Dec 13, 2011

So I finally saw 'The Help'

** Edited to add: No one has questioned me about this, but I hope you all know me well enough by now to know that if you enjoyed the book or the movie, I don't think you're racist. The movie was extraordinarily well-cast and well-acted, and I understand that you can enjoy it based on that, as well as how compelling the story was. **

I've held out on reading or watching The Help for a long time.

Everyone I know who read it said it was one of the best books they'd ever read. And everyone I know who saw the movie (whether or not they'd read the book) said the movie was fantastic.

But here's the thing: I knew I didn't want anything to do with it. I am not racist at all. As a matter of fact, I might be the least racist person in the entire universe, from what I can tell. What's the polar opposite of racist? I am that.

When I think of a person of any race, in any era, being treated less than fairly, I get a pit in my stomach. It literally makes me sick. (I know I'm not alone in this. Clearly, many or maybe even most people feel this way.) There's a whole genre of film and books I can't enjoy because the racism contained within will give me nightmares for months.

So I decided to stay far, far away from The Help in all its iterations. But then my friends kept saying, "I think you'll really think it's good. It has a happy ending. The Help triumphs in the end."

Saturday night Grayson suggested downloading it so he could watch it. I don't think he thought in a million years I'd want to watch it, but I decided that it being available for immediate download on TiVo was a sign. I was supposed to finally give in and watch it.

Well, GUESS WHAT. I didn't like it. I suffered through it. I cried at the end.

The "triumph" that people spoke of? Yeah, the book-within-a-book was apparently a best-seller, and Abilene decided she'd become a writer, and all The Help got to tell their story. But for me, THAT WAS NOT A HAPPY ENDING.

Hillie didn't change her ways. No one did. All the people who were racist in the beginning were racist in the end. None of their hearts were changed. For me, that was the greatest disappointment. Unfortunately, I understand that it's a reasonable recounting of history. That's the way it actually happened in Mississippi in the 1960s. But it sucks. Plainly and simply.

So I'm going to go back to my old self-imposed limitations of keeping away from stories about racism completely. I know it's a head-in-the-sand approach, but I need to be able to sleep at night.

Did you read or see The Help? What did you think?


Martha said...

So good to know! I've avoided that book / movie for EXACTLY the same reason. Nothing stresses me out more than injustice. I had heard that the movie "sugarcoats" much of the racism in the book, so can you imagine how stressful the book must be?

No thank you!

Leslie said...

I have not avoided it on purpose, per se, but I have not seen it yet. You know me, I will probably never read it. As such a slow reader, I don't do a lot of fiction and when I do, I stick to the old classics. I know what you mean about the pit in your stomach, though. I feel the same way. It's similar, but worse than, the feeling I get in movies like, "Meet the Parents," where everything that can go wrong, does. Can't stand those! Don't understand how it is entertaining to watch someone else's world crumble right before your eyes. When I want to be entertained, I want to ESCAPE, not be reminded of how hard life can be. Perhaps thats why I like science fiction flicks and all the new pimped up super hero movies so much. They just aren't REAL!

Anyway, I do plan to see "The Help," but not so much for entertainment sake, but because I think it might give me better understanding into who my mother is. She was raised in Jackson, MS in the 1950's and 60's. She had "Help" that she loved very much, but was told she could not invite to her wedding. I think the book and movie have been good for her to help her work through how the ways and time in which she was raised has effected her thoughts and feelings at times. I'm just proud that she has intentionally and effectively raised four of the least prejudice people I know, me and my three sisters. Love you, M-Lo!

Beth @ UnskinnyBoppy said...

I avoided the book because I can't stand reading stories that use words like "dat" for "that" and "dey" for "they" etc. Drives me nuts when books make me decipher words, even if it is the vernacular.

We all have our own things, I guess! I thought the movie was hilarious.

Sewconsult said...

Well, perhaps your Mother might not have the same opinion. Having grown up in the South (TN) in the 60's, the book was great. I didn't like the movie as much because not enough of the peer pressures of writing the book was in the movie. There was so much of the maids' personal dramas left out.

Unlike Leslie's mom. I did invite our church's cook to our wedding. As we left the church, I was so happy to see Elsie sitting on a pew near the side door. I just beamed a big smile to her. I don't think one person at the wedding would have thought differently. She was loved by everyone who knew her.

When my girls were growing up and we discussed civil rights, they were amazed that we grew up in such a different time and yet we raised them to be open to everyone. I would be lying if I didn't admit to some small amounts of prejudices, but I give myself a swift kick and a firm mental tongue lashing to remind me of reality.

Kacey said...

FYI, you shouldn't see The Secret Life of Bees, either. TERRIBLE.

Anonymous said...

I LOVED The Help movie. So, so, so good. I can't wait to get it on DVD and have my kids watch it. It's on my Christmas list. It is a great reminder that *I* want to treat everyone equally, no matter what. And I want my kids to see and feel that too. It's a heartbreaking movie. I cried at the end. So did my sweet hubby.

After seeing the movie I rushed out and bought the book. I haven't even made it to chapter two. I couldn't really get into it because it was sort of hard to get into a reading groove while spending all my time stumbling over the "dat" "dis" "dey". I'm a fast reader but these words really slow me down. And I knew what was going to happen anyway, so I didn't feel the urge to keep on reading.

Amanda said...

I saw it with my grandma in theaters. When her house maid died and her mother didnt tell her I was inconsolable. I was literally in hysterics crying. That absolutely broke my heart. The movie was fantastically made and casted, but I cant watch stuff like that. It's so sad...

Rachel said...

I have a hard time watching things that everyone is raving about. My best friend LOVES the movie Billy Elliot and I still won't see it because everyone insists that I will love it. It's just a turn off to me.

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