Hollywood and the South: Not Exactly a Love Story

Last week I was listening to a high-brow call in show on NPR. There were two studio hosts fielding financial questions from callers. One conversation went like this:

Caller:  Hi, this is Anna and I really need some advice from y’all.

Host #1:  (starts giggling uncontrollably)

Host #2: What’s so funny?

Host #1: Oh my God, she said “y’all.” That is just so cute!

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 In a few days the movie, The Help, opens.

Please, I beg of the patron saint of motion pictures, don’t let Hollywood screw this one up. I wrote about the book the movie is based on a couple of years ago. I have hopes that the movie will live up to the book, but then I had the same hopes for Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and The Prince of Tides.

The problem with Midnight is the accents–they are uniformly horrible. And early on in the movie the word “y’all” is misused. Y’all is always, always plural. Yet there was one character asking another “y’all got any ice?” They lost me right then and there.

In Prince the problem wasn’t the accents, it was the cavalier changing of the story and switching the identity of the title character.

I’ve often wondered if the people of North Dakota cringed when they watched on of my favorite movies, “Fargo?” Surely the good people up there aren’t as consumed with all-you-can-eat buffets and wood chippers as the movie would have you think. And I wonder if the broad accents in that film were just stereotypical caricatures as most Southern accents are.

The Help is the story of black maids and their white employers in Jackson, Miss. It’s set in the early ‘60s. The book doesn’t soft-pedal the racism and segregation that was rampant in that area at that time. But for the movie to ring true to a Southern audience, the accents have to be right. The manners and culture have to be right.

If I see one sterling silver fork out of place or one bottle of ketchup on a dining room table, I swear I’m getting up and walking out.

8 Comments

Filed under At Home

8 responses to “Hollywood and the South: Not Exactly a Love Story

  1. In good news, Garden & Gun did a profile of the director. Who is Southern. Possibly gay? I imagine he was pretty particular.

  2. Well, I liked the book, will likely see the movie and I look forward to your dissection of where they made mistakes. But I am also the girl fascinated by the table setting 4H competition at our annual Orange County Fair:)

  3. Sarah

    I loved the book and like you, fear they will simply, eff it up with the movie. I sure hope not, but I am not holding my breath.

  4. It’s best not to pin your hopes on Hollywood. Remember…they’re not in the business of making documentaries OR accurately translating novels.

  5. in Pittsburgh, it’s “y’uns” instead of “y’all”. i’m pretty sure i’ve never heard that in a movie…. but then again, i don’t know of any movies centered in pittsburgh…

  6. I’m with UB. Hollywood films (or their equivalent in New Zealand – yes, you, Peter Jackson) tend not to live up to the books … even if the movies are pretty good. I remember your writing about the book and wrote it on my ‘book list’ which I subsequently lost so never bought it even when I had a gift certificate to Amazon. Back on my list again! xxx

  7. Julie

    There is always “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

  8. Kira–I just can’t hear “Garden and Gun” without grimacing. But good to hear about the director.
    FF–Competitive table setting? Never seen that before. I’ll probably see the movie this weekend. We have family in Jackson and I’m interested in their take too.
    Sarah–You never know…I haven’t read any reviews yet. Will be interested to see what the NYT says.
    UB–I know. But it’s just too good now. I’ll let you know how it went.
    DF–Surely there’s something set in Pittsburgh. Surely. But I’ve never heard y’uns. Is it plural only, like y’all?
    Ellie–I hope you like it. I reread it over the weekend. So good.
    Julie–That one they definitely did get right!

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