The Help

The Help

Static Mass Rating: 5/5

Release date: October 26th, 2011
Certificate (UK): 12A
Running time: 146 minutes

Director: Tate Taylor
Writer: Tate Taylor, Kathryn Stockett (novel)
Producers: Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan, Brunson Green
Composer: Thomas Newman

Cast: Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer

“Whatever you did for the least of my brothers… you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40

People like to turn a blind eye; they’ve been doing it since as long as I can remember. They don’t like to see poverty. They don’t like to see suffering. And they sure don’t like to see racism because if they saw these things they would have a moral responsibility to do something about it. So they turn their faces and hope it goes away.

The Help

The truth is, it never goes away that way.

I walk the street and people spit at my feet or on my back as I pass by. I’ve heard whispers about my colour as I sit at a table in a restaurant and words like “Get out of my country” hurled at me.

Racism still exists and it exists in many forms and colours. Rather than turn a blind eye to it I’ve learnt to look them in the face and forgive them for what they do not know or understand.

A story like The Help is one which holds a mirror up to a time to America and forces it to see its true past and what it was built on – the forced sacrifices of others.

The Help

Set in the 1960’s, it’s the story of Skeeter (Emma Stone), a young white woman who doesn’t fit in with her coiffed, pampered and painfully stupid friends who believe their black maids are good enough to wash, cook, clean and raise their babies but not fit to use their toilets.

Skeeter lands a job as a writer for a local newspaper and for her first assignment she decides to interview Aibileen (Viola Davis), a middle aged maid who’s been raising other people’s children since she was 14 years old. Skeeter wants to tell the story of what it’s like on the other side and hopes that when people read it, things might begin to change. The only problem is Aibileen, like all the other maids in Jacksonville, is scared to talk. For starters, the Jim Crow laws stand in the way.

The Help

The Jim Crow laws held for almost 100 years until they were overruled by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Crow’s laws tried in every possible way to segregate whites from blacks. Aibileen mentions just a few of these ways when she recites:

The Help

“No person shall require any white female to nurse in wards or rooms in which Negro men are placed. Books shall not be interchangeable between a white and colored school, but shall continue to be used by the race first using them. No colored barber shall serve as a barber to white women or girls. Any person printing, publishing or circulating written matter urging for public acceptance or social equality between whites and Negro’s is subject to imprisonment.”

Eventually Skeeter gets to talk to all the maids and they have much to say about what life on their side is like. It’s a very heartfelt story and though it reinforces what we may already know of that time, it does steer clear of representing some of the brutal crimes such as the lynchings that took place from the late 18th century through the 1960s.

While the laws may change, what started in 1964 with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in America was just a small but important step on a long road to tackling racism which continues to exist today in many forms.

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