I didn’t really like this movie. I haven’t read the book that it is adapted from. I have read multiple articles criticizing the book and movie, as well as several articles in support or defense of them. I think both sides have some valid points. I think anything that sparks this much discussion and analysis is at least useful, but I also think that most people spending money on tickets to “The Help” are probably passive movie-goers who aren’t involved in the conversation of whether this is an accurate, historical, positive portrayal of black maids in the 60s south, or is a racist, condescending, stereotyped, revisionist tale.
I’m not ready to weigh in on exactly where I stand yet. I think I should do some more research first. But the main reason I didn’t love the movie was it felt very simplified, and kinda fake. Every single white person is a a shallow snob. Except Skeeter! She’s the only one calling black people by their names and saying “thank you” when they serve her dinner. She’s even offended on behalf of the LGBT community when her mother is afraid she might be a lesbian, and suggests “there’s a pill for that.” Skeeter’s reaction to that felt pretty anachronistic to me. And when she’s super-offended that Hilly asks if Yule Mae asked for money, I just thought, that reaction wasn’t really justified from Skeeter’s actual perspective, it is from the audience’s because we’ve seen the previous Hilly/Yule Mae encounter, but Skeeter hasn’t. Her indignant “of COURSE not!” doesn’t make as much sense as a simple “no…why?” would.
So much of it seemed forced or cliched to me, story-telling-wise. I didn’t really connect to most of the characters, a lot of them were one-dimensional, (maybe they are more complex in the book?), and I felt very aware that Emma Stone especially was acting all throughout the film. The character that I connected with the most (and that I think was the most skillfully portrayed) was Aibileen, (Viola Davis.) I also really liked Jessica Chastain’s Celia.
Anyway, here’s some of the dialogue that I wrote down while I watched it. More analysis on the maids’ dialect to come in a follow-up post.
You’re eggs are dyin’, would it kill ya to go on a date?
‘Scuse me a minute, Rebecca, my daughter’s upset my cancerous ulcers.
It was a colored thing and I put it behind me. [on firing Constantine]
You’re not leavin’ the house in those awful Mexican man shoes.
Love and hate are two horns on the same goat, Eugenia. And you need a goat.
Courage sometimes skips a generation. Thank you for bringing it back to our family.
Eugenia, my health’s been on an uptick these past few months, and I know the doctor says it’s some sort of last strength nonsense, but I have decided not to die.
It’s just plain dangerous. They carry different diseases than we do. [on sharing bathrooms with the help]
You ought not to joke about the colored situation.
You are FIRED, Minnie Jackson!
Believe it or not, there are real racists in this town.
I just want him [her husband] to think I can do this on my own. I really need a maid!
Ms. Stein, Skeeter’s publisher:
And for god’s sake, you’re a 23 year old educated woman, go get yourself an apartment.
My advice to you is to write it, and write it fast, before this whole “Civil Rights” thing blows over.
Ugly is somethin’ you feel inside. It’s mean and hurtful like dem boys. Now you not one-a dem, is you?…Am I gonna believe all dem bad things dem fools say about me today?
I got some bidness to attend to so y’all just mind ya’ own.
What law’s gonna say you got to be nice to yo maid?
We gots ta get some more maids!
You got a squeaky do’ hinge? Crisco.
Yep, he dead. [referring to a chicken]
Minnie don’t burn chicken.
We livin’ in hell, trapped. Our kids trapped.
Eat. my. shit.
She [Miss Hilly] goin’ go to her grave convincin’ people that book ain’t about Jackson!
Then she [Hilly] done beat me, then she done beat you. [to Celia, who wants to give up and go back to Sugarditch.]
You is kind, you is smart, you is important. [repeated often to the white child she nannys for]
She [Jolene] havin’ bridge club right now, may I take a message?
[in response to Skeeter saying “a book like this has never been written”], ‘cuz they’s a reason! I do this with you I may as well set my own house a-fire!
Whatchu did? [to Minnie regarding the “terrible awful”]
You gon’ have to change my name. [to Skeeter, when agreeing to help with her book.]
Ain’t no diff’nt then writin’ down my prayers.
[one of her white charges was] always axin’ me how come I’s black. I told him one time it was ‘cuz I drunk too much coffee.
It hard. You go try and see. [on recruiting more maids to tell Skeeter their stories.]
Every year on the anniversary of his [her son’s] death I can’t breathe, but to y’all it’s just another day of bridge.
I gots to [leave], baby. I am so sorry. [to the white child, when she is fired.]
Lines from Aibileens narration:
Oh lord, was the ladies of Jackson havin’ babies. But not Miss SKeeter. No man, and no babies.
Minnie my best friend.
God don’t pay no mind to color once he decide to set a tornado loose.
Once Minnie got to talkin’ ’bout ta food, she like to never stop.
That table of food gave Minnie the strength she needed. She took her babies out from under Leroy.
No one had ever axed me what it feel like to be me.
My boy Treelore always said we goin’ have a writer in the family some day…I guess it’s goin’ be me.