THE HELP — A review through the looking glass

I had read a review of the movie The Help by Russell Simmons last week on and he was verbally being assalted because of his appreciation of the film. Some sentiment was just what we need another movie with African American Women being portrayed as hired help, others actually called him a sellout for liking the film. I am not easily swayed and I decided to hold off on the debate and see the movie myself and form my own opinion. Off I went to see The Help on opening day.

I had the pleasure of seeing The Help with my Mom and two younger children on Wednesday. My immediate thoughts were I enjoyed the movie but I am still processing it. Do I recommend you seeing it? I surely do. Take your girlfriends, fiends, dates and teens. Do I think it is worth the Oscar buzz — you bet your sweet cheeks I do! Was I disturbed by portions of the movie? Of course I was. Do I feel as if the African American characters were stereotypical? I do not! Do I think there is power in these African American women’s voices? Yes, indeed, I do, because it is the telling of their stories that created the the lives that African Americans get to live today.

It’s been three days now and I have taken time to reflect on the movie and compare it to the true to life example of my great aunt’s experience as a domestic in Alabama and later on in some of the finest homes in Chicago. This is my Aunt Tee’s story. This is the story of all those women who traveled near and far from their homes to take care of others households.

I always admired my Great-Aunt “Tee” because she was a hard worker and she spent her life raising children other than her own (she was childless) including my father and his four siblings. “Aunt Tee” was a fierce Christian woman who had a sharp wit, and sharp sense of business to match. She managed to buy a house, and send two of her nephews off to college: one to University of Indiana and my Dad off to Purdue. She worked hard as a domestic and she did that so that my Dad and his siblings could have a better life. She often worked 6 days a week and she never complained, she just smiled when she was able to help someone who had less. She was humble and the daughter of a sharecropper.

As I watched The Help, I couldn’t help but think of “Aunt Tee” and all of her struggles. I thought of how she cared for another families children as if they were her own in order to take of her own family. I thought about how she must have felt and how she must have been treated and I just remember her as a wonderful, loving, proud, hard-working woman. One thing that stood out for me in the movie was the bonds that children had with the domestics. I really felt sad for those children that their maternal bond was with the hired help and not their mothers. That really left an impression upon me since I am an Early Childhood Educator, and it is my job to strengthen the bonds of the family not to act as a surrogate mother.

The movie easily transported me into that turbulent time called the 60’s when the Civil Rights Movement was brewing to eradicate the ugliness of the Jim Crow laws. It was interesting to see how the all of women reacted and responded to the social norms that had been dictated to them. Hilly was a monster created by an ambitious nature. She was power-hungry, grandiose, and almost inhumane, unlike her mother who was compassionate, witty, and likable. Millie her housekeeper was verbose, hard-working, stubborn and proud. These two characters represented the battle for civil rights, the battle between the rich and the poor but most importantly they represented the classic dichotomy of good versus evil. Abeline and Skeeter and their quiet strength helped the society women take a look at themselves through the eyes of the help and I can only hope that those “society women” were able to see how truly inhumane and silly they behaved.

I am still processing The Help in terms of race relations in the 60’s and today in 2011, but I do know that there are still some differences that exist like this in certain parts of America, Europe, and India. It saddens me, but this is still reality for some people in parts of the world. I hope The Help will make all of us take a look at ourselves and the doctrine in which we say we believe. I hope The Help will open doors for discussions about the importance of the 60’s and give this generation of people a better understanding of what went on during that time and how what was brewing then has the same undercurrent which is brewing today (think of London).

My final hope is that those who watch this film look into their hearts and NEVER EVER let history repeat itself because we are all made equal and the sun that shines above each of us marries all colors into one race called human!


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