Return to Mammyville & Godless Women

By Sikivu Hutchinson


The Help, the latest entry in the white woman pining-for-Mammy-atonement series, has garnered scores of accolades.  Following in the venerable tradition of Hollywood favorites Gone With the Wind (best supporting actress for mammy prototype Hatty McDaniel), Ghost (best supporting actress for New Age-mammy Whoopi Goldberg), and Precious (best supporting actress for pathological welfare queen mammy Monique), it is poised to snag Academy Awards for its two black maid playing leads.  In one emotionally charged scene, faithful god-fearing servant Aibileen (Viola Davis) describes evil white woman antagonist Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) as a “godless woman.”

Do tell.

Dear God: I Say A Little Prayer to You, 

Last we spoke, summer of 1980, all your apple-cheeked savior missionaries had been safely dispatched to the freshest nooks and crannies of the third world. Rumor had it amongst the cherubs that there weren’t enough of them to service this corner of the ghetto; that that old time inner city anthropology, with a special serving of gangsta, was a poor way station for the whorishly bright-eyed and bushy tailed. Belatedly then, I say a little prayer to you, in the hope that this time the bloody din of crickets won’t drown out my plea for my own private mammylicious Aryan nation refugee; a hair flipping no-drop anti-diva who’s wicked with a wooden spoon and the arcane funk of cooking oils, a maven empathetic who’s only got the fear of you, Crisco, sweaty make-the-blind-see tent revivals and wayward baby dust weevils plotting in the bottom of a mint julep glass. 

Of course God, this prayer, this petition is only a humble salvo in support of the sistahood, the intimate ties that bind all women regardless of the long dusky shadows of Tara, the mutant bones of Monticello slave cabins, the phantom molecules of rape beds dancing on a feather quill, a pedestal. So it shouldn’t be too much to ask that your fair candidate be versed in forbearance, have a Ph.D. in the province of black pathos, be a Zen master in the fine art of dewy eyes cast heavenward after days of wiping butt cracks and burnishing dirty dishes to a radioactive gleam. Lawdy, give me an Aunt Missy Anne or Uncle Cracker Remus whose world turns on my every utterance and peccadillo, whose practiced snout can sniff out any hint of “man trouble”, whose spider sense tingles at the most abject of feminine woes and ample bosom heaves to harbor all God’s chillun at their most trifling snotty-nosed and godforsaken. Send me some Coolade grinning zip a-dee-do-dah wand waver swaddled in a magical cashmere do rag who can conquer the deep dark wilderness of unbleached roots and lend a soft pale shoulder to slobber my hard luck on. A whole psychic friend network slick as moonshine in Mississippi starlight, sassy enough to anticipate my next petty grievance, my weepy unravelings months before with the mother wit necromancy of rolling pins crushing a hot O’Keefe and Merritt down to cornbread dregs, blessing them with the true grit of the buck dance and the inscrutable ways of white folk.

Return to Mammyville & Godless Women

12 thoughts on “Return to Mammyville & Godless Women

    1. 2.1

      The book was one big white woman’s burden thinly veiled autobiographical apologia, replete with “authentic” black dialect from the author’s upbringing as a privileged white girl pining for her long lost wronged mammy. Zero evocation of the sexual violence black women have suffered working as caregiver domestics in even the most “benevolent” homes; nor was there any deep substantive engagement with black women’s political resistance to Jim Crow terrorism and apartheid in the very community and time period the novel was set in.

  1. F

    I kind of wondered about this film. I assumed it would be the same old tripe, but I can’t pay enough attention to H-wood long enough to check. So thank you for the commentary.

    And the prayer. That is my kind of prayer.

  2. 5

    Great post. And I’m just going to add…

    ..I HATE these kinds of movies. I hated them when I was Christian and I hate them as an atheist. They’re always patronizing in their simultaneous condenscension and pity.

  3. 6

    Count me in as another person who has never had any desire to read this book or see this film because she’s sick of Hollywood stereotypes of black American women. It strikes me as bizarre that The Help should be a bestseller in 2012, but maybe that’s my optimism talking again.

  4. 7

    My spousal critter brought The Help home a couple of weeks ago, and we watched it with our 11-year-old. That’s probably the best you could say of it: a sugar-coated way to introduce white tweens to Jim Crow.

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