply love to exploit history anyway. We can never get the correct story so your left with someone else's views on what they think people want to see.

    My man is from South Carolina and his home state wanted things to stay the way they were during slavery so what can I say about this state now?

    For me I always just concentrate on the good people I do meet and know in those areas (like yourself) and his family in SC. If a problem arises it will be dealt with then, but to worry about it now is futile. I will pass on this movie.

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  17. @ Sonia - Good points. I will probably see the movie eventually once it comes to HBO or something. These movies have relevance, but I just wish the took place in other states. LOL!

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