Recently, to mark the Black History Month and also to mark the upcoming International Women’s Day, when some of our friends decided to watch a movie based on the period of Civil Rights Movement in America, we all zeroed on watching the movie “The Help”. This movie beautifully portrays the plight of African American maids in the homes of White Americans in Mississippi. Emma Stone plays an aspiring author “Eugenia Skeeter” in the movie who decides to write a book on the miserable plight of African American maids serving White Americans.
“The Help” is a great movie which revolves around African American women who were treated as slaves by whites. The film opens with a hard-hitting scene where an African American woman standing with weary eyes and saying “ I am a domestic-help, my mother was a domestic help and my grandmother was a house slave. “ The first scene throws light on the heart-wrenching situation of the African American women and how they were trapped in the cycle of slavery for generations. The slavery continued to persist and changed only to some other form of slavery in the next generation that is to say from house slave to domestic help.
The African American women worked in the families of white American and did their household chores. But they were not allowed to use the same toilets on the ground of the color of their skin. The scene in the movie in which the maid used the toilet of the white owner without informing her reflects the racism that was prevalent in the society at that time. She was thrown out of the house and fired from the job by her white master.
The maid played by Octavia Spencer, revenged her insult by baking a pie which carried her faeces. Pretending that she regrets, she took that pie to her former white owner and made her eat. After that she tells her, ”Eat my Shit”. This scene brought satire. But it also carried the deep run pain faced by African Americans. It reflects the victimization of the African Americans. The portrayal of the maid is integral and draws attention of the society. Octavia Spencer won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her great performance in this film.
I really appreciate Emma Stone’s character in the movie. Being a white woman during the period of Civil Rights Movement in America, she stood against segregation. She decides to write the book “The Help” to bring attention to inhuman treatment meted out to African American maids. Through her book she tried to bring a change in the society. Reform was her call.
The movie at large touches upon racism, but it also can be viewed through a gender lens. In this film, women are shown doing stereotype role which is cleaning, cooking washing, ironing and other household works. The white women were privileged to have domestic help in the form of African American women. The white women enjoyed having parties and gatherings at home. The African American women performed all the household work of white women along with taking care of their white children. Also, after returning from work, the African American women performed their own household chores along with sending their children to bed.
On watching this movie, it is observed that though African Americans are liberated after the Civil Rights Movement but they still face discrimination. The African Americans enjoy the equal rights granted by the constitution and laws but still racism is not uprooted in America. It still persists with its ugly face in some form or the other.
The African Americans face discrimination at workplace. There are still black neighborhoods. The African Americans don’t get easy access to residences in white-dominated neighborhood. Socio-economic disparities still persist in the American society. African Americans are lagging behind in education and jobs.
The race divide has somewhat converted into class divide. The African Americans occupy the lowest ladder in socio-economic condition. They still have not been able to break that glass ceiling. Though some African Americans have reached the highest positions in Government and public life. The United States of America has its first African American President, Barack Obama but the socio-economic reality of most of the African Americans remains low.