Monday, August 15, 2011

A Few Thoughts on "The Help"

You'd have to be stuck under a rock the size of Texas to not have heard about The Help movie and how fabulous it is. I saw it for the first time over the weekend and have made plans to see it at least one more time this week. (The only movie I've ever seen more than once is Titanic. In the seventh grade, I saw it seven times in the theatre. Yes, that is not a typo. Seven times. The Help is definitely worth seeing seven times or more, but, alas, I do not have the discretionary money fueled by babysitting gigs that I had at age 13.)

There are several points I'd like to make about the movie, because anything that touches on racism in Mississippi has the potential to be even more explosive than a movie about race relations in other parts of the country or world. As one friend on Facebook noted: History, for Southerners, is both a burden and a glory.


1. There are Hilly Hilbrooks in every age, life-stage, culture, race, ethnicity and socio-economic level. It's just comforting to me to know that karma and the good Lord will take care of them in the end.

2. Friendships can be formed between two people even if their backgrounds are completely different - like the ones between Skeeter and Abilene and Minnie. Sometimes these are the very best friendships.

3. This story is fiction.Yes, it's based on a writer's perceptions of her childhood and probably lots of stories she's heard over the years. But in the end, it's in the fiction section of the bookstore. It's impossible, I believe, to separate  your life experiences from your writing. Life experiences are what make you a good writer.

4. Everyone has issues from childhood. See point #3 about life experiences. It's part of growing up. You must learn to deal.

5. The whole black-help-in-a-white-household idea is not new. It's not a form of slavery. Or an extension of slavery (even though you could argue that the system in which characters like Minnie were trapped was because of slavery). In every society on the earth, at any time period since Creation, there have been those with and those without. Those without tend to be in service positions to those with money, power, etc. Funny side story, one of my grandfather's cousins and her household help played a delightful joke when her youngest daughter brought home a serious boyfriend from law school. He was not from Mississippi. The maid dressed up in a full Mammy uniform (think Gone With the Wind) and put on quite a show. They had everybody laughing for weeks.

6. Being a maid is hard work. When I read The Help the first time I had two major thoughts: a) no wonder most of the Jackson girls I know have issues with their mothers and b) I need a maid.

I mean, these "society girls" had no jobs, played bridge all day and didn't cook, clean or care for their own children. I work a full-time job, go to grad school at night, keep house, cook supper every night, take care of two dogs, try to keep up friendships and serve on at least two community organization boards. I need help - and possibly therapy to overcome this inability to say "no."

Hope to see you at the movies!

Click here to see my pictures of the movie filming in Fondren and here for the Belhaven photo tour.

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