Critics also seem uncomfortable with the fact that the film includes comedy. Non-black critics, too, are regularly exhibiting the same supposedly wise skepticism of such “hijinks;” the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis considers the occasional comedy scenes trivializing, as if in the old South blacks and whites spending most of their waking lives with one another interacted solely in chilly, guarded fashion. We like to imagine it that way, as it comforts us that we are aware of the injustice of racism. But to dismiss about ten total minutes of edgy antics involving Minny and about five more involving commodes and bad hair days as rendering the whole movie “about ironing out differences and letting go of the past and anger” is, ironically, a dehumanization of the black experience.

We dishonor black people of the past in assuming that they spent their entire lives fuming at the white man and suffering his abuse. As human beings with a survival instinct, they carved meaningful existences out of what they had been given. This included laughing and good times and, yes, some of it was between whites and blacks.

Laughing, good times, and love, too. The titillation aspect assures that we are regularly taught about the carnal part—Sally Hemmings and such. But maids who raise people’s children have always come to love them, and even Jim Crow could not stanch this fundamental aspect of human nature. It was once common in South Carolina and Georgia for white children to grow up speaking the maids’ “Geechee” dialect, so close was this kind of bond. Aibileen’s love for a little white girl seems to especially get under many critics’ skin: “The kind of ambiguity and complexity that a woman like Aibileen would have felt for that white child is too much for the filmmakers to handle,” Boyd complains. But it could be that it’s Boyd who doesn’t want to handle that a black maid could hate the racism of her society and yet love an innocent white child she spends six days a week one on one.