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The Help: A Story Told Too Late

posted Mar 26, 2014, 5:05 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Mar 26, 2014, 6:54 PM by Unknown user ]
Paige Sudlow & Madi Endicott

    The Help, which came out in 2011, is a story that should have been told in the 1960s when segregation and discrimination against blacks was at its peak. To today’s audience, it offers a unique and interesting tale that reflects on a dark time in American history.

Photo courtesy of: londonderrynh.net

    The plot follows the story of brave, young Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, a white woman who aspires to be a serious writer while taking criticism from her friends, mother, and other white women in the town of Jackson, Mississippi for having dreams that don’t involve finding a husband. After the mysterious and sudden loss of her lifelong black maid, Constantine, she decides to write a book from the viewpoint of the help (the black maids); a subject that has never been addressed and is, in fact, illegal to tackle. In order to accomplish this she calls on the assistance of Aibileen Clark, the maid of Skeeter’s rich white friend.

    Aibileen has spent her life as a servant to white folks in Jackson; cooking, cleaning, and primarily raising white children. After losing her son in the war, her life seems less than extraordinary, and she relies on her friend Minny’s (who is also a maid, and the best cook in Jackson) help and encouragement to make it through each day.

    At first, upon hearing Skeeter’s proposal, Aibileen refuses to help, saying that it’s too dangerous in a place like Jackson. But after church service one Sunday morning and a sign from God, she decides that helping Miss Skeeter is the right thing to do.

    Skeeter and Aibileen get right to work and eventually a stubborn yet talkative Minny is recruited to share her input as well. The three make the perfect team for bringing Southern racism to light.  Skeeter and Aibileen show strength, persistence, and courage throughout the movie. These two characters show that if a person wants to make a difference in the world, they need to go out and work for it.

    As the color situation gets worse in Jackson -- Minny gets fired for using the toilet indoors and Aibileen is forced to use a separate, less-than-ideal restroom -- more and more maids offer their stories for Skeeter to include in her book, and eventually it gets published. But not before Skeeter finally learns the truth from her mother about what happened to her beloved Constantine.

    Though her book is published anonymously, it is obvious that Skeeter’s words are about her friends in Jackson and she receives even more backlash from her snobby, rich white friends. She eventually leaves to fulfill her dream and write in New York. Aibileen also faces repercussions and is eventually fired, but takes the opportunity to continue to write about the truth of the black and white situation.

Photo courtesy of: womanaroundtown.com

    The movie is a remarkable tale that reminds its audience of the dark American past through the courageous story of an aspiring writer and a courageous maid. Emma Stone (Skeeter) takes on a different role from her normally humorous character, and she does a stellar job of becoming the stubborn, courageous writer in Jackson. Stone also brings to the table a strong, independent woman which was not common in the South back then. Her co-star Viola Davis (Aibileen) eloquently conveys the pain and hardships that many black maids in the South endured during the 1960s. She not only embodied the characteristics of a grieving mother, but also presented her character as humble and faithful.

    The true and blunt reality the movie portrays makes the viewers think it is based off of a true story, but, while the treatment of colored people in the 1960s was parallel, the plot is purely fiction. In fact, it is based off of a book by Kathryn Stockett, who will be visiting the University of Findlay tomorrow for the Community Read event at 7 p.m. in the Koehler Center.