The Help Isn't Helping

Have you seen the movie The Help? Did you love it? Did you walk out of the theater with a warm and fuzzy feeling, thinking, "Thank goodness that terrible wrong was righted by one good white woman willing to stand up and be counted?"

I can't tell you how many times white women have told me they saw The Help and just loved it. In some ways, I think they're trying to tell me that thanks to the film, they now get it. You know, that whole civil rights thing.

I read a review of the book that lauded it as evidence that people from troubled times came together despite their differences and that ordinary women can be heroic. In a nutshell, that is my problem with The Help. People are acting as if the events in the movie really happened.

Kathryn Stockton is a novelist. She writes fiction. There was no defiant Skeeter. There were no courageous maids and no bad white women got their comeuppance. The movie offers only broad stereotypes. We know just who to root for and who to hate. We all get to identify with the heroines and everything works out in the end when everyone realizes that Jim Crow segregation is wrong.

If everyone watching the film identifies with Skeeter, where did all the bad people come from? The truth is, most of the people watching the movie or reading the book would be in the majority. They would have been clawing their way into society, enjoying their special privileges and mistreating the help.

Try reading about the real people who risked everything to make a change, were denied opportunity and lost loved ones because of segregation. How about actually distinguishing black historical fiction from fact.