People have been talking about the picture “The Help” sharing different views on it. I did not go to see the film and probably will not because I am not a movie theater person. Besides which, I do not think that I want to sit through a movie full of stereotypes and denigration. Nor do I want to watch a whitewashed, sterile versions of what it was like to be a domestic worker back then. I hear and see enough of that in daily living.
Earlier on, I made up my mind that I would finish reading the book before I make a comment on it. Nevertheless, the author of “The Help” painted a portrait of bigoted racism illustrating the destructiveness and control it has over people’s lives. BTW, I will have to do more than one segment on “The Help” because what I have to say is longer than the space and design this blog will allow, so this is
Truthfully speaking, I did not get any warm, uplifting feelings of hope from it as some professed they did. Nor did I get the white heroine coming to the rescue of blacks. However, I admit that a few parts in it were humorous. In addition, there are some succinct, minuscule mentions of historic Civil Rights Movements, racial tensions, and murder of a Civil Rights figure. Nevertheless, the story illustrated and highlighted the attitudes of whites towards their black “help” while parading out many of the Southern elitist, whites stereotypical images of blacks: their beloved Mammy and Sapphire; alcoholic woman abusers, child deserters, single unwed mothers; blacks steal and are diseased ridden, etc. Not only that, it pointed out the disdain influential whites have towards poor whites.
The story takes place in Jackson, Mississippi and was about a white woman name Skeeter exploiting black women for her self-seeking and self-serving interest. Skeeter’s ambition is to become an editor of a leading publisher company. In pursuit of her goal, she lies and tells the head of a publishing company where she put in an application at that she is writing a story about Negro maids telling their side of what it is like working for white people. However, the help (domestic workers) are unaware of this because she never asked them, at least not before she told that lie. Clearly, it demonstrated how easily whites seem to take blacks for granted thinking they should be willing to cater to their every whim or command.
No doubt, Skeeter is aware of the dangers and backlashes the help would face in that era by telling their story. After all, they live in a town that is the center of racial oppression and where Medgar Evers was assassinated. Moreover, it is a place where violent crimes against blacks happened frequently, regardless of gender or age. It's easy to see, Skeeter was looking out for Skeeter and trying to advance her career. It was not about helping the black women because if Skeeter had been sincere in wanting to help she would have stood up to her racist bigot, friend Hilly.
Nevertheless, birds of a feather flock together. The only risk Skeeter was taking was being ostracized by a bunch of racist bigots. Evidently, that was more than she wanted to bear. Being ostracized by their own in real life is something that many whites do not have the courage to face, so they just go along with the program, which inadvertently makes them an accomplice and enabler. Racist bigots exercise control over them with threat of ostracizing them. Therefore, they give racist bigots controlling power over them.
On the other hand, the help could suffer lost of their jobs that they, desperately, needed to feed their family, and their meager existence totally destroyed. In addition, the risk of being sent to prison on false trumped up charges, smeared, slandered, and denied employment ever again in Jackson. Moreover, the help risk their houses being shot up, burned down, and violence. In the same way, racist bigots exercised control over blacks’ lives with threats of cutting off their livelihood and destroying their meager existence. The majority of blacks did not have their own businesses, only a few were self-supporting, so those that did not had to swallow their pride and do what they had to do to survive.
The only person I felt like Skeeter was trying to save was a female’s image (her mother) in her own household. Her mother gave Constantine the maid who raised Skeeter an ultimatum. That she could no longer see her own flesh and blood ever again if she wanted to keep working for her. She even went so far as to tell her not to even allow her daughter to live with her. Mind you, Skeeter’s mother was not referring to her not seeing Skeeter, but Constantine’s own daughter, which illustrated how much control over blacks’ lives whites seem to think they should have over them. Consequently, Constantine quit working for Skeeter's mother, left with her daughter, and refused to let Skeeter's mother have that much control over her. Here is a subtle instance in which the attitude of whites is that blacks are docile children who must yield to whites authority.
To be continued