The Help: The Horror

"No Boss, I don' have a life outside of your on screen needs."
Do yourself a favor, don't go see the The Help, Dreamworks' 1960s movie based on the bestselling book with the same title. The movie is pegged as the story of three women who dare to challenge societal norms by addressing the treatment of domestic workers, aka maids, bka mammies. The synopsis lies. This is story of one woman, protagonist Snookie, who dares to address the treatment of domestic workers. After returning home to Jackson, MS, Snookie becomes passionate about the secret lives of domestics and, needing content to write about, begins a quest to tell the maid's story. The idea of letting a black person tell their side of the story is just as revolutionary now as depicted in this film.
 Throughout The Help we get to follow our anglo heroine as she navigates the volatile world of mid society. Snookie maintains her required southern belle persona, while semi-secretly exercising her liberal views and maturing as a daring writer. The domestics, including actors Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, play the help to the script as well, rarely seen out of uniform. It's a shame that even in a movie based on a book that tells the maid's story, the maid's story can't be actually told. The audience gets to watch Snookie develop an unnecessary love interest, but the only relationship a domestic has is with "Leroy", who cameos as the off-screen show of domestic violence. We meet many of Snookie's family and friends. The only family of a domestic shown is in reference to an embarrassing moment for the madam. The maid's- I keep referring to them as a title, in resemblance to their role in this film -faced great backlash revealing their stories, and convincing reluctant others to come forward with their tales as well. Unfortunately it wasn't deemed important enough to show in this film about the help. Instead, the story followed Snookie to dinner, lunch, tea, and watch her navigate through the racist waters sailing on golden morals that we are all known for in post racial America.
One quarter way into this movie, I was cringing in my seat. By the credits, I was angry. The Help is a movie about the 1960s, made for a 1960s audience. Do we really need Uncle Tom's Cabin in 2011? I felt betrayed, as if I was tricked into paying to see white power propaganda. Maybe not that bad. So much was wrong: the black characters lives non-existent outside of uniform or suffering, all of society reluctantly trapped in a racist system sans one single villain, the gaping plot holes. [SPOILER ALERT] How basic is this film? When The Sassy One (who needs no explanation beyond that title) needed to show that she had a heart under that tough exterior, she goes into a poetic declaration about her love of frying chicken. "I's just loves me some fried chicken." Direct quote. [SUPER SPOILER ALERT DOUBLE WINDOWS, 'ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO CONTINUE' WARNING] How basic is this film? Naturally, civil rights hero Snookie publishes the stories and has a happy ending.The help's endings are as follows: one gets another domestic job with a less abusive family. The other loses her domestic job, accused of theft, and slow motion reminisces on the white child she won't get to finish raising. Scene. Roll credits. Invite her to join The Avengers.
I conceded mid-movie that it was a sci-fi film about the journalist girl, and not about the help, as advertised. In reviewing The Help, Roger Ebert made two critical observations. That this movie, highlighting American racism in the 60s, is a feel good story, and the maids stole the movie. I think that about cliches it all.

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