Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Help

There's been a lot of controversy surrounding the movie "The Help." I guess this doesn't surprise me since the book tells a story about racism, which is a very heated topic (for good reason). In case you don't know, the book is about African American maids who work for Caucasian families in 1960's in Jackson, Mississippi. It's pretty eye opening to people of my generation, who didn't live through the civil rights movement and haven't experienced such blatant racism (though I can't speak for everyone when I say that). It's surprising to think that that sort of treatment was allowed such a short time ago.

I have to be real though. I'm white, and therefore, more naive than I like to admit about racism. I am aware of racism to a certain extent. I actively disapprove of anything that seems racist around me, and try to make sure I have no prejudices in me. But I'm still naive and don't really know what it's like to be discriminated against for my race.

And because I'm white, I feel self conscious even talking about racism, for fear of saying the wrong thing. And for fear of being told I'm talking about something I know nothing about. Which I suppose wouldn't be wrong.

But back to The Help.

I read the book the movie was based on a year ago. I had heard what it was about and was very curious.  So curious in fact, that I bought the book in its hard cover form, which you know is not cheap. When flipping through it in the book store, I first opened to the back cover and was quite surprised, and I can't lie, disappointed, to see that the author was white. I felt self conscious right away, that one of "my own" was trying to lay claim on a story about someone else's experience and tell a story about racism. My discomfort grew when I read that she herself had an African American maid as a child. Then to top it off, when I started the book and saw the vernacular she used, I was down right squirmy with discomfort.

But I had heard good things about it, so I decided to read it anyway. It was a very well written and interesting book. It introduced me to a world and experience I knew nothing about. It gave me a new look at the civil rights movement. The characters were vibrant and complex. There were points in the book that I thought were weaker than others, but overall I loved the book and recommended it to my friends.

Of course, I had to see the movie. Here's my advice to those of you who want to see it: bring a box of tissues. I was near tears the whole time. The story came to life in the movie. Were parts of the story changed, and parts left out? Duh. Of course they were. A movie can never be the same as a book. That's not what movies even try to do and they shouldn't, or every movie based on a book would be a mini series.

I loved the movie. I thought it was a great representation of the book. It showed complexities of the characters well. It made me laugh and for sure made me cry. I give it ten tissues out of ten on the crying scale. But I also give it a whole bunch of stars for just being really good.

I've had many interesting conversations with friends who've read the book and seen the movie. And providing a catalyst for these types of conversations is one of the best things The Help has to offer. Am I uncomfortable that a white women wrote the book? Not as much as I was at first. Hardly at all. But is it racist of me to feel at all uncomfortable with it? I don't even know. Is it bad that one of the main characters, the one who gives a voice to the maids, is white? I'm not sure. But I don't think so. That's a complex issue and I'm going to have to think about it more. See the movie or read the book and tell me what you think.

I think that many people in my generation think we live in a post-racism era, especially since we have a black president. But even though things are better, racism is still a reality. Even I know that. And if we don't talk about it, how will we identify it - both in others, and in ourselves? We live in an "is it ok to say that?" era now - nervous to say anything that may seem racist. If we can't talk about something, we can't change it. And that's the best thing about The Help. It brings racism back into our daily conversations, and that can't be a bad thing.



Katherine said...

I agree - I think that it's important that we keep talking about racism. It's like what Anderson Cooper said about New Orleans after Katrina - after a few weeks, most of the country had moved on and other things were big in the news. But he kept going back, pointing out that despite the fact that people stopped talking about it, the problem was still very real.

I also felt uncomfortable with the vernacular in the book at first. In Jan Karon's Mitford series, she does an amazing job of capturing the North Carolina vernacular in print, for both Caucasian and African American characters. Kathryn Stockett didn't seem as sure of herself with how she wrote it, but after a while I got used to it.

I really did enjoy the book, and I really loved the movie. This is one case where I might even say that I prefer the movie over the book (the only other case of that for me is with the Lord of the Rings trilogy). Nice review!

lizzie mc.- said...

You certainly have inspired me to pick up the book and watch the film. Just when we feel that we've reached a point of tolerance and acceptance, we become complacent. Thank you for this post... I've been thinking about it since yesterday.

Sherry Ellis said...

I think we've made great strides on racism, but it's good to keep thinking about it. I'll have to check out that book.

Steve Finnell said...


What is the meaning of calling on the name of the Lord? Many assume that believing in Jesus and saying a form of a sinner's prayer constitutes, calling on the name of the Lord. The problem with that theory is none of the conversions under the New Covenant support that assumption. Not one time is anyone ever told to believe and say the sinner's prayer in order to be saved.

The apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost quoted the prophet Joel, Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." (NKJV)

The apostle Peter preached the first gospel sermon under the New Covenant. Peter did not tell the 3000 converts to believe and say the sinner's prayer.

Peter preached the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. He preached Jesus as both Lord and Christ. When they heard this they asked Peter and the rest of the brethren what they should do?(Acts 2:22-37) Peter told them what to do. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.(NKJV)

How did the 3000 on the Day of Pentecost call on the name of the Lord and become saved?
1. They believed that Jesus was both Lord and Christ.
2. They believed that God raised Jesus from the grave.
3. They repented. Repentance is a change of heart. Repentance means to be converted so that God may forgive your sins. Repentance is to make the intellectual commitment to turn from sin and turn toward God. (Acts 3:19, Acts 2:38)
4. They were immersed in water (baptized) so that their sins could be forgiven.

How did the 3000 on the Day of Pentecost not call on the name of the Lord?
1. They did not say a sinner's prayer.
2. Not one person was asked to pray for forgiveness.
3. Not one single man was told to be baptized as a testimony of his faith.
4. No one was told that water baptism was a just an act of obedience.
5. No one was informed they were saved the very minute they believed.
6. Not one person was told that water baptism was not essential for the forgiveness of sins.
7. Not one person was told to be baptized so they could join a denominational church.

Jesus said he that believes and is baptized shall be saved. (Mark 16"16) Jesus did not say he who believes and says a sinner's prayer shall be saved.

YOU ARE INVITED TO READ MY BLOG POSTINGS ___Steve Finnell-a christian view
Posted by Steve Finnell at 9:07 AM No comments:

Mike Anthony said...

Missed this one. Just saw "Saving Mr. Banks" and recommend it. The back story about how Walt Disney had to coax the author of "Mary Poppins" to sign off on the movie rights.