My Rant About “The Help”

My title is a little mis-leading. I have no problem with the book or movie “The Help“. In fact, I think it was one of the best books I have ever read. Even after a year, it has still “stuck” with me.

And usually, movies made from books are a big disappointment. But not this time. Although it has a few differences from the book, they are minor. And a few things are left out but for the most part, it’s a mirror image to the book.

I was first introduced to the book “the Help” about a year and a half ago. I had gone to Atlanta for an internet marketing conference and afterwards, I stayed a week with one of my best friends who lives there.

While getting packed to return home, my friend asked me if I had anything to read on the plane. I told her I didn’t. So she gave me “The Help” to read. She said she and her book club had just finished it and it had totally blown her away.

To tell you the truth, just glancing at it, I didn’t think I would like it. What did I have in common with African American housekeepers in the 1960’s?

But on my friend’s recommendation, I started reading it while sitting in the airport waiting to board my plane. That’s all it took. I was hooked. I read it on the plane. I finished it when I got home and was really sad when I was through with it. I felt like Abileen, Skeeter and Minnie had become my friends.

I passed the book on to my daughter, my sister and even my mother and they all loved the book too.

Now here is where my rant comes in. And if I offend anyone, I apologize.

There are some who are upset by this book. Why? Because a white woman wrote it  and used a southern “mammy” type dialect for some of the characters.

Are you kidding me? That’s what they are upset about? As wonderful as this book is, that’s what they choose to focus on?

What does it matter whether Kathryn Stockett is white, black or purple? Unless you were an adult black person in the South in the 1960’s, you don’t have  “the right” to write in that dialect either. That’s not the point.

This book has brought to light the hardships that African Americans had to endure in the mid 20th century. Because, to most of us under the age of 55, it was just a history lesson.

This poignant movie has made me realize that though slavery had long been abolished by then, many people were still not really free.

There were still a lot of hard won battles to be fought before that happened. I am so grateful to the men and women who were brave enough to fight those battles and change our society. Many were tortured and lost their lives. Because of their bravery, my sweet, smart, beautiful little grand daughter, who is bi-racial will have a much better future where she can do and be anything she wants.

I do have a few things in common with this story. I grew up in the South in the 60’s and 70’s and would have been the age of the toddler Mae Mobley in the story. We also had a black housekeeper growing up. Her name was Mary and like Abileen did with little Mae, Mary was a mother to me when my own mother, for whatever reasons couldn’t seem to bond to me.

I mourned when we moved to a nearby suburb that wasn’t on Mary’s bus line. Mary couldn’t drive so she couldn’t get out there to our new house. So my parents got a new housekeeper. I felt like I had lost my mother and was angry with my parents for years.

Looking back, I wonder if Mary and the other black housekeepers my parents employed were treated as bad as some of the ones in the movie were. I don’t remember if they were or not.
Abileen and Minnie
I do know that Mary was afraid to discipline me and I am sure I gave her a hard time as a young child. I wish she were alive today so I could tell her how sorry I am for that.

I do know she loved me. But kids will push as far as they are allowed. I remember one time when I was about 3, I got some scissors and proceeded to cut up my mother’s blouses that were in her drawer. Mary let me do it. I told her my mommy let me do it and she didn’t stop me. Looking back I wonder why she didn’t stop me. Why in the world would she let a toddler, first of all play with sharp scissors and then actually believe her about being allowed to cut up good clothing? Was she that afraid to discipline me?

Any way, to get back to my “rant.” Instead of trashing a movie and assuming it is putting black people down because of the style of  language that is used, I encourage people to see this movie with an open mind. Look at the big picture instead of focusing on something so inconsequential as a dialect.

This story has opened the minds of others, my mother being one of them.  My mother has always been quite racist and I was sure she would not like this book. But she did. And it did change her attitude about some things.

I love what Octavia Spencer, who played Minnie, said about all this controversy. Read it here : Octavia Spencer On Criticism Of “The Help”: “We’ve Gotten So PC…”.

Okay, that’s all I have to say about the subject.  Are we still friends? I hope so. Have you seen this movie yet?  Or read the book? If so, what did you think?




9 thoughts on “My Rant About “The Help”

  1. Because the book is told from two of the maids’ (and Skeeter’s) point of view, it had to be written in their “voice”, using the language they would use. I wasn’t in the south in the 1960’s, but I did feel like I was hearing their story from them. I thought the women were depicted as intelligent, caring and all too aware of the hypocrisy and bigotry of the times they lived in. They remained proud despite the fact that they were disrespected and mistreated every day. The use the accent didn’t diminish these women in anyway, but served to make their voices distinct.

  2. Very well said Leslie and I totally agree. It just wouldn’t have felt quite as authentic without their accents.
    Even though they didn’t have educated, classy dialects, I felt they were very bright. Much smarter than the educated women they worked for.

  3. Oh man, my daughter (14yrs old) went to see it last weekend and I’ve forgotten to ask her about it. Will enjoy hearing her perspective on it! Thanks for sharing yours! Now I really want to both read the book and see the movie!

  4. I read the book last year and enjoyed it. Just saw the movie and also really enjoyed it. Even took my 9 yr old daughter and it made quite the impact on her. Almost everyday she asks about some aspect of the movie and yesterday it was “how come Abileen didn’t use correct grammar when speaking to Mae Mobley”. So I used it as a mini lesson about how some black women back then often had to leave school to help support the family, as did Minnie’s daughter at age 14 (from the movie). No doubt, if the author tried to stay PC by NOT using any kind of dialect, then she would have gotten reamed for making the maids sound too much like Skeeter and the other white women in the book. I’m glad she used different voices for each of the maid so I’m a fan!

  5. I love Steve Martin but didn’t even realize he wrote books too. What a talented guy! I’ll have to check his stuff out.
    The Help is definitely worth reading. After all this time, it is still one of my very favorite books.

Leave a Reply to Elisa Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *