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The Mammy Image: What’s Christie Love Got to Do With It?

19 Jun

Teresa Graves

By Roland Laird, Posro Media CEO
Write Black At You
PopMatters.com

A few months ago a friend directed me to YouTube to watch a lecture given by Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry at University of California at Santa Barbara. Her central thesis was the continued representation of the “mammy” image in popular culture (see below).

Like many scholars, Harris-Perry saw the critical acclaim and box office popularity of The Help as an example of just how deeply embedded in the American psyche the “mammy” image is, and that the movie’s representation was an extension of the national mammy monument proposal of the 1920s as well as the emodiment of the point made by author Miki McElya’s in her book, Clinging to Mammy.

One need only walk around New York City’s upper east-side and see the scores of black women serving as nanny’s to white infants and toddlers to see that there is “some” merit to Harris-Perry’s perspective. Nonetheless, she took it over the top. It’s one thing to compare a movie about black maids to Hattie McDaniels’ Gone With the Wind performance as a slave/mammy, but Harris-Perry also labeledJennifer Hudson’s performance as Sarah Jessica Parker’s assistant in the movie Sex and The City mammy-esque. Such an assertion essentially conflates all presentations of black women as sidekick characters of mammy status and ignores the significant dramatic variety in black female visual presentations since Hattie McDaniels 73 years ago.

[Click here to read the entire essay on PopMatters.com]