The Help

The Help (2011) Director: Tate Taylor

The story of The Help comes from the best-selling novel of the same name. It takes place during the Civil Rights Movement in 1963 in Jackson, Mississippi. It was nominated for four Academy Awards.



The Help tells the story of “Skeeter” Phelan, a graduate of Ole Miss, as she tries to document southern black women and their experiences providing care and service to white families as “the help.” Predictably, white southerners are portrayed as vicious and cruel toward their maids. The central conflict stems from one maid who refuses to go out during a storm and use the separate outhouse constructed for black people, and instead she uses the indoor bathroom. She is framed for theft and dismissed, and thus she exacts vengeance on her mistress with a “terrible awful” act of baking her own excrement into a cake and feeding it to her. Needless to say the publishing of Phelan’s book causes quite a stir in the film! In the end the main character pursues her own independent work: the dream of becoming a writer.

The tired Hollywood narrative of the all-powerful villains attempting to crush the noble but powerless victims is all-too common among contemporary films. As to be expected in our present day and age, certain academic quarters found this film offensive, but these resentful voices can largely be ignored. To be sure, The Help is a good albeit predictable film. This is not really a film worth returning to.

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