I read the book last year and was sorry to see it end. So when I heard the movie was coming out, I couldn’t wait to see it. I wasn’t disappointed.
I am not going to rehash the plot of “The Help.” Those of you have read the book or seen the movie already know what it is about; those of you who have not, go read the book and/or see the movie, and then you can form your own opinions, regardless of what I or the people who get paid to review movies say about it.
And I will have to tell you that I have started over at least three times writing this because I don’t mean to offend anyone, and when anything is written involving race, that is always a real possibility. We all bring to the race table our own set of experiences and baggage, and that forms the lens through which we see the world. This sometimes creates misunderstandings. I hope I am not creating any misunderstandings or hurt feelings here. That is certainly not my intention.
I grew up in the 60s in the South and was certainly aware of the injustices dealt with in the movie, but never witnessed them firsthand. I was not taught to treat people differently just because of their color. We did not have a black maid, but my father happened to have a black man, a Mexican man, and a white man who worked for him for more than 25 years, and he treated them all the same; with respect. He didn’t hire them as part of some affirmative action directive- he hired them because they were all good, skilled, dependable workers. They all, including my dad, drank ice water from the same Igloo cooler that he always took to the jobs; they all used the same restroom at his shop; they all rode together in the front seat of the work trucks.
It’s kind of like a friend of mine said his army sergeant told him one time: Ass-holes come in all colors. Skin color is not what makes a person good or bad; behavior and convictions are, and that should determine how we respond to people.
Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal said the movie was “a pop culture tour that savors the picturesque and strengthens the stereotypes it purports to shatter.” I’ll admit it; the pop culture tour was, I guess, one of the things I could relate to in the movie. While I had not witnessed the racial prejudices spotlighted in the movie, I could relate to the bridge club afternoons, the cars, the music, the prevalent smoking, the clothes, so many little details-they did a great job recreating the era. My mother was not a snotty Junior-Leaguer but she did love her bridge club. And I had to smile when the scenes set in Aibileen’s kitchen showed her stove. On that stove was a metal grease can with the word GREASE pressed into its side and a round, dark red wooded knob for a handle on the top, just like the one I watched my mother use to collect cooking grease all my life, and which is now full of grease I have collected and is sitting in my cabinet. Yes, I know, it is not supposed to be healthy to save and reuse the grease, but Mother did, and I do, and it hasn’t killed any of us yet.
I will admit I get bogged down in details, and this paragraph is about some other little details I picked up on. I do think the movie missed the boat on a couple of things in its depiction of the South: in the 60s the white women would have most certainly worn hosiery to be considered properly dressed, and the white actresses in this movie didn’t. Someone suggested that even back then in Mississippi maybe they didn’t wear hose because it was so hot, and that may be, but I doubt it; in the Deep South bare legs would have been frowned upon. If anyone from Mississippi can shed some light on this issue, please do. The other thing I wonder about was Minny’s infamous chocolate pie. I am thinking that most Southern cooks would have covered the entire top of the pie with real egg white meringue, and the filling would have had a shiny, pudding look to it, which this pie did not. Any thoughts on that?
As to the stereotypes, yes , a case could be made for that, but sometimes creating stereotypes helps drive a point home. Not all Junior-League members are like Hilly, but rest assured they did, and probably still do, exist. And while not all maids and nannies were black then or now, most of them were and to tell this story correctly, the maids had to be black. I understand some people saw the maids as the perennial victims, but goodness, considering the danger they put themselves in by sharing their stories with Skeeter,who was just the vehicle by which to tell the stories, I don’t see how they can be considered anything less than the heroines of the story.
And one other picky thing that bugged me when I read the review by Don Groves of SBS Films is that this movie is a “warmhearted chick flick” and the men “were mere appendages of the women.'” Well, gee, how many movies have we chicks sat through where the women characters were “mere appendages” of the male characters? And all the main characters were men? I don’t think we called those guy flicks. Yes, I know all the main characters of “The Help” were women, but so what? If it is a good movie with a good story, it really doesn’t matter if all the main characters are all of one sex or the other. (Ass-holes can come in both sexes, too.) Plus, I can’t think of many movies or books dealing with the fight for racial equality that had women as the main characters, so it was finally time to see things through the female perspective.
So there you have it. I think the movie is worth the price of the ticket. It serves as social commentary and history lesson, especially for a generation too young to have been there. What do you think?