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Opinion: Why Viola Davis gets it right
Viola Davis, right, shown with Octavia Spencer, was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for her role in "The Help."
January 30th, 2012
03:34 PM ET

Opinion: Why Viola Davis gets it right

Editor's note: jimi izrael is a journalist, adjunct professor at Cuyahoga Community College, and author of "The Denzel Principle: Why Black Women Can't Find Good Black Men" (St. Martin's Press). He co-moderates "The Barbershop" for National Public Radio's "Tell Me More" with Michel Martin.

By jimi izrael, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Viola Davis got a nod for best actress from the Academy this year for her role as Aibileen Clark in "The Help," and she must win, despite the controversy about the movie and the role she plays in it. If you believe what you read on blogs, black women long to be represented on screens large and small as rounded, complex characters, rather than wise, downtrodden burden-bearers and hot-blooded angry sex machines. Some say they want more black people telling black stories, which would be reasonable, if it were true.

I have been black a long time, and I can tell you that black folks are a persnickety lot. To get consensus, things have to be done The Right Way - but there's no consensus on what that looks like. However, we seem to know what it is not. Lee Daniels' "Monster's Ball" and "Precious" contained the wrong message (white people saving black people) and "For Colored Girls" was tainted by Tyler Perry, a gifted director and storyteller given to more commercial fare, whom some saw as the wrong messenger.

The Popes of Blackness rarely agree on anything. One thing is certain - Davis takes on a difficult role and breathes life into a hero who is inspiring, enraging, familiar and extraordinary.

Read jimi izrael's full column

soundoff (One Response)
  1. Paulina

    Hey, who stole my Aibileen? The writer says white people had Aibileens in their homes doing all the cooking, cleaning, child rearing, etc. How come I did it all these years? Shoot, if I'd only known I should've had an Aibileen...

    January 31, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |