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Consumed With Hate: Help!

🧑🏾‍⚕️ Not Just Anybody...

The Crime: Help!
The Guilty Party: The Beatles and Richard Lester
Overview: The movie promoting one of the Beatles' most iconic albums has a plot entirely devoted to making fun of Indian people.

Why I Hate It...

Let's get this out of the way up front: I'm firmly on Team The-Beatles-Are-The-Greatest-Band-In-History. There is a signed poster of the Fab Four framed on the wall opposite me as I write this. And let's get this out of the way as well: the 1965 album Help! is a masterpiece. It's the peak of their early-career work. Here are four artists at the top of their craft delivering top tier radio pop just before they embarked on the journey of sonic experimentation that would define their late-career. There was a stretch when it was my oldest child's favorite album, one that he would regularly request. So as my kids were starting to get to the point where they could sit through entire movies, we thought this G-rated musical caper might be a fun one, so we checked it out from the library.

I did not expect it to open a woman in brown-face attempting to perform a human sacrifice. Like, I wondered if we didn't have the wrong disc or something.

Okay, look, to a certain extent, I get it. Most movies from 1965 have aged badly. It was a different time and standards of racial representation have changed a ton in the last sixty years. I also am aware that the bumbling brown people in the film are specifically meant as a spoof of the Thugee cult and not of Indian people in general. And I'm also fully cognizant that The Beatles were in their "Bob Dylan just introduced us to marijuana" phase, so I'm going to assume that their input into the script was limited. I get all of that. I'm not here saying that The Beatles are racist and need to be canceled. But what I am saying is that after this movie was over, we had to have a little conversation with our children and talk about how, yes, it does feel like this movie was making fun of people who look like some of your friends from school and, no, that's not okay.

The plot, insofar as it has any, is that an Indian cult want to sacrifice Ringo because he's wearing a ring that has some significance to them, so they chase The Beatles all over the world while the band simultaneously recording their new album. Antics and music videos ensue. The music is good, the hijinks are madcap, the vistas are eye-catching. There are some entertaining sight-gags, like when the band go into their homes through four separate exterior doors that all enter into the same room. There are some bizarre digressions that don't add anything but are harmless enough--like when Paul gets shrunk to the size of a cigarette and loses his clothes. If it weren't buried under a patina of the British making jokes at the expense of the people they colonized, it'd be a perfectly suitable diversion that borrows from James Bond and the Marx Brothers, starring not-obviously-stoned musicians with enough personal charm to outweigh some pacing issues in the third act. But, as we are living in the present, it just feels icky.

Next week we'll watch Ernest Cline trip all over himself trying to prove how racist he's not in Ready Player Two...

In CONSUMED WITH HATE, Kurt is revisiting media that he absolutely did not like one bit. See more posts.