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Posts Tagged ‘Octavia Spencer’

I grew up in Texas and am old enough to remember the bathrooms and water fountains labeled “Colored Only” and “White”. I remember the racial jokes that were told by children as naïvely as “blonde” jokes or “aggie” jokes are today.

From 1969 to 1971, I lived and worked in Oxford, Mississippi, just seven years after James Meredith was enrolled in the University of Mississippi only with the help of the National Guard and after people were wounded, even killed, in the attempt to keep him out!

The Christian Student Center in Oxford was where Gladys cooked meals for Christian students who wanted to eat supper together. She was a wonderful Christian woman, but she had lived in a racist world her whole life and knew the rules in Mississippi. Rightly or wrongly, she did not feel comfortable even coming out front, but preferred to stay in her kitchen. She couldn’t go to church with us—she could only cook for us.

The Help captures that time in a painfully accurate way, but in a way that shows the courage of those women who didn’t march, who didn’t face fire hoses and dogs, but who refused to suffer silently any longer.  You have to see this movie!

Aibileen (Viola Davis) and Minny (Octavia Spencer) are house maids for young Junior League women of Jackson. They raise their children, cook their meals, and clean their houses, but are not just ignored like the British do their house staff, they are treated like farm animals kept in the barn, brought out whenever you need to work them, and put out when no longer useful. I found it extremely painful to be reminded of how common blatant bigotry was.

Skeeter (Emma Stone) is a white girl who grew up in an ante-bellum home, but perhaps because she herself was an outsider, she found a way past the racism that surrounded her. She wants to be a writer, so she starts trying to capture the stories of the women who raised her and her friends. The women are afraid at first—too dangerous to step out of the crowd—but later events give them courage and Skeeter is their voice.

The characters are rich. I was often reminded of the performance of Oprah Winfrey in The Color Purple (1985) that set her on the path to where she is today. The emotions are true. The intensity is real, but broken just enough by truly funny moments.  Even as the film came to a close, I could not completely free myself of the fear of retaliation towards the women—that was all too common.

Although there is some bad language, I think teenagers ought to be able to handle this film if seen with their parents so they can ask questions.

I highly recommend The Help to you.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it!”

By the way, Gladys’ son became campus minister in the same student center where his mother cooked. The white church was the first to integrate in Oxford. The pain is real, but there are some happy endings.

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