When I originally reviewed the book , I wasn’t overly impressed.  Yes, it was entertaining.  Yes, it was a fast read.  And yes, the character voices were impressive.  But I didn’t find the book gave any new perspectives, challenged any social norms, or inspired me to create change.

But the movie?  Awesome.  I highly recommend you see it.  And I dare you not to cry.

The Help, if you’ve lived under a rock for a year and don’t know the story, is a book that takes place in Jackson, MS during the 60s.  Skeeter Phelen, a recent graduate from Ole Miss, wants to be a  serious journalist.  She receives this piece of advice from an editor at Harper and Row: “Write about what disturbs you.  Particularly if it bothers no one else.” So, she  pens “The Help” by interviewing black maids about working with white families.

I don’t know what made the movie better than the book.  Maybe seeing the racism made it seem more real.  It is illegal for white and non-white people to work together toward equality in the state of Mississippi.  Books are not  exchanged between white and non-white schools.  They are considered to belong to the race who first used them.  Separate, but equal.  The final straw, for Skeeter anyway, comes when her childhood friend Hilly Holbrook drafts “The Home Health Sanitation Initiative.”  This initiative attempts to make it illegal for maids to use the house bathroom while at work.  Instead, each home must have a bathroom for the maids to use.  For the safety of their children, naturally.  Because you can’t be too careful.  Because, according to Hilly, “they” carry different diseases.   Hilly is positively evil.  It is somehow more jarring and unexpected to see beautiful women who pride themselves on being ladies treat people with such disdain.

The movie got each of the characters right and then some.  Minny Jackson made the entire theater crack up.  Skeeter’s passion and heartbreak over her old maid Constantine felt real. Abileen’s love for Mae Mobley touched my heart.  I was initially skeptical of Emma Stone’s ability to play Skeeter, but she did a good job.  She plays a convincing awkward misfit in a town of stepford wives.

The strength in the movie lies in portraying both good and bad relationships between black and white women.  It shows the complicated nature of  relationships.  That there are good people, and there are bad people.

Unfortunately, I read that Ablene Cooper, a maid and nanny for Stockett’s brother in Mississippi, filed a lawsuit against Stockett for using her likeness as the inspiration for the character Abileen.  However, the court threw the lawsuit out because Cooper waited too long to bring it to a court’s attention.  For these kinds of cases, there is a statute of limitation of one year.  I don’t know if Stockett based the character off of her, but Abileen v. Ablene makes it a little suspicious.  That, for some reason, makes me upset.  This should be a feel-good book about the changes one person can make by refusing to sit idly.  Not a book that inspires lawsuits.

Whatever your feelings about Stockett, see the movie.

Just remember: You is kind.  You is smart.  You is important.

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