Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Help—thought-provoking or just bad entertainment?

We saw the movie The Help this week. I read the book a year or so ago and loved it. There's such a lot of controversy about it, but to me it's an important book and film. I don't see it as pure entertainment. There may be some exaggeration in a few scenes (I can't say—I wasn't there). A couple of situations seemed a little off, but overall it's outstanding. The main characters, Aibilene
(Viola Davis), Minny (Octavia Spencer), and Skeeter (Emma Stone), were outstanding. Alison Janney, Cicely Tyson, Celia Foote. Sissy Spacek—they were all fabulous.

To me, this is an important story that needed to be told. Too many young people won't have any idea what it was like. Everyone must know about the terrible events such as the horrible, shameful murders of Medgar Evers and Emmett Till, the savagery in Birmingham, and Martin Luther King, but what about the everyday lives of the ordinary people? The maids, who had no voice, who were denied dignity, who faced it all routinely? They endured it with stoicism (at least outwardly) and courage. I have only praise for the wonderful black actresses who brought this story to life for new generations. I want my grandchildren to see it.

I know many people hated it, but it happened. It's not over yet, but it's part of our history and we need to know. How else can we fight it? How do you feel about it? 


bj said...

I honestly don't attend the movies to form my political views. That way lies madness. I go for the good writing, good acting and (my own special love) accurate costumes, hair styles, props, scenery for the period. The Help wins by all of my criteria.

Ellis Vidler said...

BJ, I don't consider The Help political, just a period in history that we need to understand and not forget. It will give young people a better understanding of the sensitivity and leftover feelings from a bad time. There's been no real focus on the day-to-day lives of the help and what they had to deal with.

Curmudgeon said...

There were things going on in the sixties. This highlights the worst.There was also love and compassion. Movies like this just keep racism going. I personally am fed up with them. In Virginia, we had a black gardener that was hired by our landlord. He was my best friend. I shared my Popsicles with him and he gave me empty Prince Albert cans. We collected unique rocks, put them in the cans and were buds. Why can't we ever look at positive occurrences during turbulent times? I'm not a critic,I'm no longer a Southerner and not much of an author but I know when artist license tries to label entire groups of people evil. Racism is now economics.

Ellis Vidler said...

Curmudgeon, I agree that there was much love and compassion (I grew up in Alabama--yes, I know from experience), but there have been many books and movies about that side. I believe we need to know all sides. The historians have said it--how can we know where we're going if we don't know where we've been? For me, that applies to the Holocaust, the treatment of the American Indians, and many periods of similar exploitation and cruelty. The Help was written as fiction, and because it told the story well, it's reached millions of people. That's something a history book simply won't have the power to do.
Have you ever wondered what your gardner friend went home to? What his opportunities in life were? The Help made me think about that.
Movies can be powerful tools, and we should use those with care, to teach and raise awareness without dramatic distortion. The Killing Fields, Platoon, Schindler's List--those and many others do that. We must look at all of it.
So, my soap box for today. :-)

Donnell said...

Ellis, I'm so late. Forgive me, please. Absolutely this story needs to be told. I confess I found the opening scenes painful. So painful to think that people were that narrow-minded and bigoted that they would banish a human being into another area because of her skin color.

My mother is of Cuban descent and lived in Key West when my dad was shipped out to Okinawa. My mother's landlord was black and a good woman. She would grab my older brother, a baby at the time, walk into Key West and people would say, where'd you get that baby, and my mother's landlord would say, he's mine.

Those were the charming stories I grew up with, so when I read The Help, I was sickened.

A friend of mine said she wanted to see it, so off we went. I was pleasantly surprised. Kills me that anyone ever enslaved, mistreated or hurt someone based on his skin color. Yes, this story needed (needs) to be told.

Ellis Vidler said...

Donnell, I grew up in the South, and while I never saw some of the extremes portrayed in The Help, I saw plenty. I felt like I could put a name to each of the characters--I recognized them all.

This behavior still goes on in various ways and under many guises. It makes me ill too.