In Theaters now is the new movie “The Help”. After reading the book and seeing the movie, I need some help understanding, why.
“The Help”, a screenplay written from the book by Kathryn Stockett takes place in Mississippi, in the 1960’s when being a maid was not a choice, but a requirement. The book and the movie takes us back to a time of segregation and sheer disrespect for another human being, regardless of color, education or occupation. This movie makes you want to say, we hear you loud and clear. We heard it in “The Color Purple”, we saw it up close and personal in “Roots”, and we felt it in our hearts in “Precious”. How much more do we need? Yes blacks have been slaves, maids, poor, abused, and uneducated. We get it! African Americans do not need a refresher course every year to remind them of what it was or is to be black.
It amazes me the words used to describe this movie; “Encouraging”, Empowered, Riveting. Do you think a black maid ever felt empowered about cleaning a white woman’s house and then going home and cleaning her own? Do you think a black maid was ever encouraged by serving a white woman’s family while her family fend for themselves? Do you think it is riveting for a black maid to care for a white woman’s children while no one cares for hers? How exactly does “The Help” help women today? What is the message? That white women can be friends with their maids.
We are living in a time where the President of the United States is a black man and the first lady is a black woman. African Americans have come such a long way from being just the help. When I think of the roles that are available to white actors as oppose to black actors, it lets me know, that’s where “The Help” is really needed.
I was born in the 60’s, raised in a two working parent home and spent all my summers in the South with my grandmother and aunt. My grandmother worked in a flower shop making beautiful flower arrangements for all occasions; my aunt was a social worker, who also owned the only beauty salon and flower shop in her town. What is this movie saying to those of us who don’t have the “maid” story or can’t relate to it? Just because you’re black, don’t mean you’ve been to Africa.
Kathryn, if you want to write maids, write about the women who clean houses today. If you called Merry Maids today, 95 percent of their staff is white or Mexican. The only difference is, their maids cost $120 an hour, and black maids in the 60’s were paid $1.20 an hour. Why must writers continue to take us back to a time of humiliation, low self esteem and depression? Why are viewers still paying good money to see the same story told over and over again? Educated white women make friends with the uneducated black help. And as always, in the end the white woman is the hero for helping out the black folks.
The writer of “The Help” uses a quote from Hattie McDaniel to justify her lack of harm in writing this book and screenplay. Hattie McDaniels was reportedly quoted as saying “Why should I complain about making $700 a week playing a maid? If I didn’t, I’d be making $7 a week being one.” Why did Kathryn use that quote? Is that supposed to be encouragement for the black folks?
“The Help” doesn’t represent encouragement or empowerment. The dialect used in the book and the movie was appalling in the 60’s and is appalling today. Is that all you have as a writer? I say to all writers, stop taking us back into a time and place that was degrading for many black women and men. We live in the 21st century where being black today means something more than just being the help. Today, we make decisions that change lives; we heal through development of new medicines; we educate through teaching, we build families by example. That is the kind of help we provide today!
You have writers out here who write about things that change lives and impact worlds forever more and they can’t even get a book deal. But Kathryn Stockett comes along with another sad story about the poor black folks, and it becomes a feature film. Go figure. The help is not a positive message on any level, for any race, under any circumstances
The meaning of the word “Help” is to aid; to assist. Let’s ask Kathryn Stockett to aid and assist us in writing about things she knows, white people. Because if this is the best she’s got, then she doesn’t know black folks at all! In theaters now!