The Help

Visual representation of the era:

A front page of a newspaper introducing the result of Brown vs Topeka case.

Source: https://www.tutor2u.net/politics/reference/brown-v-board-of-education-1953

The rationale:

This is a cut from a newspaper which is covering the supreme court’s decision to end the “Separate but equal” doctrine. This was achieved by an individual going to court because of wanting his child to gain good education. It marks a huge milestone for African Americans’ rights. For the first time they are legally able to obtain the same education as the whites do. Education plays a major role in our society for growing aware and thinking people who know their value. Thanks to equal education, Civil Rights Movements got a new swing. This picture of newspaper is connected to the era because we can see that out of everything, they are especially accentuating this Brown vs Topeka news. This means they are selling their product through the equal rights’ idea. This is a good representation that all people are eminently interested in the topic and that Civil Rights Movements’ popularity is immense. All of that attention ultimately lead to the norm of every citizen having equal rights.

Critical response to “The Help”

“The Help” was about racial discrimination against coloured people during the 1960s. The story involves around a young journalist who wants to write a book showing the perspective of African American maids in their society. It teaches us that standing up for yourself is difficult but in the end, worth it. Despite it being a good film, there are a few issues with it that I am going to discuss.

First of all, when it comes to historical accuracy, it’s considered not to be that detailed.
“It isn’t exactly a whitewashed version of the era, but neither does it accurately portray the depth of the anger and cruelty that lurked behind the sandwich counters of Jackson and behind those shiny, happy Garden of the Month Club signs.” (1) I agree that the film might have not shown us the consummate meanness of whites towards African Americans. Particularly because Mississippi was one of the most segregated states in the U.S which means the attitude of whites was probably even more despicable than that of shown in the movie. For example, the contempt towards African Americans was often even accompanied with physical violence. Nevertheless, I think the aim wasn’t exactly to make the viewers principally disgusted of various ways in which whites belittled coloured people anyways. It was rather to show the inequality and discrimination. Something which was perfectly got across by the means used in the movie as well. The whites’ actions and statements did make us feel embarrassed about mankind and made us feel sorry about the situation for African Americans. This means everything necessary on that part was there and the film could concentrate on other issues. For this reason I believe being historically very accurate was not that important in this case and it can be looked past.

Furthermore, some are worried that the main character’s race is giving misleading signs to the viewer. “It is troubling, as some American critics have pointed out, that the maids only gain the courage to stand up to their employers thanks to a white woman.” (2) I see how this can be off putting for some critics because if the main character fighting for coloured people’s rights is white, then it can convey a false message of black people being helpless. It can enforce the fallacious understanding that African Americans are capable of doing nothing themselves and can only achieve anything thanks to a white person helping them. Notwithstanding, in my opinion, that this is an incredibly bigoted viewpoint and the majority of audience will not think that. I conjecture that it was necessary to portray Skeeter as white because the aim was also to show that not all of the white people were racist. It would be unfair to those who during the 1960s, despite of being white, still advocated for blacks’ rights. It was not intended to sway from one extreme to another and imply that all of the whites are indisputably bad and all of the African Americans good.

In conclusion, I liked the movie and I think it made a great effort to educate modern day people about the the unbelievable discrimination towards African Americans during last century. I believe it to be a great movie without any major flaws and I would recommend it to others as well.

Sources:

  1. https://www.nola.com/movies/2011/08/the_help_review.html
  2. https://www.empireonline.com/movies/help-2/review/

Notions

The Civil Rights Era:

Civil Rights Movements:

At the end of the 19th century, despite being more or less equal on paper, African Americans in South were forced to go to different schools, live often in different towns, use different public facilities. Fights to secure legally equal rights for African-Americans. Started in the 1950s-1970, started by A-As who had had enough… A-A measures were political protests, forming political party(ies). African-Americans encountered hostility from people, different treatment from government, police violence. Organisation NAACP, the most influental civil rights organisation, fought against capital punishment and unequal education. They thought segregated education=roots of all the civil rights problems. At first, in WW2, blacks joining military was not encouraged, most of them were from really low classes. Even though other jobs salaries rose, blacks’ didn’t. After high pressure, Roosevelt issued an act where blacks were let to practice government’s jobs.

Brown vs. Topeka:

In 1954,a  supreme court case where all the voters were for of eliminating racial discrimination of children in public schools. Before, since 1896 an act by supreme court said “separate-but-equal”, which implied that racial segregation in schools is legal as long as the education obtained is equal. This was now dismissed. All began when Oliver Brown filed a motion against school of Topeka denying his brown child to obtain education there, argumenting that it is the violation of 14th amendment. There were more similar filings which were all put together and formed the “Brown vs. Topeka” case. At first, the voters where divided but before going to court, Vinson died, and after his replacement, the vote was unanimous. Systems were not changed right away but it enlightened people on the matter and many civil rights movements happened after that.

Little rock nine:

Group of school A.A students in Arkansas who  denounced racial segregation. 9 students wanted to enroll in Little Rock high-school, formerly all-white, because of the recent Brown vs. Topeka. However, were welcomed by insults and threats. Largely due to the State governor, O.G.Faubus, was a racist. He had also called soldiers to block the entrance to the school. This incident permeated through media causing people to pay attention to racism and state-,federal government’s power questions.  Trying to return, the rock nine kept attempting to attend school, even through soldiers’ escort. FInally, governor closed all the public schools and providing whites the education through private academies.

The role of Rosa Parks:

In 1955 a woman who refused to give her seat up on a bus to the driver’s order, when a white passenger arrived and didn’t have anywhere to sit. At the time, seats were divided (back for blacks, front for whites). The bus driver moved the sign of whites a row backwards when whites couldn’t sit. Even though, before, it was a blacks’ row. Rosa refused to give the seat up and was arrested and had to pay a bill. The incident caused NAACP to realise that they needed to proceed with getting rid of the bus law and fighting for blacks’ rights. M.L.King was chosen as the head of NAACP. They created Montgomery Bus Boycott which was one of the largest movements against racism. All based on Rosa Parks’ courage to stand ground.

NAACP, Jim Crow and disenfranchisement:

Jim Crow’s laws were  supporting racism in Southern States. Jim Crow (blacks’ folk trickster) was a caricature by Rice which became an insult. Since 1896 “Separate but equal” a slogan of Jim Crow was the foundation of segregating blacks in schools etc.

Disenfranchisement was to prevent blacks from voting. NAACP- National association for the advancement of coloured people. Civil RIghts’ institution founded in 1906. Made to advance African Americans’ lives.

March on Washington, the role of Martin Luther King:

March involving 250k people who went to Washington to protest. Gathered in front of Lincoln’s statue and started demanding equality and ending the vicissitudes of life for African Americans. March was encouraged by the attacks on demonstrators in Alabama. In Washington, among many speaches was also Martin Luther King’s delivered “I have a dream” speach. The speech turned out to be 16mins instead of 4mins long. The most famous lines were actually not supposed to be in the speech and it was improvised. This speech saw the idea of all God’s people living peacefully under the same nation.

Loving vs Virginia case:

Mildred Jeter(African American) and Richard Loving(white) married in District of Columbia. When they returned to Virginia, they were accused of breaking the law which prohibited marriages between blacks and whites. The pair was found guilty and had to spend a year in jail unless they were willing to leave Virginia for the next 25 years.

Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965:

In 1963, president Kennedy proposed the bill to Congress but in 1964 it was finally implemented. This barred discrimination AND segregation in education, public facilities, jobs, housing. It produced the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which would ensure fairness within smaller communities. Voting Rights Act was enacted after Bloody Sunday where 600 protesters in Alabama were greeted with attacks from deputies and state troopers. Killing peaceful protesters. President Johnson decided that more laws are needed for protection of civil rights. The Voting rights act claimed that “all Americans must have the privileges of citizenship regardless of race.” It outlawed the prior taxes or tests that were required to be able to vote.

Black Power movement, Black Panther Party:

A movement that grew from Civil Rights Movements. When the previous movements consisted of political- and violent protests, Black Power’s strategy was creating a lot of African Americans’ owned agencies (food stores, cooperatives, farms, media). Black Panther Party was a political party which had armed citizens who would oversee the police departments and prevent their brutal racism. Very left-socialist views. Maoism ideas. (difference from Marxism-Leninism: The spreaders of revolutionary politics are the peasantry).

The Help” discussion:

(Despite having these questions here, in the lesson, we didn’t ask them all and had to improvise at times because we did not have much time to go over everything in detail and we adapted ourselves to the nature of the discussion.)

Warm up: Favourite character why?

At the beginning of the movie, what does the following scene tell us (about the mindset of African-Americans): Aibileen is asked: “Did you know that you’d become a maid?”, Aib answered, “Yes because my mama was a maid, my grandma was a house-slave”? (even though dreamed of being something else)tt

How does Aib’s quote: “God minds no colour when he decides to let tornado loose,” describe her worldview?

A: It gives the feeling that she believes everyone is equal in front of god and this might be one of the reasons throughout the movie she endures the discrimination. Maids put great emphasis on religion; God knows the value of each person and despite the discrimination by whites, His judgement will be righteous if you have lived your life to the best of your capabilities (morally, physically) which inspires them to live correctly.

Let’s discuss the scene where the new maid, after Minny, in Hilly’s house asks to lend money for his boys to be able to go to college, Hilly refuses and responds: “As a Christian, I’m doing you a favour, god does not give charity to those who are well and able, u have to come up with that money on your own.” – Even though being miserly goes rather against the Christian values, what does her interpretation of it say about fulfilling Christianity’s purpose?

A: Christianity was created largely to prevent people from acting immorally, she is using it in a completely adverse way. Does this mean Christianity’s values might be described/propagated too vaguely if people are able to bend the 10 commands this way?-> and what’s the impact of religion on Southern white people? A: Big impact, always has been. Found justification from religion to profit from economic development.   

What do you think Hilly meant in the scene where she does not want to use the bathroom she thinks Aib had used and when Skeeter tries to make fun of the situation, Hilly says: “You shouldn’t joke about the coloured situation, I do whatever it takes to protect our children.” ->Describe the irony here.

A: the women made very little effort to even deal with their children and it was all done by black maids.

What made these  “housewives” be racist, why are they ‘blind’ and unable to see the injustice?

Social norms. Parents.

Why do the children turn out racist when they actually loved their maids in their childhood

What were some of the things that black people/the maids were not allowed to do, compared to whites, that were shown in the movie? Why?

A: Use the same toilet, eat at the same table, talk to them informally, talk back, be interviewed, use the same books as a white person at school, ride on the bus at the same part. The white people thought of them as dirty and for that reason didn’t want to use the same items. They also felt superior and thought they could act however they want and have power over these people.

What details did you notice that the filmmakers had given to African-Americans’ everyday lives?

A: They had to ride a separate bus to white families. They were not allowed to talk to white people. They had work on top of work. Constantly disrespected.

Same question about wealthy white women.

Gender role differences? What were the strengths and limitations of being a woman

To elaborate on the subject, why was Stuart (skeeter’s bf) so upset with Skeeter?

A: probably cos of the book cos he was a racist.-> “U a selfish woman Skeeter,” – What does this tell us about his intelligence/ability to see the bigger picture,  elucidate us the irony.

What role does a man play in each family->how do the women react to those roles; are they satisfied, furious etc?

A: In most families, the man is the one earning the money, the white women seem to be pretty satisfied with sitting around the house all day and hosting parties. In Minny’s case, the man is abusive and dictating. It makes her angry and scared but she’s dependent on him, so she can’t leave. Skeeter, on the other hand, doesn’t really want to get married and is very independent, speaks bluntly what’s in her mind.

Aibileen kept repeating to the child she took care of “You is kind, you is smart, you is important”, why do you think was it so accentuated/ why was it so pronounced in the movie?

A: She probably wanted the child to grow up kind and not be racist like the women at that time, also she knew that her own mother wasn’t giving her any love but Aibileen loved all those children like her own. It might have been so pronounced to show that despite the rudeness of the white women and how much they hated them, the maids still cared for the children like their own and loved them.


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