Before anyone says a word, I get it. I get that we don’t need anymore ‘white woman saves sullen black woman, black woman becomes happy Negro and saves white woman’ movies. I get that the movie gives what most believe to be an inaccurate account of history as it relates to the subject. I hear the loud choruses of “I refuse to support The Help!” everywhere I go. You hate it. You won’t support it. You have a litany of valid reasons. I get it. However, for those of us that have chosen to support The Help, by reading and/or seeing the movie, there are a few positive lessons to be learned if you dig beyond the surface of black vs. white.
Dare To Be Different And Challenge The Status Quo
On the surface The Help seems like your usual white savior movie, but a deeper message for women in general, not just black or minority women, is that they should never be afraid to step outside the box and challenge what’s ‘supposed to be.’ Each woman in the movie struggles with doing what society and social circles have deemed right, and the passion that burns in their hearts. These women are told that they have to be perfect mothers when it’s not in their hearts. They are told to be prim, proper and married, when they would rather explore the world. They are told to be maids when they yearn for so much more. They are told to hate, when they want to love. Some give in and conform and others, like the main characters, dare to be different and challenge the world in their own way. Will they be successful in the end? Who knows, but at least they dared to do what other around them wouldn’t or couldn’t….dream.
The Bonds Of Sisterhood Are Stronger Than The Bondage Of Hate
Although I noticed all the clichéd stereotypes everyone was mentioning when they discussed the book, what stuck out the most to me was the underlining story of sisterhood. Not between black women and white women, but between women. Watching the dynamics of the friendships within their respective circles and how these friendships often conflicted with their personal beliefs was interesting to me. Watching these women from two different worlds come together, which in some cases meant going against their circle of friends, not because each wanted to save the other, but because they shared a common bond that was bigger than the hate and judgments that surrounded them, was uplifting. To see the trust develop and the bonds form without the ‘hating’, the cattiness and the judgments that we all know so well, to see two women become friends out of sheer respect and admiration for the other’s courage and strength was inspiring.
Somewhere along the way many women today lost that bond. We’re no longer together in the struggle. We pit ourselves against each other – white vs. black vs. ‘exotic’, have vs. have not, permed vs. natural, and the list goes on. We have to get back to the things that connect us all and come together for something bigger than all the negativity that seeks to divide us.
We’ve Come So Far, But Not Nearly Far Enough
I didn’t really need to read The Help to come to this realization, but every once in awhile something comes along that makes you grateful for all you have and how far you’ve come, but also reminds you of how much further you still need to go. The reality is that even though we no longer legally live separate, but equal in public, we still live there in our minds. For all the complaining some people are doing about this book and how it’s another ‘white person, saves poor black person’ book, not one has mentioned how similar many of us are to the black characters. Many of us are still waiting to be saved. Lots of opinions and complaining, but not a single person has begun to do anything about it. Unlike the book’s characters who took a minor stand, I haven’t heard one person say they will write a novel that tells our story. Or that they will be using all the fancy apps on their Macbooks and iPads to create their own version of the film. Of course The Help is another one of those films….it was told by those people, not by us.
We’re still mentally living in the bondage that almost kept Aibileen and the others from sharing their story. Like them, we’re complaining and waiting for the white man to get our story right instead of taking a stand and doing it ourselves. This book could very well be about NYC with all its rich white families hiring Caribbean nannies to watch their kids for minimum wage, or parts of Georgia where Confederate flags still proudly hang on front porches. It could very well be about today, with each of us still living in yesterday.
Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover
I, like many others, judged this book on its cover, well the words on the back cover to be exact. However once inside I was pleasantly surprised as I was introduced to a world where things were also not as they appeared on the outside. Each character wore a mask that hid their true self. For example, Aibileen appeared to be scared and timid, but in the end showed remarkable strength. Minny, who all the other maids thought was the strongest, actually hid a softer, weaker side. Skeeter appeared to be just like her friends in the eyes of all the maids, but underneath she was more like them than they knew. Even Ceila Foote, the hot pink loving woman that all the others had deemed white trash from her outward appearance, was not what she seemed. As the story progressed, both the characters and I learned a very valuable life lesson. To truly say you know something or someone, you must dig deeper. Look beyond the surface, beyond the hype, the gossip and the preconceived judgments to get to the heart of the matter. You might be surprised by what you find and realize the common bonds that bind you.