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Rodman proof we all need Help at times
Let me give Hollywood power broker Penny Marshall a bit of advice about the documentary she is filming on the life of pro basketball Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman:
She'd better properly color coordinate the heroes and get them approved by the black folks who keep a scorecard on these things.
Without the proper Help, Marshall will be Blindsided by the backlash her Rodman documentary might generate. Stick with me. I'll explain the Help-Blindside sentence in a moment.
Two things captured my imagination over the weekend: 1. Rodman's Hall of Fame induction speech. 2. The movie "The Help."
During his emotional, dysfunctional and way-too-personal/cathartic speech, Rodman shouted-out Marshall and mentioned they were collaborating on a documentary. At the time, I thought little of Rodman’s plan to air a documentary. Is there anything about Rodman we don’t already know? He was America’s original reality-TV show. He invented controversy for the sake of controversy.
It wasn’t until I saw "The Help" on Sunday, tweeted out my positive reaction to the inspirational tale and got up to speed on the movie’s backlash that I realized the Rodman documentary might cause a real stir.
To some, "The Help" is the new "The Blind Side," a Hollywood blockbuster celebrating a great white female savior. "The Blind Side" was an adaptation of a true story about a white family in Memphis that rescued and raised future NFL left tackle Michael Oher. "The Help" is fictional. It's an adaptation of the best-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett that focuses on a young white woman in Mississippi who in the 1960s writes a courageous book exposing the cruelties of Jim Crow segregation by telling the story through the perspective of black maids in Jackson, Miss.
If you google “ 'The Help' and criticism,” you can find countless mainstream media opinion pieces and blog postings ripping the movie for portraying a white woman as the savior of black women in the 1960s. Some people are upset that black men didn’t play a bigger role in the movie.
I love "The Help" and "The Blind Side." Any movie that artfully inspires people to stand against bigotry is a winner in my book. In "The Help," the black maids struck me as far more courageous than Skeeter Phelan, the white heroine. The maids risked their lives. Skeeter risked her popularity.
Plus, the movie subtly illustrated deeper points, such as the psychological damage Jim Crow imposed on black people, a toll most people don’t understand to this day. When Minny, one of the black maids, is forced to train her 13-year-old daughter to deal with the degradation of being a maid, it brought home the sick irony that the black maids spent their workdays instilling confidence in the white children they were paid to properly love and raise.
"The Help" is a great movie. It sparks important dialogue. It captures an essential truth about the civil-rights movement — that white people took risks and helped, too. "The Help" reminds me of "Glory," the Morgan Freeman movie that dramatized the critical and courageous role black soldiers played during the Civil War.
The fact that the success of "The Blind Side" probably led to and influenced the making of "The Help" does not bother me in the least. Again, "The Blind Side" is a true story. Michael Oher’s saviors just happened to be white.
Same as Dennis Rodman’s. Which brings me back to my advice for Penny Marshall. She might want to doctor the truth about the Worm.
He stood at a podium in front of a huge audience and credited Phil Jackson, Jerry Buss, James Rich and Chuck Daly — four white men — for being the father figures in his life. Rodman said his own father abandoned him at age 5. He confessed he couldn’t get along with his mother and she put him out of her house at age 19 or 20. In college, he lived with a white family that initially kept him around because Rodman helped their young son cope with depression.
Rodman chastised himself for being a horrible husband and father.
I was uncomfortable listening to Rodman publicly spill out a lifetime of dysfunction. I’m not sure it did his mother, his wife or his children any good to hear those things in that setting.
Maybe other people heard something different in Rodman’s speech. Maybe they heard a story of inspiration, a story about how basketball saved Rodman from being something far worse than a dyed-hair kook. Maybe there’s a coach who heard Rodman’s story and it inspired the coach not to give up on a troubled kid.
Bottom line is we need more heroes. Regardless of color.
That’s what I learned from Dennis Rodman and "The Help" over the weekend.
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