With the possible exception of  the last Harry Potter film, has any movie been more anticipated than The Help?  So much so that I was almost afraid to go see it for fear of being disappointed, either because the movie was not well done or because it mutilated the book.  Neither was the case.  The movie accurately portrayed the book, and I thought the characters were as they should be.  When I have read a book that becomes a movie, I always have my character images.  I read slowly, relishing the words, getting into the story, setting the stage so to speak.  Often I read out loud making an to portray the characters.  In The Help, I’m not sure I got the dialect quite right, but my vision of each person was much as they were presented in the movie.

I grew up in the south, but it was south Florida, and my world was very different from the one presented in the book.  I only knew one family who had a maid and whenever I visited that home she was polite and generally had treats for us to enjoy.  I never thought about where she went to the bathroom or how she got home or what her life was like.  In my town, Negroes, as they were then called, lived on one side of town, whites on another.  We went to separate schools and while they did not go to the drug store soda fountain or the same movie as me, I have no recollection of there being signs that prohibited their being there.  The Help and other books/movies that address civil rights make me wonder if I lived in a vacuum.  If that was the case, I also grew up without too many prejudices.

The friend with whom I saw the movie had quite the opposite experience. She grew up in the south more similar to Jackson, Mississippi, and her family had help.    She well remembers being cared for by a maid who disciplined her, taught her manners, gave her hugs, and approved (or not) of her dress.   This woman also had a bathroom separate from any used by the family.  My friend loved the help and took for granted that her presence and the way she was treated was the norm as most of the people my  friend knew also had help.  Strange how different circumstances can be which means the reaction the two of us had to the movie was somewhat different.

Just as I didn’t have the experience of help, I didn’t know a Hillie, and I say thank goodness to that.  I found myself wondering how anyone could be so influenced by someone like her and respecting Skeeter for having the courage to go beyond that silliness.  I also wondered who I would have been in that scenario.  I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have been Hillie, but I can only guess if I would have followed along in order to be accepted.  I also wonder if it would have ever occurred to me to question what life was like on the other side.

Getting back to the movie, I enjoyed it.  There was the right amount of humor and sadness.  The characters were believable.  It made us see once again, albeit in a fairly subtle way, how slow the white south was to accept people different from itself.  In some ways, I wonder if that isn’t still the case.

If you’ve seen the movie, I’d love to know what you think; if you haven’t, go!

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9 thoughts on “The Help…My Take

  1. I haven’t read the book yet, so I will probably wait till it comes out on DVD.
    I have always been disappointed in movies made from books.
    The earliest I remember was Gone With the Wind. I think I read the book when I was in 7 th grade, and when I saw the movie the characters weren’t the way I imagined them. Stuart Little was so far from the book it was criminal!
    So I will read it, but I don’t know about the movie.
    As a NYer, I never experienced segregation. I had black classmates, never thought anything about it.

  2. I have been wanting to see the movie, but I am still looking for someone who has read the book to go with me. And you are not even close to being a Hillie, and thankfully, I haven’t ever known one either! My growing up town and experience were very similar to yours.

  3. I am just like you in some respect. I read books slow and savor the words and get lost in the pages, sometimes I even put off sleep to finish a book.

    I am glad I didn’t read this book first. I loved the movie. Then my friend gave me the book as a belated birthday present and after I saw the movie and started to read the book, I can say the book is way better in one aspect. The characters describe their thouights. That was something I had to guess at when I was watching the movie.

    I too grew up in the south, and the dialect came easy to me. We did have a black woman come and help with the ironing. She ironed on the board and mom ironed on the mandle. She was always nice to us and we liked her a lot. We picked her up and took her back home. We ate the wonderful things she brought to the house and we sent her home with wonderful things mom would make. She used the same bathroom that we did and drank out of the same glasses we did. She wasn’t hired because we were wealthy. My father worked three jobs just to get by, and with four little girls to care for, my father knew my mother needed the help. I didn’t know what prejudice was until they segregated our schools and the black girls would carry hat pins in their afros and stab the “white” girls in the buttucks in the girls locker room. I didn’t understand why they were being so mean to us “white” girls.

    So, I guess I lived a sheltered life too.Not knowing the plight of African Americans back then, I just didn’t understand their hatred towards me as a white person. I mean, after all what did I do to them? I think racism is taught. Because of my experiences growing up in the south, now as an adult I can say that I have seen racism run both ways down that road.
    So glad you enjoyed the movie. I think it will be another classic, like Driving Miss Daisy.~Ames

  4. With a name like Dixie, you can imagine that The Help was dear to my heart, from the book to the movie. In my adult life, I was blessed to have a housekeeper of another race, and she has become of the dearest people in my life. We know each other — it’s not all one way — and we love each other. I am there for Freddie and she is there for me.

    My daughter was once accused of being a racist (in a New England Prep School) as she was from the South. Her retort was full of righteous anger,”How many of you have spent every day of your life with someone of another race?” When no one had, she replied, “Don’t you DARE tell me what I feel.”

    I am sorry there was the economic and cultural chasm between the races when I was coming up. Nevertheless, at least women i knew had loving relationships with people of other races.

    I am now thrilled that there are African Americans who can buy and sell me with their pocket change. We need everyone’s talent if we are to make the promise of our country come true.

    Color and character are independent variables and it’s time for bigotry to become as much as thing of the past as bleeding patients or burning witches.

  5. Our Maine book club read that book when it came out and we attended the movie together last week. After the movie we were able to share our thoughts over lunch. Everyone LOVED that movie. The book discussion a year ago got us talking about that time in history. The movie did the same.

  6. I grew up in Maine so had absolutely no experiences with “help” like those depicted in the movie. However I clearly recall the first time I saw a sign indicating a separate “colored” entrance on a municipal building in Alabama in the sixties. For a nieve northern-raised gal it was a complete shock. It had simply never occured to me that such practice existed.

    I liked the movie and thought it followed the book as closely as a movie can ever follow a book. I think what makes the book universal is not that it depicts a time in history but that there are Hillies everywhere in every time. Different victims maybe but still, self-righteous, cruel women convinced that one class should dominate another. Whether you’ve read the book or not, go see the film and keep an eye out for the Hillies.

  7. Loved reading “your take” on the book/movie. I’m in the process of reading the book now, and trying to finish it before we, hopefully, go see the movie tomorrow…if Hurricane Irene permits it. Both of my grandparents had “help” and they were treated as members of the family. My grandparents in South Carolina had us call the help “Uncle” and “Aunt”; I’ve never thought about it before, but maybe that was typical for certain areas and that’s where “Uncle Remus” came from in “Song of the South”.

    Must get back to my reading.

  8. Loved this movie.. i grew up in Europe so was spared all the prejudice. And although I had a maid when my kids were little (my husband’s nanny), Not privileged…. we had a business to run too. I certainly wasn’t prepared for what I saw.. but loved this movie.. thanks for sharing your take.. xo marlis

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