The Help

The Help is a must see for black and white  American women.  The movie is a story on the underbelly, the unspoken culture of race relations of the South.  The story is from the viewpoint of the maids, “the help” and their personal/human feelings of taking care of white families, in the heart of the segregated South – Mississippi.  The maids describe their experiences with Skeeter, the white female writer, who was raised by a “maid”.

The amazing element of this movie is that the root of racism is explored and exposed.  Black women could cook, clean, and be the primary caretakers of White families, but the simpliest of human decency was not permitted.  You could cook the food, but you could not eat at the white table.  You could clean the house but not use the bath room.  A highlight  of the movie is the “seperate but equal” mentality.  One of the white female characters was quite proud that she lead legislation to have washrooms built for the maids outside of the white homes, so that the maids could be nearby but not in the house using the washroom with the white families, because Blacks had “special diseases.”

The movie reflects just yesterday, where we all know the grandmother, or auntie or church lady who lived the maid life.  The maid was a professional caretaker and often was the “quiet” ruler of the home.  The main character reveals in her maid career she raised 17 children, was paid $0.95 a hour.  These women wore uniforms caught a common bus and went home at night to their own families with humanity tried and beat only to get up the next morning for more humiliation and insult. How did they survive?  What psychic did it produce?  The contradiction is amazing.    The White families were endeared. They raised successful white children. The children loved the “mammy”/”nanny”.  They were often  emotionally closer to the Black Maid than to their White Mothers.  The White Woman of yesteryear was allowed to prim, dress and be ever so right for the social ocassion for her husband because the “housework” and child rearing was done by the help.   Often the Black women were willed to the white family, like they were “owned.”  Often the children the Black Women raised became their “bosses.”   The Black women were disregarded, not really held in human regard.  .  The relationship was abusive from both sides, with Black women sometimes doing the unthinkable.

The movies speaks to the courage of the women to talk about their experiences to the young white female reporter. She was determined to tell their story in their words. She did.  Change was coming.  It was in the air.  Confrontation brought about change in attitude and behavior.  This is an American movie that will provoke.  It is a generational movie.  Take your mother, your grandmother, your daughter.  People need to know the past.  It explains the now.     This is a movie to discuss.


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