A Cry for Help to Combat Racism
When you think about movies that are based off books, you usually think of the big-time sellers that end up being a series that just drag on and on. Examples can include The Hunger Games and Twilight. Both movies where you just wait for Hollywood to finally make the last one and be done. The Help however, is a movie that I wish had more books to be made into movies. Yes, the basic plot wouldn’t really make sense to have a sequel, but the movie was such a success that I wish it did. The choice of actors, setting, and more turned this movie into a terrific historical fiction film that demonstrates the struggles of African-Americans in the south during the 1960’s.
There’s a plethora of movies that depict historical fiction. Examples would include Braveheart and Robin Hood. For some reason, the majority of these movies always seem to have a serious tone throughout the production. Which makes sense when the movie is about a serious event in the past. However, that can get old sometimes. The Help does have aspects of the movie that portray a solemn quality, and it should because the topic of racism in the 1960’s is one that we do relate with tragedy. However, this production does an excellent job of supplying a script that provides the audience with laughter as well. We see comedy throughout the entire movie in all different settings, but the most iconic of them all is the pie scene. Minny, an African-American maid in the 60’s, has recently been fired by her uptight, racist boss Hilly Holbrook for using the indoor “white” bathroom. Minny is known all throughout town for being the best cook and baker, and in a devious plan to get revenge, Minny brings Hilly one of her famous chocolate pies. Hilly seems delighted, in her conceited and offensive manner, and offers Minny a job back. However, Minny looks right at Hilly and says, “Eat my shit.” Had this actually been back in the 1960’s where racial tension was extremely high, this scene most likely would’ve never taken place. But being a movie, it is the perfect scene to get the audience laughing. The humor in it all is how literal Minny is, in the fact that it actually is a poop pie. And Hilly is so embarrassed that she doesn’t tell a soul. The humor used in The Help provides a brilliant back and forth contrast between a serious mood and a light one, that keeps the audience intrigued the entire time.
Another reason I think this was such a successful movie is not only because it highlights the pain of America’s past, but it relates to the present as well. Yes, laws have been changed since the 1960’s that have brought us closer to equality, but racism is still extremely prevalent in today’s society. People of color today still face prejudice and while it may not be as severe as the scenes portrayed in the movie, they can definitely still relate to this film. One example that I mentioned briefly before is when Minny gets dismissed from working in the Holbrook household. The day she’s fired, there is a violent storm outside, including extreme wind speeds and lots of rain. The “colored” bathroom, that was built separately for her may I add, is outside. Minny, in fear of having to go outside during the storm to get to the restroom, tries being very sneaky and quiet so she can simply use the indoor bathroom. Hilly catches on and is furious. She fires Minny on the spot. This is the perfect example of racism, especially back in the 1960’s. Besides bathrooms, there were colored drinking fountains, colored schools, colored churches, etc. Hilly went out of her way to make a separate bathroom because she strongly believed “they carry different diseases than we do.”
Another example would be the brutality and amount of force the police used on Yule Mae when she was arrested. Hilly hired Yule Mae after she fired Minny. As time went on, Yule Mae built up the courage to ask Hilly for a loan since she wanted to send both her twin boys to college and came up a little bit short when it came to money. Hilly, being Hilly, said no. She was disappointed, heartbroken even, but Yule Mae kept on working. One day, however, she ended up finding a ring on the floor and decided to pawn it. Hilly, because she happens to know about everyone and everything, finds out and has her arrested. During her arrest, we see the police officers slam her onto a car and then take out their batons. I think adding this scene was a brilliant idea because it’s what people can relate to most in this day and age. We see news story after news story of black Americans being harassed, beaten, and worst of all killed by cops who seem to only notice the color of their skin. This scene was a key component to the film’s success because it gets a reaction out of the audience since a lot of people can understand what Yule Mae was going through.
For me, I couldn’t stand characters like Elizabeth and Hilly, (two of the more racist women in the movie) and I know other people out there felt the same. That’s why I loved characters like Skeeter and Celia. It was a breath of fresh air to see white characters treating black characters like equals in a movie based in the deep south during a time where racism was at an all-time high. I appreciated how the film included a multitude of characters to show how people did have differing opinions back then. We know how Hilly felt about African-Americans with the bathroom situation, and Elizabeth could be seen just as bad. Hilly even convinced her to build a bathroom for her maid Aibileen! Throwing in characters like Skeeter and Celia made me like the movie so much more. Celia can be seen as a somewhat crazy housewife who’s excited to hire her first maid. She ends up hiring Minny because she can’t cook and she heard Minny’s the best cook in town. Both Celia and her husband treat Minny with the utmost respect, making her feel equal. Usually when she’s working, she’ll eat her meals in a different room. We can see that Celia treats Minny like an equal because she won’t allow that, and invites Minny to come eat with her. She doesn’t look down on Minny ever; not once.
Skeeter is someone I would consider to be a main character. She, like most children in the south, had an African-American maid who looked after her. Her bond with her maid Constantine can be compared to that of a mother and daughter. I think that this relationship she had is what made her treat African-Americans as equals. She represents equality in this movie because she decides to write a book from the maids’ points of view. She can be a little awkward at times, but boy does she have a voice when it comes to writing. She wants to hear their story, she wants the world to her their story. She hopes that the book will get around all over America and people will really see how bad it can be for African-Americans, especially in the south. It took a while for her to convince the maids, but once they all came around, they told story after story. The book was eventually published and the stories of these maids spread like wildfire.
Love is something that can happen between many. A husband and a wife, a friend and a friend, even a person and their pet. In this movie, there’s a constant theme of love going deeper than color. Many times in this movie, we see white characters not even noticing the color of the maids’ skin, but their character. Skeeter and Mae Mobley both loved their maids like mothers. Celia with Minny too. Not only did Minny teach Celia how to cook, but she helped her get through a physically and emotionally painful miscarriage. Celia loved Minny as a friend. As prevalent as it was back then, it still is seen today. We should not judge by the color of someone’s skin, but by who they are as a person.
The Help was truly a remarkable book, and still is. But it also is a truly remarkable movie. The actors played the characters so well, the setting was chosen so perfectly, and the scenes provided a little glimpse into the past. This movie has history, tragedy, and comedy throughout the entire movie. If that’s something you like, I highly recommend going to see The Help.