The Help (movie) cleans up after itself

After viewing the UK trailer (view it here) there’s a bit more that’s been revealed about the upcoming movie.

First off, in both the UK and US trailers, Skeeter, played by Emma Stone gets top billing as the lead.

So maybe the title of the movie should be “Skeeter and The Help” or “The Help featuring Skeeter”, or “Skeeter’s little Helpers”.

Listen, this isn’t anything new. It’s routine for Hollywood and really, Skeeter was the star of the novel though many tried to say the maids were. But Stockett admitted to this in an early interview:

Interview by Motoko Rich of  The New York Times

Excerpt:

She added Skeeter, she said, because she worried that readers wouldn’t trust her if she only wrote about black characters. “I just didn’t think that would ever be allowed to sit on the shelf,” she said. “So I threw Skeeter in the mix and I felt a little better about it, because I was showing a white perspective as well.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/03/books/03help.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2

 

Knowing American audiences so well (which basically means white movie goers, because let’s face it, this isn’t aimed at African Americans, though the cross over bucks are seriously being coveted). That’s right, come on in black people and see how we’ve white washed the time period.  We’ve fixed what Stockett got wrong. Here’s our new tagline:

Come see the movie, because we’re nothing like the book.

Ah well, they’re trying to clean up what Stockett got wrong.

And for white women, it’s not really about segregation per se, but sisterhood. Feminism during segregation. So there’s something for everyone. Except black men.

The revised movie synopsis alludes to it:

Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, Skeeter (Stone) is a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends’ lives — and a small Mississippi town — upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. Aibileen (Davis), Skeeter’s best friend’s housekeeper, is the first to open up — to the dismay of her friends in the tight-knit black community. Despite Skeeter’s life-long friendships hanging in the balance, she and Aibileen continue their collaboration and soon more women come forward to tell their stories — and as it turns out, they have a lot to say. Along the way, unlikely friendships are forged and a new sisterhood emerges, but not before everyone in town has a thing or two to say themselves when they become unwittingly — and unwillingly — caught up in the changing times. Written by Walt Disney Pictures

 

The Help Movie Poster. Attempting to tie into the Civil Rights Movement with "change" being more of the same (black actresses as domestics)

 

 

Yes, they’re going for the “female empowerment” angle. Only not like this, which was really how it was:

Proudly opposing civil rights - A "sisterhood" founded in around segregation

 

 

A lynching in Marion, Indiana 1930. The ultimate price black men paid during segregation

At least in the UK trailer, they had the decency to say this:

Minny walking up to her employer's house

The trailer alluding to Aibileen being the catalyst of it all, not Skeeter

Finally, a group of black men are shown

Skeeter, and perhaps Pascagoula and Jameso watching historic events unfold

Skeeter, watching civil rights history but neither thrilled or disappointed

Couple of things though. 

Where are the black males in this movie?

 

If the filmmakers have made the grave error of separating all three maids from the black males in their lives, then that’s more than troubling. It’s simply reinforcing a stereotype of black families that Stockett made up for the novel. Stockett labeled black men as “no-accounts” and absentee fathers, while elevating those who practiced segregation, namedly Senator “Stoolie” Whitworth, his son Stuart, Johnny Foote, Carlton Phelan, most all of these males are soap opera husbands. All have jobs, all are loyal and love their partners or their wives. Even Raleigh Leefolt, whom Skeeter calles an “asshole” is shown to be a caring father to his children Mae Mobley and Li’l Man (Ross)

 

Constantine’s father, by benefit of his being white, is not once labeled as “no-account” even though he has several children with Constantine’s mother, fathering several bi-racial children. He’s not married to the mother of his kids (and it’s not known if he ever entertained the idea of marrying her), nor can he provide for them all. Constantine relays how her father “loved” her, yet he’s given the benefit of the doubt because he cries and tells her he’s sorry. And most of all, he’s white. And Stockett seems to have a need to play favorites with the white male characters which isn’t cool at all.

 

 

I did spot several additions in the US trailer that aren’t in the novel, which may work to the benefit of the film:

 

 

Never happened in the book

 

Hilly, played by Bryce Dallas Howard thinks Minny is using her bathroom and spreading disease

 

The touch Skeeter dared not do

 

As pointed out by a poster named Sali, Skeeter DID take Aibileen’s hands at their final meeting when she went to visit her on a rainy night. Minny wasn’t there. I’ve noted the correction. In the book, Skeeter does this after Aibileen hugs her: 

“The stores are asking me for more books, Aibileen. Missus Stein called this afternoon.” She take my hands. “They’re going to do another print run, five thousand more copies.” My thanks to Sali for pointing that out.

 

 

 I think I need to write a post on how movies and authors separate the black female from the black male, and pit them against each other. This is a curious tactic that’s rarely applied to any other cultural group, yet it tends to happen to African Americans in fiction often. Stay tuned.

 

 

To be contined . . .
2 Responses “The Help (movie) cleans up after itself” →
  1. I just wanted to let you know that in the book Skeeter does touch Aibileen’s hands just not in a scene like this, it’s on page 511 “The stores are asking for more books, Aibileen. Missus Stein called this afternoon.’ She take my hands.”

    Reply
    • Hi Sali,

      Thanks for the correction. I have the hard copy of the novel, so the scene would be on Pg 435.
      “The stores are asking me for more books, Aibileen. Missus Stein called this afternoon.” She take my hands. “They’re going to do another print run, five thousand more copies.”

      Since Minny wasn’t in the scene where Skeeter goes to see Aibileen, the picture may be a merged one of Minny and Aibileen telling Skeeter to go to New York.

      If anyone knows exactly what this scene represents, please post a comment on it.

      Reply

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