The Fallacy of Helping

By Bridgit Brown

My grandmother washed white people's clothing for a living but she would never call herself "the help." The movie The Help, made me think about her. Out of all of the characters in this film, Minnie (played by Octavia Spencer) comes close - outspoken and charming, though she would never bake and serve her poop. The author of the book, Kathryn Stockett, said she based Minnie on Spencer, a very good friend hers. The man who made the movie, Tate Taylor, said that Spencer was his former roommate.
My grandmother never brought her work issues home despite the clear indication that Kathryn Stockett makes in her fiction. The lives of the white people that my grandmother worked for and the children that might have been in her care were not central to her life at all. The women and men that work for white people are more complex than what we see in the movie and read in the book.
Taylor was at the screening of the movie when I saw it. He spoke afterwards, calling Stockett one of his best friends. He said that a black woman raised him too. They clearly want people to know that there is something about being raised by a black woman that distinguishes one type of white person from the next. I get the sense that it’s about people helping people. This explains why Taylor said in an interview that he “peppered” the movie with friends and family, including his dad who played Sissy Spacek’s boyfriend or his mom, who had a one-liner. I wondered if the five black men in the film, each doing “domestic” work, were friends of Taylor’s too.
I hated The Help and Spencer should have her racial credentials lifted for helping her friends craft a big FAT lie.

About the Author
Bridgit Brown Bridgit Brown
Bridgit Brown is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Emerson College ('98). She was a Fulbright Lecturing and Research Scholar in Cote d'Ivoire, West Africa, and her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Bay State Banner, Color Magazine, Black Perspectives Now, Colorlines of Architecture, Exhale Magazine, Ibbetson Street Magazine, and Somerville Review.


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