Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

“The Help”

This morning I read an article by a woman who decided to give an incredibly passionate and opinionated review of the film “The Help” – despite admitting that she has not yet seen it.  By the end of the article she also confessed that she’d not read the novel either. Forgive my tone, but if you’re going to stand on that soapbox of yours in the hopes of dissuading or persuading me to even eat dessert at your local diner, you’d better have tasted it, my dear.  Otherwise your opinion is crap pie.  And that, is my opinion.


In the first paragraph the writer tells us that “The Help” is about a “young white woman and her socially (and presumably, intellectually) inferior black maids.”  Uh, hello?!  No. I saw this film and not for one minute’s viewing did I believe ANYbody with a whit of intelligence thought of Viola Davis or Octavia Spencer as inferior intellectually, despite their characters roles as housekeepers in Southern homes prior to the Civil Rights Movement (and I’ll spare you my personal rant about whether or not I believe the young 23 to 25 year old girls who employed these women were smart or not).  Every moment that the camera is focused on Davis and Spencer, their fierce intelligence and incredible psychological understanding is evident and when they open their mouths to speak, you get the joy of hearing firecracker wit and the wisdom behind their strategy as it crackles across the screen.  The thick Southern delivery featured in the trailers might have been offensive to the article’s author, but then I’d like to suggest she not take any young relatives to hear that Tow Mater as he drawls his way through Europe in Cars 2, either (making Michael Caine’s British auto seem intellectually superior).


It was suggested in the op-ed piece that if it wasn’t for white journalist Skeeter (played by Emma Stone), none of the housekeepers would have ever been liberated from multiple abusive relationships (employers, spouses, etc.).  Having watched the movie and read the novel, I can tell you that “The Help” begins with Aibileen Clark (the brilliant, multi-faceted Viola Davis) already in the process of writing her story, having been encouraged by the son she’d lost in a tragic accident, who’d been writing about his own experiences living and working as a “man of color” in Mississippi.  It was made very evident that the story was going to come out eventually, with or without Skeeter’s help, since Civil Rights was on the brink of exploding through a series of tragic events that would ultimately unfold to tell thousands of stories, some that are still coming to light to this day.


There are also some reviews and commentaries floatin’ around out there about how “The Help” addresses how folks view feminism.  Excuse me, but I don’t see “The Help” as a story that really tells much of anything having to do with feminist issues of the early 1960’s.  What I do see is a film that talks about seeing people and not the M. Night dead variety, either.   Even today, across the globe there are people who walk through life as though invisible.  It isn’t just something that happened Once Upon a Time in America. Human beings are often pushed to the periphery and made invisible, by occupation, financial status, disabilities and a host of other reasons. 


Both of my children have grown up with no comprehension that color has anything to do with a person being different.  What they do know is that personality, tastes, education and morals are some of the components that go into making us individuals.  One of my favorite stories to tell my kids, is about the time I worked with a group of television production folks who wanted to have a contest where we tried to match baby pictures to the people who worked in our offices.  At the time, we only had two men in a barn full of hens and when the accountant balked at the idea, we laughed saying, “Really, Douglas? You think that anybody will be able to tell that you’re a BOY from your baby picture?!”  He sat in silence for a moment, waiting for us to see the difference.  With no recognition forthcoming on our parts, he finally had to point out that he was the only black person in our office.  We laughed until we cried, happy that our interpersonal relationships over the years had made us all color blind.


The author of this op-ed piece (again, who neither saw the movie nor read the novel) claimed that “The Help” is a film that portrays racism as a sentimental thing. Well, I saw the movie, but did not see that.  Granted, bigotry isn’t always the most palatable theme and I believe Katheryn Stockett took a rather repugnant topic and did her best to serve it up cold, but not completely unappetizing.  Sure, not a decent-hearted one of us likes to look back at the uglier aspects of our history, but if we gently open the door to conversations of “Never again…” that, right there, is a reason to sweeten  bitter tea that just might need to be served.  Having already seen “The Help” once, I’ll be taking my daughter and a couple of her friends to see it, because I think it will help to start an important dialogue of how history must be spoken about (and not sugarcoated), so that it is never repeated from one generation to the next.  Never again.

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