On Mammy and Ma: Why Tate Taylor’s “Ma” is really “The Help, Part 2” and Why You Should Avoid It

Max S. Gordon
33 min readJun 2, 2019

by Max S. Gordon

When I think about myself
I almost laugh myself to death.
My life has been one great big joke,
A dance that’s walked,
A song that’s spoke,
I laugh so hard I almost choke,
When I think about myself.

Seventy years in these folks’ world
The child I works for calls me, Girl
I say, Yes Ma’am for working sake
I’m too proud to bend and too poor to break.
So, I laugh until my stomach ache,
When I think about myself.

My folks can make me split my side
I laughed so hard I nearly died,
The tales they tell sound just like lying
They grow the fruit but eat the rind.
I laugh until I start to crying,
When I think about my folks.

“When I Think About Myself” — Maya Angelou (1928–2014)

“Own all of your memories and experiences, even if they were traumatic. Own It! The world is broken because we’re broken. There are too many of us who want to forget.”

Viola Davis, Barnard College Commencement Keynote Address, May 20, 2019

(This essay contains the entire plot of Ma.)

1

When the credits rolled for Tate Taylor’s Ma, I found myself sitting in the same stunned silence with which I received his earlier film, The Help. As I began to argue on the subway home as to why I found Ma (which one assumed from the trailer would be one hundred and eighty degrees away from that movie) to be as problematic as The Help but for different reasons, my husband put it succinctly: “Well, I guess Minny the maid is serving shit pies again — only this time it’s the audience that’s eating them.”

As someone who survived The Help (you didn’t just watch The Help in 2011, you either loved it or survived it), I argued in an earlier piece that I found more…

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Max S. Gordon

Max S. Gordon is a writer and activist. His work has appeared in on-line and print magazines in the U.S. and internationally. Follow Max on twitter:@maxgordon19