Viola Davis conveys, “I am not a maid.”
27 February 2012
I’m sorry she didn’t win, but I have to pause for a moment to gaze at her approvingly — because watching her on the red carpet at the Academy Awards last night was one of those “one of these things is not like the others” moments.
The Help was dogged by controversy, spearheaded by a number of academics and intellectuals who decried the fact that black actresses were still appearing onscreen as maids. One academic wrote recently, “Really?” and pointed out the following:
- 1940: Hattie McDaniel Best Supporting Actress, as “Mammy” in Gone with the Wind
- 1950, Ethel Waters, nominee, Best Supporting Actress category as Granny, a washer woman and domestic in Pinky.
- 1960, Juanita Moore, nominee Best Supporting Actress as maid Annie, in Imitation of Life
- 2012: Octavia Spencer wins BAFTA Best Supporting Actress as maid Minnie, in The Help, Academy Award nominee Best Supporting Actress
- 2012: Viola Davis, nominee Best Actress as maid Abileen in The Help.
So when Davis appeared at the Awards last night with red hair and this green dress that shows off her gorgeous dark skin so brilliantly, I did a double take. As I should have. As I hope everyone did. With this look she sang out not only that she is not a fucking maid, but that she’s going to make her own decisions about her career and her self.
In that sea of skinny white girls all wearing whites or reds or blacks, Davis wore kelly green. She looks like the actress she is, hitting her mid-40s and possibly a terrifically productive period of her career; this look ignores the doubters who questioned her decision to take this role. This look screams, I am my own actress, and I have my own beauty; when I played a maid that one time I hit that role out of the park. I can hardly wait to see her again on both screens and red carpets.