The feature-film The Help took top honors at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards Sunday night. The civil rights drama took the awards for best cast, best actress and best supporting actress, making this movie a heavy contender to watch out for as the Oscars night approaches.
The Help, written by Kathryn Stockett, is the story of an aspiring author Skeeter Phelan, played by Emma Stone of Zombieland fame. Taking place in Jackson Mississippi during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Phelan decides to write a book detailing the point of view of two African-American maids. The maids, Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson; played by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer respectively; tell Phelan about the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
The book; and in turn the film; has ruffled many feathers due to the content reports Los Angeles CNN Entertainment. Before the movie had even been released there had been calls to boycott it. Some complaints are that the story encompasses the age-old Hollywood image of the “white savior” who helps a group of visible minorities who can’t help themselves. While the positive views see it as a touching and moving portrayal of friendship, integrity and triumph. Director and screenwriter Tate Taylor had this to say about the controversy “What I’ve discovered is that many people who (criticize The Help), usually about 80 percent, have not read the book, which I find a little frustrating,” Taylor, who adapted the novel has been a long time friend to the author and feels Stockett had a right to tell the story.
As a child, Stockett had a maid, Demetrie, who took care of her. Intrigued by the life of Demetrie, Stockett’s story was borne from a woman who had an impact on her life outside of the relationship of caregiver and child. As a nurturing figure in her life, Demetrie made Kathryn the woman she is today.
Taylor understands the criticism and complaints that have arose; due to past works of fiction; and encourages audiences to leave their judgment behind and keep an open mind when watching the film.
Despite the controversy over The Help its stars are in full support of the story and indicate that the main character Skeeter, is not the “great white hope” in the book or in the movie. The maids Aibileen and Minny are the ones in charge of their own lives and they are proactive in bringing change to the community. By allowing Skeeter into their lives they teach her; which in turn teaches Jackson Mississippi.
I’m sure the lesson was briefly learned in the 60’s, reserved for those that took the time to read the book and enjoyed reading. (Again, people have learned nothing. Nothing!) Meanwhile the story was lost on those drinking down at the bar.