The Takeaway: The Help

Okay so I’ve decided to launch this new segment on my blog called The Takeaway and it’s basically going to be reviews of movies and what we can get out of them. I’ve been thinking about what to do them on from quite a while and it’s always going to be movies and tv shows I’ve recently seen or rewatched (almost all of them will probably be on Netflix because that’s the only streaming service I have currently).

So the first movie I’m going to be reviewing:

If you’ve seen this movie then you know what it’s about. If not, I can sum it up for you without spoiling it. The Help is based off of the book by Kathryn Stockett of the same name. Skeeter (played by Emma Stone) is a white journalist in Jackson Mississippi in 1963 looking for an interesting piece so she can make a break in her career. Her preppy white friends have maids that they pay to clean their house, care for their children (even though most of them don’t work), and they treat them basically like slaves. Segregation is high and they’re campaigning for black maids to have separate bathrooms from the whites. At the same time, Skeeter is interviewing two of the housemaids Aibileen Clark and Minnie Jackson (played by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer) for her piece, trying to get their perspective.

Many parts of the movie are funny and lighthearted. Octavia Spencer’s performance was not only laugh-out-loud funny, it was her breakout role and got her an Oscar for supporting actress. Other parts of this movie weigh on our privileges and our freedoms. One of my favorite parts in the movie is when Viola Davis’ character says “Well you might not like what I have to say about white people.” To which Emma Stone’s character responds “It doesn’t matter, it’s not about me.”

Some very important topics are discussed in the film, all of which center around segregation and the inequality that black people have been facing for centuries. While the movie itself is great, funny, and heartwarming, many critiques of the film were harsh. Viola Davis even came out years later and said she wished she never played a part in that movie. One reason being the white savior-ism that is portrayed in the film. It taking away from the black stories and adding a white character in the film to fight for their freedom and be the protagonist over the black characters. Stealing the spotlight basically. Another reason being that it focuses too much on the white story than the black stories which is supposed to be the main plot.

And this review is coming from me, a white person. And I have had to learn a LOT over the past years to come to terms with my privilege and the role it plays. White privilege doesn’t mean I’ve never struggled (God knows how many times I’ve struggled financially and emotionally), it simply means that my skin color is not the reason for my struggle. And most white people who grew up in poor situations have a hard time grappling with this concept. It’s not privilege like rich people, it’s privilege that you’ve never had to fear for your life because of profiling.

And this is not a political statement. This is just awareness of right and wrong. Again, this review is coming from a white person. If you watch The Help, understand that the movie and the book are made by white people. If you watch The Help, remain aware that Skeeter’s story as a white woman is irrelevant. If you watch The Help, you must realize that segregation was so much worse than what is portrayed in the movie. It’s a good movie but it had many flaws. To Kill a Mockingbird also features what some would call white savior-ism. But we all know what that book is about.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.”

Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird, among other fictional works, is a valuable lesson. It teaches us empathy as Scout learns it from Atticus. Empathy means the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It means to place yourself in the situation of another and look at it from their point of view. And that’s often a lacking trait.

How often do we get angry at someone for going exactly or under the speed limit? I’m definitely guilty of that. But what if that person is driving home a newborn baby? What if that person is suicidal and is doing their best not to veer off the road? What if their car is gps monitored because of the company they work for and could get fired for speeding? We never know what kind of situation that driver is in and sometimes we get so focused on our own bubbles that we forget the people around us.

Empathy prioritizes listening over responding. It’s pretty easy for me (a highly empathetic person that I consider both a blessing and a curse but whatever) but for others it might be a little more difficult to learn. Maybe it’s the situation you grew up in. Maybe it’s the way you were raised. But here’s the good news: You can unlearn those things. You can learn empathy!

Understanding someone’s point of view is so important in society. Not only does it help us appropriately react to stressful situations, but it literally is the reason behind charities and homeless shelters and food pantries. Without empathetic people, life would become so self-centered. I have been guilty of that so many times and I regret it. I regret taking my blessings for granted and ignoring the struggles of others. It’s important for us to be able to understand other people. Everyone is human and everyone deserves to have their voice heard.

But back to my original point

The Help is good for this one reason. To teach white people. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people say “it’s not my job to teach people” and “it’s not my job to educate people” when referring to the inequalities that black people experience. But if we’re not teaching them or educating them and taking time to talk to them, then they will never change. They’ll never see some else’s point of view and they’ll keep their same biases and assumtions. So let’s all watch things like The Help and read things like To Kill a Mockingbird. And then let’s watch things like Just Mercy and The 13th because those have much more value in them for education.

And then let’s do what we should have done in the first place. STUDY. OUR. HISTORY. I mean all of it, not just the whitewashed part of it, the parts only taught in school. I mean actually dive into facts and look things up and study and use resources and ask questions! There is so much good content in books and history websites and documentaries. Don’t just go with the flow, find things out for yourself and create your own opinion. That’s the best thing about common sense. Finding freedom in our own education.

Just Mercy is available for free on Youtube for the rest of June. It’s also available on Amazon Prime Video and Google Play.

The 13th is available on Netflix and Youtube.

~~~~

Another completely different note.

The officers that killed Breonna Taylor have still not been charged. The officer who shot her has been fired but no other punishments have been dealt. Please sign the petition below to demand justice:

https://www.change.org/p/andy-beshear-justice-for-breonna-taylor

It is so important that her death does not get erased or brushed off by corrupt media and political groups. Her life mattered.

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