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The Main Issues Represented In “The Help” Movie

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In the movie, The Help, the plot takes place during the 1960s in which a colored maid and a college educated white women work together to expose the poor treatment colored maids faced. This film is centered around the modern stereotype of a white family’s house during the 1960s. Women were extremely neglecting which is portrayed through Elizabeth Leefolt while the black maid picked up after their slack which in this movie was Aibileen Clark, a loving colored mother figure. Throughout this film, The Help portrays ideas of the late 1900’s, through the superiority of white dominance in the southern United States and segregation of blacks, and denied opportunities. In this movie blacks are treated extremely poorly, this includes blacks being forbidden to using white’s facilities, performing repetitive work for white families, and curtailing speech due to wanting to avoid conflict. These are all things that were a reality in the 1960’s and is now being portrayed through a modern film. The Help explores the ways in which racism and gender roles manifested women’s lives in the 1960s and the effects that occurred due to an insensible segregated society.

One of the key elements in this film is centered around the poor working conditions coloured women faced. During the 1960’s coloured women were mostly designated to be maids for white families if they wanted to be employed. This type of job was carried through generations, as Aibileen states she knew she was going to become a maid because her mother and grandmother were also one. In The Help the maids were unappreciated and taken advantage of by their white employers. For example, the maids were never told once during this film a simple “thank you” by their employers. Instead they always expected more of their hard working maids. This is seen when Aibileen is trying to get Mae Mobley to use the restroom. Elizabeth Leefolt walks in and demands for the table to be set while Aibileen is clearly busy. The wages that they were paid were deplorable when compared to the work that was assigned to them. In this film specifically the maids were making 95 cents an hour.

Coloured maids were basically the white childrens moms, they had an extremely strong connection to them and even at one point during the movie Mae Mobley states “You’re my real mom Abi.” This close relationship is also depicted through Constantine, a beloved and tragic figure that took care of Skeeter when she was a little girl. The moms trusted the maids to raise their children, this was despite the fact that the blacks were considered dirty, disease–ridden and having less intelligence than the average white person during this time period. With this being said, being a coloured maid was not a privileged job by any means and left no room for a job promotion or a pay raise due to whites superior status thinking they do not deserve their “hard worked” money.

Another issue that the coloured faced during this time period is racism. Throughout the movie, segregation is a theme that is present consistently. The amenities that were set aside for the coloured people were known under the Jim Crow laws, enforcing racial segregation in the Southern United States. The coloured amenities were extremely sub par compared to the whites’ amenities. In The Help this is portrayed through the character Hilly, a white women who sought to create an initiative that prevented the blacks from using the washrooms that were located inside their employers’ house due to many white people in the movie believing that black people carry unique diseases that can be transmitted to others by using the same toilet seat. Instead, the white employers created toilets outside for their coloured maids, in which they were required to use no matter the conditions outside. This segregation was present outside their working place as well, blacks had separate libraries, bathroom, water fountains, schools, theaters, cars, and other public facilities, all in which were not “equal”.

The Help also portrays the governing gender roles in in the early 1960s for both whites and blacks. White women were valued upon their ability to produce children and being a loving wife. This was not the case for Skeeter, a white educated women frustrated by the sexist expectations society has of her. Skeeter pursues to be a famous writer, writing about the injustices white housewives commit against their coloured maids. This was extremely unacceptable during this time period and she crosses dangerous lines in order to counteract harmful myths used to justify forced segregation and unequal treatment. One line in particular that she crosses is going against her “friends”/ society. It was extremely uncommon for whites and blacks to interact, especially in a mutual way. This was considered “wrong” in society, and that is why Skeeter and the maids would secretly meet up in order to work on the book. This type of rebellion shows that Skeeter truly wanted to make a change.

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