Movie Review: My Thoughts on The Help

I never quite understood why the white ladies are sitting on the bench...if someone gets the symbolism that went over my head please share in the comments. Thank you kindly management.

A note from the writer – I’m probably going to say some things in this post that will offend people. It will pertain to my feelings about race in this here yet to be United States. I’ll of course interject humor but consider this a warning!

Awhile back I was in this weird reading space. It seemed that every book I put my hand on oozed angst ridden contentious racial relationships. It started with my reading of Octavia Butler’s Kindred and ended with The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Back then, close to a year ago now, I said Faith that book would probably make a decent movie but I doubt that will ever happen. I was referring to Kindred in case folk are confused. In my mind the movie landscape already heavily littered with white folk savior flicks a la The Blind Side or Dangerous Minds didn’t need another. Thus making Kindred a better selection. When I saw the trailer a few weeks ago for The Help I felt uneasy about my stomach. Initially I felt compelled to avoid it. But after thinking about it a bit and conceding that I did in fact enjoy the book I reneged on my previous thought process.

Normally I rage against the machine that is the white savior movie. Why? Well I just don’t like seeing movies that assuage white liberal guilt. Personally I prefer guilt fester like a raisin in the sun. But seriously my colon reacts violently to these captain save a negroid flicks. In actuality it can be any minority group or even a make believe indigenous group that lives on an imaginary world ripe with natural resources, I’m looking at you Avatar. But I digress. White folk please stop it. Paul Mooney said it the best Hollywood goes too far.

This in no way means the movie, The Help, is a bad movie. It’s not! More than any other movie adapted from novel, this sticks almost 100% to the actual story penned by Stockett. Cool points! Honestly, I rather enjoyed the movie because I see it much like I see other movies dealing with racial tensions, as a conduit for open communication between the races. I advocate airing our laundry amongst each other in a comfortable, safe forum. The only way we get over racial hurdles is by discussing them honestly. Too often we politically correct our answers to death masking the true dialogue. If you haven’t seen the film or read the book I suggest one or both. Pick your passion. I’d also urge you to bring along a racially diverse group for the ride and actually discuss the film afterwards.

Oscar buzz is very much warranted. The casting, perfection! I experienced, for the two hours 1960’s Mississippi. It felt both uncomfortable and comforting which was in par with the book. I winced when I should have winced. I laughed at the moments of comedic relief, as we know hard pills require chasers. And I stifled back angry tears on cue. It ran the gambit through my emotions. That for me is the sign of a solid production and one that I would highly recommend to others. I believed every character and I can see that they truly believed in the movie and the message it was trying to convey.

Perfection right? Wrong!

For all intents and purposes it was/is believable in the way you believe a romantic comedy. At the end you know the boy will get the girl and will ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after. That’s what folks like about Hollywood, the glamorization of real life. No one likes being left with a stale taste of defeat or raw wounds. The Help doesn’t leave you with either. It surface rubs the relationship between black maids and white masters employers.

While I understand Stockett created a fictitious account of a real life situation that she lived through her understanding is skewed by virtue of her race. Before you jump down my throat for being slightly prejudiced hear me out. To intellectually understand something pales dismally in comparison to living it live and in color. It’s one thing to speak to a maid who helped raise you and write what you consider to be her story and there’s another thing to be a maid and write your story. Similar experience but an entirely different narrative and me saying that takes nothing away from Stockett’s book and Tate’s movie adaptation. I’ll make it plain, simplify it for the audience, someone can tell you all day what an orange tastes like but until it passes your lips you will never really know. Knowing is different than understanding, similar to the difference between listening and hearing.

“The scene where Viola Davis sitting on a toilet in a garage in 108 degrees, and then a white woman comes out and tells her to hurry up was visually brutal. To me that’s worst than seeing a lynching. It just is.”

Oh really…stinks of dare I say white privilege.

Director, Tate Taylor, made this comment during an interview about the film. To me it signifies the lack of truly knowing a situation. Humiliation is a racially neutral emotion. And not for nothing that scene was a drop in the frigging race relation bucket. Hell that hashish might not even register to some folk. But lynching my dude! Do you know the psychological ramifications of lynching? Humiliation comes with the territory of ill race relations. There are by far no words that can truly explain the feeling of seeing another person killed while a pool of hate filled onlookers poke fun. That’s a level of existence that racial minorities know but white folk understand. One is a humiliating inconvenience and the other is the personification of hatred…and of course death. How could I forget that part?

Films like this make white liberals feel the warm and fuzzies. I get it. I truly get it. It offers a point in time reference of bad behavior and a look how far we’ve come bumper sticker. In addition it allows you to tell a bubblegum version of actual experience. Sometimes the truth hurts. I’d actually like to see what The Help would have looked like from the perspective of a 1960’s black Mississippi maid. Oh wait why don’t I just call my grandmother…

What says you folks, did you have the opportunity to see the movie? What are your thoughts? The good! The bad! The indifferent! As always to share is to care and hashish!

6 Responses to “Movie Review: My Thoughts on The Help”
  1. Holli says:

    I’ve avoided this movie like the plague because I can’t deal with the pain I know I’m going to feel. After reading your blog I think I’ll go…after all, I’m just watching what many of our foreparents (including my own) endured. That will never be my reality. Love the “raisin in the sun” reference. You’re brilliant! I see a book in your future Miss Faith.

    • Faith M. says:

      Hi Holli,

      First, thanks for the comment. Second thank you. I’m totally humbled by your compliment! A book with my name on the cover would be fantabulous…I’ve been toying with memoir or fiction. I feel like I have a story that someone would benefit from but not sure about mass consumption or having random folk make comments about my life. iStruggle.

      But to your comment…the movie is painful in parts. I do suggest you brace yourself for what will take place on screen. If I were to compare it to other films, it is somewhere between Rosewood and Higher Learning. It sparked a great conversation amongst my friends so definitely don’t shy away from it.

      Part of me wishes I shared the experience with more people so I could have a larger discussion similar to the ones I had when I went to SJU with classmates. You really learn a lot about a person’s character when you talk to them about racial issues. And sometimes you learn some things about yourself.

  2. Your last 2 paragraphs, IMO, totally negate all the reasons you gave before about why I should go see this movie, or why you did. You summed up, right there–among other opinions I’m a host to–why there’s no way in 4 hells that I’m going to see this movie.

    & I ain’t gon’ say too much else cuz it feels like all types of beat a dead horse-isms.

    • Faith M. says:

      Hola Aweezy,

      Yes I know I totally threw the movie under the bus at the end. I’d like to think that I gave a a balance and the two cancel each other out leaving the reader neutral, no? Probably not! But I had to put the good, the bad and the ugly in there or it wouldn’t be honest. I didn’t imagine you’d change your position. We will agree to disagree and still remain cool as cucumbers!

  3. Omari Gardner says:

    I just watched the movie and it is total b.s. Hollywood wants to give us the impression that there were all these white people that were so appalled by racism. In reality, these white sympathizers were few and far between. The majority were bigots and even if they weren’t, they kept their mouths shut. One only has to study lynchings to get my drift here. Where were all of these “Skeeters” when white lynch mobs were snatching black people out of there homes and hanging them,tying them to trees and burning them alive, mutilating them and the like? When you look at some of the old photos of these atrocities being commited,you have entire towns participating! Smiling and laughing while they did it! Where are the movies about that? Hollywood is giving history a remix if you will. A remix with just the right groove to assuage white guilt. The sad part about it is,they are misleading new generations with a false idea of what really happened.

    • Faith M. says:

      Hola Omari,

      Thanks for the comment. While I understand your sentiment I don’t 100% agree. Having read the book and seen the movie I didn’t get the impression from either that there were many white sympathizers. Besides Skeeter and possibly Celia Foote there wasn’t anyone else in the town who truly cared about the lives of their black neighbors. I’m being honest I just didn’t get that impression. Sympathizers are often times few and far between regardless if that’s the right thing to do and I believe the book and the movie showed that quite accurately. I would ask who besides the two characters I named did you feel supported the maids?

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