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African American Women In The Movie The Help Essay

The movie The Help, produced by Kathryn Stockett, depicts the average lifestyle of African American women during the 1960’s, at the advent of the Civil Rights Movement. The most conventional job for an African American woman during this period was a maid for an American family. The movie has a social message and “explores race relations in the 1960’s South by telling the stories of four black housekeepers and the white women for whom they work ” (“Former Slave Sues Author For False Portrayal” 1).

Most people are satisfied with the movie and its reminiscent narrative of the South; however, Ablene Cooper– real life maid whose life is characterized (or caricatured, as the case may be) in the movie–is not, complaining that, though the portrayal is accurate, her life was advertised without her permission. In the 1960’s, racial segregation and discrimination dominated the Southern states. Unlike the whites, African Americans “did not have the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (“American Civil Rights Movement” 1); therefore, life for them was unequal and unfair.

In the nineteenth century, the Supreme Court had ruled “separate but equal” to be onstitutional (“American Civil Rights Movement” 1) and, thus, black-skinned Americans could have separate facilities from white-skinned Americans. One of the most well known “separate but equal” facilities was, in fact, one that could not be circumvented: the bathroom. Those African American women who were maids for white families were used to their exclusion and knew that “having a separate bathroom for the black domestic was just the way things were done” (“Former Maid Sues Author For False Portrayal” 1).

African American women were not excluded in every intimate area of life. These women ere integral parts of the white family. Most black domestic workers were “caretakers of the community” (Bos 1) and even “played a key role as “mother,” (Bos 1) and, thus, they were known as “the help” (Bos 1). In the movie, the tenderness between Aibileen and Mae’s relationship is clearly portrayed in the most iconic scene of the movie when Aibileen whispers to Mae “You is kind, You is Smart, You is important”.

This is shown after Elizabeth Leefolt fires Aibileen Clark for using the same toilet, breaking one of the rules set by society. Since Aibileen is no longer working for them, Elizabeth’s daughter, Mae Mobley ecomes melancholy as she has to say goodbye to lady who practically raised her up until then. African American women, rather than the biological mothers, were the ones who nurtured all the children in the white family. “The help” even “served as wet nurses for the white babies” (Bos 1).

This kind of intimate contact was permitted–even paid for–even though many white people at the time “believed that black people were disease- carriers” (Bos 1). The sad truth is that many whites held strong prejudices against African Americans, including African American women, despite how motherly they were with their hildren. “The help” did everything for the white families, their role to practically raise the children in the home whom they were caretaking–and yet could not even use the same toilet.

In addition to the general historical facts the movie is based on, The Help portrays the average domestic lifestyle of African American women. But the film has been chastised for under- representing broader social issues. According to one critic, it “downplays the violence and terror of the Civil Rights Movement” (Jones 4). It shows the real jeopardy and challenges the workers faced. Ultimately, Aibileen (the fictional character) loses her job for using the household restroom.

Although the award-winning movie pleased millions of people, its scope was limited to only certain of the historical events that took place in the 1960’s. Consequently, the movie was embraced more by white moviegoers rather than by black viewers. Opinions of the movie were divided along racial strata: “whites believed they have finally grasped the existential pathos of black southern life in the 1960’s, but blacks beg to differ,” Jones alleges (Jones 1).

According to one particular complaint, African Americans elieved that their everyday lives were misrepresented and that key aspects of their lives were absent in the movie, aspects such as “the misrepresentation of African Americans’ speech and culture and the misleading depiction of black men as abusive and absent; the failure to depict the sexual harassment of black women” (Jones 3) Jones concludes “that The Help is not an accurate or realistic portrayal of black people or the time period” (Jones 3).

Rather, the movies is more about relationships being built between the blacks and whites. Even though The Help fails to accurately depict some of the domestic ircumstances of the 1960’s, the movie focuses prominently on the lives of the African American women maids. In poignant detail the movie gives the viewer an inside perspective on these Southern households. The black maids would hear “white employers [talking] disparagingly about [them] even when [they] were in the same room (or within earshot)” (Bos 1).

The maids were indignant over the disrespect they daily received, but they could not do anything about it. The accuracies were so accurate, in fact, that it made a real life maid, Ablene Cooper, distraught. As a matter of fact, Ablene Cooper was an “African American ady who worked as a babysitter and a maid for author Kathryn Stockett’s family” (“Former Maid Sues Author For False Portrayal” 1). Cooper believes her life “has been stolen, without acknowledgement or payment” (Churcher 2).

Ablene draws the conclusion that the fictional character Aibileen Clark in the movie is intended to be the actual representation of her. Everything about the fictional character lines up with the real life Ablene. For example, the fictional character “is a deeply religious woman who sports a gold tooth and a gold cross” (Churcher 3) is just like the real life namesake. The movie also took place in the exact city, Jackson, Mississippi, where Cooper lived and worked. The similarities continue.

The characters in the movie spend much of their lives working in white households, just as Ablene did. In fact, to this day “she still works, actually, in the home of the author’s brother” and, thus, the movie “is clearly based on her” (“Former Maid Sues Author For False Portrayal” 1). Unfortunately, the real life Ablene did not not appreciate the similarities, namely, that the movies seems to be about her life without her permission, so she sued Stockett. Ablene “filed a rit at the Jackson Courthouse, alleging Stockett used her name and story” (Churcher 6).

There were, in fact, many pieces of evidence to prove that the movies was about her life. Ablene, emotionally upset, feels nothing but aggravation. Stockett contests the accusation. According to Stockett, she did not steal Ablene’s story. But it is not just Ablene who disagrees. It has been said that Stockett has been accused by others “of getting rich off the backs of a story that is not hers to tell” (Jones 2). The movie gains the attention of millions of viewers due to how melodramatic it is.

Even though Ablene finds it to be a disgrace nd unfairly relatable to her life, this view does not detract from how good the movie is to everyone else who likes it. Despite the movie being more favorable to whites, its accuracies of the characters tribulations and their relationships in the white households are depicted well; in contrast, the reasons why blacks do not favor the movie as much is because the movie leaves people questioning the “understanding of structural racism, making the solutions to problems involving race appear far too easy” (Jones 5).

The percentages of African Americans who liked The Help would probably increase if the movie had ncluded more historical accuracies besides those of the African American maids so that the everyone could have a better understanding of how the lives actually were in the 1960’s. In conclusion, the movie The Help accurately portrays the lifestyle of African American women maids despite the legal conflict between Ablene and Stockett.

Even though it does not include all the details about the Civil Rights Movement it is still an award-winning movie and is an attention grabber. The very fact that Ablene objects to the movie is the best evidence that it accurately describes her life. The objection validates the truth.

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