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The Help Faced A $75,000 Lawsuit When A Maid Claimed Viola Davis' Character Was A Copy Of Her Life

TheThings 11/30/2022 Astrid Longi
© Provided by TheThings

The Help (2011) is a period comedy-drama movie written and directed by Tate Taylor. It’s based on Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 novel of the same name. The film features an all-star cast, including Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, and Allison Janney.

Despite being a huge box office hit when it first premiered back in 2011, The Help is a film that hasn’t aged well. Recently the movie was hugely criticized for perpetuating racist stereotypes. It doesn’t help that in 2011 a woman filed a lawsuit against The Help, claiming that Viola Davis’ character was a copy of her life.

Related: 10 Massive Films That Had Lawsuits Filed Against Them

The Help Was A Huge Commercial Success

Tate Taylor’s The Help tells the story of a young white woman and aspiring journalist, Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone), and her relationship with two black maids, Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer).

In an attempt to become a legitimate journalist, Skeeter writes a book from the maids' point of view, exposing the racism they face working for white families.

The movie premiered in 2011, grossing more than $216 million across the world. Upon its release, The Help received lots of critical praise. The critics mainly praised the acting of Davis, Spencer, and Chastain. However, the film's depiction of race issues drew plenty of criticism for its white savior narrative and for perpetuating racist stereotypes.

Related: Does Viola Davis Regret Making 'The Help'?

Despite the criticism, The Help received four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Viola Davis, and Best Supporting Actress for both Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer, who ended up winning this award over her co-star. In addition to this, the movie won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

Viola Davis Admitted She Regrets Starring In The Help

Despite the commercial and critical success of the movie, Viola Davis has admitted that she regrets starring in The Help. In 2020, Davis told Vanity Fair that she only accepted the role of Aibileen Clark in order to launch her career. “I was that journeyman actor, trying to get in,” she admitted.

“There’s no one who’s not entertained by The Help. But there’s a part of me that feels like I betrayed myself, and my people, because I was in a movie that wasn’t ready to [tell the whole truth],” the How to Get Away With a Murder actress added. “The Help, like so many other movies, was “created in the filter and the cesspool of systemic racism.”

Despite regretting taking this role, Viola Davis’ career benefited from starring in The Help. This role helped Davis begin a rather successful acting career. And because she starred in this movie, she now is able to choose roles that are in accordance with her beliefs.

Related: Viola Davis Spills Her Acting Secrets In Netflix Interview

Why The Help Faced A $75,000 Lawsuit

In 2011, Ablene Cooper, a maid in Jackson, Mississippi, filed a lawsuit against The Help, claiming that Viola Davis’ character Aibileen was based on her.

Copper claimed that writer Kathryn Stockett used her likeness without permission to write her 2009 novel that inspired this movie. Some similarities between Cooper and Viola’s character are their name, profession, and having lost a son at a young age.

According to The HollyWood Reporter, Ablene Cooper sought $75,000 in damages but the judge dismissed the case. The main reason for this was that a whole year had gone by from the moment Stocket gave Cooper a copy of her book and the time the latter filed for the lawsuit. Despite Cooper losing the case, this has become another point of criticism for The Help.

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