The Help is a 2011 movie directed by Tate Taylor that stars Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, and Jessica Chastain. The film is based on the book written by Kathryn Stockett, which has long been on various bestseller lists (Fitria and Nabilah 44). The author of the book, like director Tate Taylor, was born in the described places, which adds a touch of autobiography to the melodrama. The Help is a flawlessly designed, filmed, and played politically correct melodrama with a sharp topic, suitable for the delight of the widest masses.
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After studying to be a journalist, young, ambitious, and disdainful of the institution of marriage Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone) returns home to the conservative, bourgeois Mississippi. Even though people in her city may have heard about the abolition of slavery, black people are still not considered equal (Benson-Allot 69). The local elite does charity work for the starving children of Africa, popping chocolate pies and playing bridge, while black women run their homes and nurse their children (Adam 123). Skeeter Phelan sees the rampant oppression of African American governesses and tries to find great material for her sensational book. The girl decides to find out what the servants think about their status and write a novel about their lives. To begin with, she secretly interviews the most talkative of the oppressed women Aibileen (Viola Davis) in the hope that she will connect with the rest of her black sisters (The Help). They are scared to be fired or sent to prison but decide to tell everything. It will cost the girl the relationship with all her friends, but she will tell the world the truth.
The Help is a film about how in a democratic country the issue of living blacks and whites together is resolved. According to Fitria and Nabilah, “stratification is not random” (45), and racial discrimination is common in this society. In the early 1960s, Martin Luther King is already preaching equality, but the town of Jackson, Mississippi, still divided people by color (Szulkowska 43). The black population seems to have formal freedoms, but they are still not considered human. According to Agata Szulkowska, the characters deal with “different forms of racism daily” (Szulkowska 45). The film captures a challenging time in America when racial discrimination is a common thing.
African American women, deprived of all rights, are forced to work in the homes of white people just to feed themselves. As Aibileen, the main black character, says, “My momma was a maid. My grandmomma was a house slave” (The Help). Unfortunately, for many people, racism is “only a history that has happened in America” (Adam 120). However, not all whites are cruel: Skeeter Phelan is tired of the oppression of blacks, so she tries to help. She tries to prove to everyone that all are human, regardless of skin color. Thus, according to Benson-Allot, this film is an “ode to a white savior and the black maids” (68). The maids feel supported and protected by Skeeter, a mini-version of the freedom fighter.
The Help is a wonderful movie that is worth watching. In addition to the problems of racial segregation, it touches on such sensitive topics as feminism and sexism. This is a film about women: bright, daring, quiet, tenacious, courageous, powerful, and honest. All five women take turns owning the frame and depending on who is in focus right now, the film changes its genre, smoothly moving from drama to tragicomedy. All this is accompanied by touching revelations, biting satire, funny skirmishes, and real feelings (The Help). It is a pleasure to watch the wonderful scenery and listen to the heartfelt music of Thomas Newman, which naturally recreates the atmosphere of the sixties, leaving no chance to remain indifferent. The confrontation between white and black women impresses with its sincerity. The characters on both sides of the barricades are bright and clearly defined, each of them truly individual.
Tate Taylor, a man, has managed to make a well-designed, lively, and feminine everyday drama that can arouse genuine interest. The film is suitable for the delight of the widest masses of people. In this sense, everything in it is chosen ideally: a wonderful time of action, when blacks are oppressed, but everything will change soon. There is neither a happy nor a sad end in The Help, but only one finished story, and several ones that have just begun, hidden behind the viewers’ imagination. Despite all the aspects of life it touches, the main message of the film is the need for such qualities as courage and determination. “Change begins with a whisper” is a bright slogan of this movie (The Help). The trouble of many people is that they are even afraid to whisper, preferring poor stability to promising changes.
The movie awakens deep feelings and makes the viewers understand why it was nominated by the Academy Awards. The best Hollywood actresses, a great storyline, and acute social conflict with a pinch of humor attract the audience. Although slavery has long been abolished, and racial segregation in America has disappeared, the main thing has not vanished: the desire of people to divide each other into groups and statuses. Anyone who has ever worked in the service system will recognize themselves in giggling in the kitchen Aibileen and Minny. Anyone who has been denied intelligence or talent, judging by their appearance, gender, or skin color, will understand what The Help is about. This film is about faith in oneself, human strength, and the ability to change the world. It is about fearlessness: deprived of rights women have managed to win, and their bold decision remains in history.
Adam, Mutia R. “Racism in “The Help” Movie by Tate Taylor (A Sociological Approach).” British (Jurnal Bahasa dan Sastra Inggris), vol. 7, no. 2, 2019, pp. 120-129. Web.
Benson-Allott, Caetlin. “On Platforms: Race, Rage, and Genre Revisionism.” Film Quarterly, vol. 73, no. 2, 2019, pp. 66-71.
Fitria, Sari, and Firyal Nabilah. “Racial Stratification of African-American Characters in Tate Taylor’s The Help.” EUFONI, vol. 3, no. 1, 2019, pp. 43-52. Web.
Szulkowska, Agata. “The Problem of Racism in Kathryn Stockett’s Novel The Help.” Crossroads. A Journal of English Studies, vol. 1, no. 16, 2017, pp. 41-53.
The Help. Directed by Tate Taylor, DreamWorks Pictures, 2011. Amazon. Web.