The Help film is a period drama directed by Tate Taylor. The film presents Emma Stone as a young white woman who becomes inspired to write a book about the experiences of African-American maids who work for white families in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1963 (Taylor, 2011). The film is a homage to the maids who persevered despite facing prejudice, discrimination, and terrible treatment at the hands of their employers. The video draws attention to the injustice of segregation in society and the emotional relationships between the maids and the children they raise. Adapted from Kathryn Stockett’s bestseller, the film stars Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Emma Stone in standout performances. The film portrays the hardships and victories of these housekeepers in a compelling and involved way, despite being a feel-good fable that deals with grief without being too unpleasant. In this paper, I present how I first reacted to the film, The Help, which ended prematurely. Secondly, I discuss Taylor’s images throughout the film: cigarettes, food, and clothing and their symbolism. This paper then explores the three-act structure of The Help Film and the chronological order in which Taylor developed The Help film. I analyze in this paper the social and political issues when the film was released, including questions of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. This paper brings to light how the biographical understanding of Taylor, the film’s creator, affects how I view the film. I used the Queer, Structuralist, and Marxist Film Theories to analyze The Help film. The paper also presents how the film scene represents the movie’s theme, The Help. Finally, I discuss my takeaways, conclusions, and recommendations from The Help film.
My First Reaction
While watching The Help film, I was deeply touched by the plight of the Help’s characters, notably Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson, two housekeepers whose shining talents steal the show in every scene they appear in. Skeeter Phelan, a recent college grad who finds she doesn’t fit in so easily back at home, is a character I felt some kinship with. I was thrilled for Skeeter and her mother and for Celia Foote, the white woman who gave Minny a job after she was let go by the town matron. When viewing the film, I thought it was a relatively safe depiction of a potentially tricky topic. It touches on racism without delving into the harsh realities of the issue. The film presents a soothing message, showing that not all white people are evil. For example, a sequence featuring a pie seems out of place and more suited to a different kind of film. The acting is superb, and the picture is entertaining throughout. It’s an uplifting tale of strength under fire that pays tribute to the humanity and worth of African-American housekeepers in the South. But I came away from it feeling like the story was unfinished, that the fight against racism continues, and that the resolution was partial.
There are a variety of images that appear several times in the film, The Help. The images include cigarettes, food, and clothing. Among the characters in the movie, none of the black community characters smokes, yet every white person in the film smokes. Meanwhile, Minny, one of the maids, uses a pie as a metaphor for defiance and power. Tate Taylor, who directed The Help, gives each of the characters little signifiers like favourite colours, foods, and phrases they frequently use to describe themselves.
In contrast to Minny, who wears bright colours and is a skilled cook, Aibileen, one of the maids, is typically seen in muted hues and is connected with cooking and rearing children. Furthermore, Skeeter’s penchant for donning white represents her innocence, whereas Celia Foote’s penchant for donning pink represents her femininity. Throughout The Help, the characters’ ties are illustrated through the interconnectedness of various symbols and items. One example is that Minny’s pie is a sign of defiance, strength, and courage when she feeds it to her old employer. A subsequent exposure reveals that Minny’s poo was baked into the pie as an act of defiance against her prejudiced boss (Taylor, 2011). Celia Foote, a white woman who treats Minny with care and respect, hires Minny when she is fired because of the pie. Throughout, the film uses various symbols and items to show the characters’ relationships to issues of race, class, and gender in the South during the Jim Crow era.
The film’s plot, The Help, is organized into three acts in terms of structure. The first act presents the setup, where the protagonists, antagonists, and significant plot points are established. Fresh out of university, Skeeter Phelan moves back in with her parents to pursue a career in writing. Amid the Civil Rights Movement in Jackson, Mississippi, she was inspired to pen a book about the experiences of African-American housemaids. Skeeter persuades two housekeepers, Aibileen Clark, and Minny Jackson, to tell her their tales in Act Two’s Confrontation. The book’s storytelling adds suspense and drama as the maids risk their jobs and lives by speaking up. In Act Three, “Resolution,” the book is finally published, and the public learns about the maids’ experiences. Skeeter also has an epiphany when she discovers the truth about her nanny’s absence (Taylor, 2011). The film celebrates the bravery and grace of African-American maids in the South and the transformational power of storytelling. Still, it does not reveal much progress in the city’s racist social system.
The events in The Help film take place in a reasonable progression, and the story is narrated in chronological order. However, some of the characters’ histories are revealed through flashbacks. The film uses flashbacks to display essential plot points, such as Skeeter’s background and her relationship with her maid Constantine Bates. The flashbacks enrich the characters and their connections by providing background information. The video also uses juxtaposition to emphasize the disparities in treatment between whites and blacks in the United States. An event benefiting “poor and starving African American children in Africa” is shown in the video, sponsored by a white woman (Hilary Holbrook) (Taylor, 2011). Black women work and wait for staff, and the event is depicted in muted tones to emphasize the inequality of treatment the workers face. The film’s overall story presentation employs several stylistic devices that highlight the disparity in power and discrimination experienced by African Americans and Caucasian Southerners during the segregation and Jim Crow eras.
There are several protagonists and antagonists in The Help film. Eugenia Skeeter, the protagonist, returns home from college to discover that her family’s longtime maid has left. Skeeter decides to break Mississippi law and reveal the experiences of maids in their employers’ homes since she cannot find the woman who essentially reared her. Only one of the maids initially agreed with her, but after witnessing a coworker brutally assaulted by cops, many more joined her cause. There are two more essential maids in the film besides Skeeter: Aibileen Clark and Minnie Jackson. Minnie is a heated and spiteful woman who does not want to show that her husband is beating her down. At the same time, Aibileen is portrayed as a kind, sorrowful individual with some bitterness from her time rearing Caucasian children at her own expense. The film’s antagonist, Hilly Holbrook, is portrayed as a spoiled, manipulative, and cunning woman who rules her household and the city of Jackson with an iron grip. The video follows these individuals as they grow and change in the face of prejudice, inequality, and other forms of oppression. Skeeter learns about the abuses endured by maids and risks her life to expose the problem. Through her personal growth, Aibileen encourages other housekeepers to share their stories. Minnie gains the courage to leave her violent husband after learning to stand up for herself. While the maids may have made some progress, Hilly has kept her mind and continues to be a source of tyranny for them.
The Help film presents themes of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation as social and political problems. The film follows Ms. Eugenia Skeeter as she returns from college to find her beloved maid who has gone missing in Jackson, Mississippi, during the segregation and Jim Crow eras. She then breaks Mississippi law by publishing accounts of maids’ experiences in their employers’ houses. Skeeter is shown as a white savior who saves the day for white people in the South, specifically in Jackson, Mississippi.
Secondly, The Help film depicts racism, prejudice, and a power dynamic between whites and African Americans. The villain, Hilly Holbrook, hosts a charity event for poor, starving African American children in Africa (Taylor, 2011). Hilly, however, does not give the maids in any of the participating households a second thought beyond a token “thank you for the help” in his opening remarks. Characters of Caucasian and African American descent are lit differently, creating the impression that the former is superior. The film’s creator portrayed the maids as charity cases, furthering the stereotype that white people are better off than black people.
Thirdly, power is significant both in the film’s fictional universe and in the real world where the film was made. When you consider that Caucasian guys make up the majority in Hollywood, you can see that this film is likewise produced by the majority about a specific “minority.” The film’s two significant housekeepers, Aibileen Clark, and Minnie Jackson, demonstrate their authority alongside its protagonist, Skeeter (Taylor, 2011). Aibileen is shown as a decent, sorrowful person who harbors some animosity about the years she spent caring for Caucasian children at her own expense. At the same time, Minnie is portrayed as a fired-up, resentful lady who hides the fact that her husband is abusing her. The antagonist, Hilly Holbrook, is a spoiled, manipulative, and cunning woman who exerts total control over her household and the entire city of Jackson. The movie paints an inaccurate and stereotypical view of the lives of African Americans in the service industry. It makes one wonder how much “times” have changed when the book’s author and film’s producers are Caucasians. The film tries to depict the lives of maids in the 1960s, but it fails miserably at being believable or authentic. Although it makes social and political commentary by questioning African Americans’ experiences of difference, power, and discrimination, the film also reinforces stereotypes and the perception that African Americans and Caucasians are fundamentally different.
How we perceive a film can change depending on our knowledge of its biographical creators and the historical context in which it was made. The movie “The Help” tells the true story of a young white woman whom African-American maids inspired in the South during the Jim Crow era to write a bestseller about them. The video effectively illustrates the horror and cruelty of racism, but it fails to convey the genuine anguish endured by the maids it portrays. Familiarizing with the film’s makers facilitates understanding its perspective and the historical context in which it was made. The fact that the film’s director, Tate Taylor, is a native of Mississippi, where it is set, sheds light on his investment in the story and how that may have informed his treatment of the characters and their circumstances. The story’s significance and effect on society can be better understood by considering the historical context of the civil rights struggle and literature’s role in raising consciousness about social injustices. Overall, we can better appreciate the film and its depiction of race and prejudice in America if we have a biographical understanding of the film’s authors and their historical time.
I examined The film The Help through the lenses of Queer Theory, Structuralist Theory, and Marxist Film Theory. Structuralist Theory attempts to deconstruct a movie into its parts, while Queer Theory focuses on exploring themes of sexuality, power, and identity. On the other hand, Marxist Film Theory analyzes how movies both reflect and strengthen existing power structures. When discussing The Help film, each theory provides its distinctive take on its core ideas and themes. The film’s depiction of the interaction between African-American maids and their white employers can be better comprehended with the aid of Queer Theory. The video exemplifies how the maids are shown in Queer Theory’s fundamental issue of power dynamics: the struggle for control (Acadia, 2021, n.p). It also shows how racism in the United States shapes the identities and sexual orientations of African-Americans. Hilly Holbrook’s character and her homophobic actions in the film are symbolic of the prejudice and oppression that gay and lesbian persons in the South endured in the 1960s.
Examining the film through the lens of structuralist theory can shed light on how its various parts come together to form a cohesive whole. The story unfolds in a non-traditional order, with events from the individuals’ pasts revealed through flashbacks. This format effectively builds tension and mystery and highlights character connections (Chatman, 2022, p.13). Intense close-ups and other close-ups assist in expressing the characters’ feelings and add to the film’s intimate atmosphere. These methods provide a fascinating story that holds the audience’s attention.
The Marxist film theory sheds light on how motion pictures mirror and support existing power structures (Fedorov & Levitskaya, 2022, p.78). The video depicts the hardships faced by African-American maids who serve white families with high incomes, drawing attention to the chasm in socioeconomic level between the two groups. The film also demonstrates how African-Americans were relegated to domestic labor due to the lack of employment prospects brought on by the era’s social and economic climate. The film also shows how problems of economic and social exploitation are linked to the servants’ fights.
In this case, Hilly Holbrook is the one who has organized a fundraiser to help the “poor starving African American children in Africa.” The picture depicts the segregation and Jim Crow era in Jackson, Mississippi, and the disparities, power relations, and prejudice between whites and blacks at the time (Taylor, 2011). This scene illustrates the white characters’ duplicity and lack of depth toward African Americans. This incident exemplifies how the town’s Caucasian residents care more about their reputation than the safety of the African Americans who serve as their maids, making it possible for them to live comfortably. The scene’s lighting contrasts the Caucasians and the African Americans so starkly that it is easy to conclude that the former is superior. The sequence symbolizes the film’s overarching theme, African Americans’ struggle against the barriers of diversity, power, and prejudice during the Jim Crow era. This sequence is used to make a more significant statement on the necessity of standing up to discrimination and achieving equality for all people in the film, with a particular focus on the experiences of African Americans. Specifically, the scene emphasizes how significant being Caucasian was in the South, particularly in Jackson, Mississippi, during this period.
I analyzed The Help film and developed the following takeaways, conclusions, and recommendations. First, The Help film exemplifies the transformative power of narrative in altering one’s outlook on life. Skeeter’s novel gave a voice to the previously unheard maids and exposed many minds to the injustices experienced by African-Americans. Secondly, The Help film also shows the tenacity and determination of African-Americans through one of the most challenging periods in American history. They could stay together and help one another through the hardships they endured. Thirdly, The Help film is a sobering reminder of how far we have come and still have to go in America regarding race relations. We must keep up the fight against racism because it persists in modern society. Fourthly, the value of compassion and comprehension is also emphasized throughout the film. Skeeter was able to write her book because she empathized with the maids and took the time to learn about their lives. She was able to unite the two groups and effect change via her efforts. Ultimately, The Help shows how much friendship and human connection can accomplish. Despite their differences, Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny formed a strong company via their shared experiences and transformative experiences. Finally, The Help is a fantastic film that makes crucial points about racism, friendship, and the value of tales. It’s a sobering reminder of how far we’ve come and how much further there has to go. This film is essential viewing for anybody seeking a deeper understanding of the nuances of race in contemporary America.
Acadia, L. (2021). Queer theory. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature.
Chatman, S. (2022). On the formalist-structuralist theory of character. Journal of literary semantics, 51(s1), 1-23.
Fedorov, A., & Levitskaya, A. (2022). Theoretical Concepts of Film Studies in Cinema Art Journal: 1945–1955. International Journal of Media and Information Literacy, 7(1), 71-109.
Taylor, T. (2011). The Help. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.