The Help

Posted by nancymueller
Posted on August 14, 2011
18 Comments
Tagged in , , , , , ,

As the mom of an almost teenage daughter, it’s easy for me to get caught up in doling out life lessons whenever and wherever I find an occasion. You can imagine how well that goes over. Maybe you’ve even been there yourselves. Usually I evoke a response somewhere along the lines of: “Tell me something I don’t know, Mom!” or “My shoes hurt.”

I can talk to my daughter about racial relations and try to describe what it was like for us Wanderboomers to live through the ’60s (at least the parts I can recall). Or, I can show her a snapshot, by taking her to see The Help, a movie based on Kathryn Stockett‘s vivid portrayal of the relationships between white women and their black maids in the South in the ’60s.

The movie is rated PG-13, due to language, and scenes of a miscarriage and physical abuse, though the latter is portrayed off-camera. More importantly, the movie captures a tumultuous time in our nation’s history when we were forced to confront the need for social change, resulting in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

As we watched the film together, I realized I was almost the same age then as my daughter is now. And I had been as removed from the actual real-life events as my daughter was observing them unfold on the screen. I didn’t grow up in the South. I didn’t know anyone personally who was treated less than human because of their skin color. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen where I grew up, simply that as a child, I wasn’t aware of it in my small, rural community. But even in my remote location in Upstate New York, we learned about civil unrest brewing elsewhere from the images that flooded the TV news.

As in any art worth its weight, there are scenes in The Help that made me squirm, laugh and weep. The book and the film are not without controversy. But if you’re looking for a film to share with your mature teenager, that shows some of what the 60’s were about, then consider going together to see The Help. It just might spark a thoughtful conversation – whenever your teenager starts talking to you again.

What are your thoughts on the film and/or book The Help, Wanderboomers?

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18 responses to “The Help”

  1. Monica says:

    I loved the book and shared it with my daughter who is 20. She enjoyed it, too. I was young when the story took place, around 7 and lived in Queens, so you’re right, I didn’t see the civil unrest that was going on either. But it’s amazing to me, that this was happening in our lifetime. It’s also amazing to me that there are still people who hold a grudge about the Civil War, that the Yankees won. Anyway, I do agree with you that the book, and the film, which we also got to see, is a great opportunity for discussing issues of race. Problems that still exist today.

    • Nancy Mueller says:

      I loved the book, too, Monica. It’s hard to imagine the cruelty that people can inflict on each other due to prejudice.

  2. aig63 says:

    I loved the book and my book club will be discussing it in September. I don’t see a lot of movies, but would really like to see this one as the characters are still so vivid in my mind! In our Canadian school system, the American Civil War and the civil unrest of the ’60’s are not as extensively covered but my 15-year old did study To Kill A Mockingbird in Gr9 this past school year… with lots of questions! Maybe I should bring him :)
    Thanks for the post!

    • Nancy Mueller says:

      I recommend taking your son to see the movie, Astra. It’s important for the younger generations to know what led to the Civil Rights legislation – and important for the rest of us to remember.

  3. Beth Shepherd says:

    Great post. I have not seen the movie nor read the book (and would like to to both). It’s fantastic people are sharing this with their kids.

    And while there wasn’t civil unrest related to race that “us” northerners observed, the area you and I grew up in has a very deep civil rights history as it relates to women’s suffrage. It’s interesting how the times we grown up in and where we grow up shape our history and our experience.

    • Nancy Mueller says:

      Thanks, Beth! I strongly recommend both the book and the movie. Let me know what you think when you read it and/or see the movie.

  4. Jan Schroder says:

    I can’t wait to see the movie. I live in the South, and here the movie has generated a lot of controversy and some unexpected and interesting opinions.

  5. Thelma Z says:

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I read the book, and it was right on target. I grew up in Texas when there were separate schools, bathrooms, waiting rooms at train stations, even water fountains for African Americans. I could tell you some stories…..

    • Nancy Mueller says:

      Hi, Thelma! I know about segregation, of course, but it still blows me away to think it was condoned for so long in our lifetime.

  6. Evelyn Block says:

    I was reluctant to see the movie because inevitably, when I’ve read the book, I like the book better. This was not the case this time. I thought the movie was fabulous and the acting phenomenal. Growing up in NY in the sixties, we did a lot of civil rights marching. Sadly, we haven’t come as far as a nation as we sometimes like to think. I’ve encouraged my 17 year old to see this movie.

  7. Julie Farrar says:

    Thanks for the little review. I just read it on vacation and was wondering if the movie could do the book justice. I was at the end of the WanderBoomer generation, so I was too young to be aware of this, but as I grew I certainly learned how the world worked. My husband grew up in the South and had the daily close relationship with the “help” that the book explores. I’m trying to get him to read it when work settles down for him.

    • Nancy Mueller says:

      You’re welcome, Julie! I’m sure your husband has stories to tell & The Help could spark an insightful conversation between you.

  8. Kim Kircher says:

    I loved reading The Help. Not only was the story compelling, but so were the characters. This is a great story to share with my stepdaughter.

    • Nancy Mueller says:

      I loved the characters, too, Kim, so vividly portrayed in both the book and the movie. Thanks for commenting ~

  9. Are you still in Ecuador? If so, where are you now? I was in Quito a few years ago. I took my 12 year old grand son to the Galapagos. It was amazing. I love the whole area. Looks like you’re have a wonder time. . I saw that you were in Quito.

    My grandson learned a thing or two about 3rd world countries while we were in Quito (4 days). That’s one of the reasons I took him there. He’s from Chicago and had no idea how differently other people live. We stayed in hostels…didn’t want to do the hotel thing with him…he’s seen enough of those.

    • Nancy Mueller says:

      Hi, Nancy! I’m back from Ecuador after spending two weeks there this summer. I was traveling solo on a travel writing assignment and sooo wanted my 13 year old daughter to be there with me. It didn’t work out for us this time, but I know she would have loved Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands as much as I did. Next trip!

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