Thursday, December 15, 2011

EPISODE ALERT: My review of the movie, "The Help"


A new movie was released earlier this year entitled, "The Help". The synopsis is below:

An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960's decides to write a book detailing the African-American maid's point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.

It stars Viola Davis who plays "Aibilene Clark" and Emma Stone who plays "Skeeter Phelan".

What made "The Help" so moving was the memories made once told to me by my foremothers of how much strife they suffered to care for my parents, before Martin Luther King, during Jim Crow South. How if a woman was Black and had intelligence, she could not have any aspirations in Mississippi.

Then I wondered, has it changed?

When I read how ignorant people, like Gene Marks are of what poverty is like and in a smug way dismiss the inhumanity of poverty by lumping an entire group to fit their warped point of view, I wonder... Has it changed from the Jim Crow South 1960's?

I actually enjoyed The Help, it was insightful, tasteful and actually quite artistic. In the movie, all the Caucasian women were beauty queens as their high and mighty selves, and all the Black Women appeared...old... But it was set in the bygone era of bigotry and racism and how fantasy it was to be so lovely, without accountability from the government and the constitution. It does give leverage as to why civil rights are worth dying for.

What I did not like about the movie is the current, modern relationships between Caucasian women and women of African descent or women of color is it further divides now. We still will not relate when you have a "godless woman" such as the vile, "Hilly Holbrook" (played by Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of Ron Howard) demanding that maids use the outdoor restroom because Black people are beneath us... For us to hate that character, means the actress did an EXCELLENT job. Of course without anymore massive spoilers, Hilly Holbrook is going to get what is coming to her...

But there was another issue, I have seen one of those "outdoor bathrooms". There was one in my grandmother's house. I do not think my grandparents really knew how to tell the builders of that custom home not to build the house like that back in the 1960s, so in the South, it had to be that way...

The other thing I did not like is the "mothering" that all the maids had to do to help the Caucasian women to survive. I would call it "smothering". The Caucasian women were young 20-somethings, with small children. Their husbands were at the office working. They were at home, doing...what? Imaginary activities! Except for the character, "Skeeter Phelan" (played by Emma Stone). "Skeeter" just graduated from college and wanted to be a journalist in New York, but in order to get that job, she needed experience. She did not have any. So she returned home and immediately noticed how her "maid", "Constantine Jefferson" (played by Cicely Tyson) was gone and her parents glossed how she left to live in Chicago.

Skeeter is given the task of "How-tos" in the household at the local newspaper. Then suddenly discovers the perspective of the Black maid has not been spoken or written. Of course that gets into Jim Crow laws of "separate but equal". So she writes it and that is the poignant part of the movie.

Skeeter seems to be the only one of the Caucasian women who remembers their "Black Maids" and the words they spoke her while growing up. The wisdom of experience and words that no matter what, we need to hear them.

You kind
You smart
You important

The question is asked in the movie of the characters, "How do you take care of white kids and care for your own?"

I cannot imagine how my foremother's did it, but they did and reared some the strongest people I know, my mother and father, aunties and uncles, cousins. That mentality that you will do it, it will get done and I will not have any less--I was told that growing up.

What made me have episodes is... I don't hear many women say that to young people, unless they are selling books or videos. I definitely am not hearing it in any of the music. And no little Black girls are hearing when I see them online... So what happened? I do not have children, so I do not know.

Not to say it is never said and the color of one's skin does not mean that those powerful comments cannot be made. But who is taking care of our children while we work? Are they saying anything beautiful to our kids?

The best thing about this movie begs the question: Who is helping whom?

I think toward the end, the "Minny Jackson" character (played by Octavia Spencer) who is a maid for the vile "Hilly Holbrook" but is then fired and hired by her nemesis, "Celia Foote" (played by Jessica Chastain) found strength in herself to hold her family together. The part I found a distaste for is while I understand the "Happy Ending" concept, why would the character Minny want to stay a "slave" in anyone's home? But I guess she did not need that kind of help.

Who needed the help was "Aibilene Clark" (Viola Davis) after all the help she had given to white families. Aibilene needed her help to walk away from it all and she did. What happens afterward, who knows?

What I liked about this movie was how the female actresses had their dynamics. Very few male actors were in this movie. NONE of the female actresses became "Women in the Refrigerator" or castigated to make way of the physical violence seen in civil rights perpetuated by males. But the mental violence is terrorizing and I know of elderly women today who can tell me what life was life in the dirty South with few memories of peace. There was a delicate balance. The young people know nothing of that kind of life.

Sadly, we may be headed back due to hardship and the economy. Who know if we learned our lessons? But I also think that having a fantasy view of any aspect of civil rights negates what these real women who suffered, who I know and are a part of my family can share with me the only tidbit to make me be and do better...

I am kind
I am smart
I am important!