Mercer Cluster

'The Help' examines racial conflicts

Monica Hoyle

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Very rarely do books adapted into films end up pleasing the majority of people, especially when those films force one to think about those forbidden topics that society tries to bury and pretends no longer exist.  This summer’s The Help has done just that. The book, written by Kathryn Sockett, was originally published in 2009. The movie was released this August, and made huge waves at the box office. The story is set in Mississippi in the early 1960’s. Several very different women, each with their own problems and insecurities, come together only to learn that they are not so different at all.
Aibileen is a black maid who struggles to come to grips with her son’s death. Her best friend, Minny, is the town’s best cook. Unfortunately, Minnny’s sassy character gets her into a lot of trouble from time to time. She cannot keep a job and has to deal with an abusive husband. Skeeter is a twenty-two year old girl fresh out of college and full of hope. She has never followed many of the customs of the south, and she has never really fit in with the other girls. She wants something different. As she learns more about Minny and Aibileen, she finds friendship, comfort for her own troubles, and the inspiration she needs to follow her dreams.
Throughout the movie, each character’s flaws and insecurities is addressed. The audience watches as Aibileen learns to live her life and accept her son’s death. We see Minny gain her strength through the help of her new, unusually kind employer, Celia Foote, who she, in turn, also helps. Celia is new in town and does not understand why the other ladies avoid her like the plague. Her beliefs and lifestyle are very different from many of the people in Mississippi during that time. She can be what some would consider inappropriate at times, but she is kindhearted and just wants a friend. Celia ends up hiring Minny so she can learn how to cook, and the two women form an unlikely bond that defied the rules of the time.
Hilly Holbrook, the main villain of the story, is tried for her crimes against humanity. While she does not change her beliefs and treatment of people, Aibileen’s scrutiny of Hilly does force us all to think about the way we treat others. The movie poses questions that force us to face the evil side of ourselves and really think about the things that are simply unacceptable, whether that be disrespecting someone because of their race, socio- economic status, or their beliefs, or not fighting for what is right. The movie is quite inspirational, and each character embodies a piece of what makes up humanity. The actors’ performances really bring the book to life. These stories require us to analyze ourselves and think about the difference between what is right and what is easy. The Help is a tear jerking, hair-raising, funny and entertaining movie that will benefit all.

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'The Help' examines racial conflicts