Evaluating The Help

28 May

Despite the fact I never seem to know anything about new movies coming out, I am talking a lot about movies lately. I mention We Bought a Zoo and Tangled in the last two blogs I’ve written, so it may seem like I spent an entire weekend watching movies, but it’s more that the movies I watched taught me something. Nevertheless, I am fairly certain that whenever I saw The Help, it would have had an incredible impact on me, even though as of a week ago, I had never heard of it.

I am fortunate that I live my life in almost complete obscurity. While I may have occasional delusions of grandeur, most people will not know (or care) what I did on any particular Tuesday afternoon. The reason I consider this fortunate is that my sins are mostly played out in anonymity. And I do not believe in us needing to re-watch the bad parts of our life on a big screen once we get to Heaven.

The unfortunate thing is that I still do sin and I still feel the effects of it all the time. Nevertheless, I am very glad that many of the things that were shown in this movie were things I have never lived near or with a concept of. The reality is that many of the attitudes displayed in the movie were not concentrated in the city of Jackson, Mississippi but were prevalent throughout our culture. The reality is that caste systems have been around long before the founding of this country and will continue long after we are gone.

One thing I really liked is that is wasn’t judgmental on the issue that usually riles everyone up. Slavery and Racism can be atrocious things, and I think the tendency to over-abuse authority is one that may make it best to just not allow it. (I realize this movie is set when slavery is “illegal” and the culture did not declare it slavery, but it really was slavery—no matter the term we use to describe it). The movie was more about the abusiveness that can accompany the racism/slavery combo.

With the attitude of Skeeter and Celia Foote (and her husband Johnny), there were definitely examples of benevolent “bosses.” And there was at least one story told by one of the women that spoke of a “boss” who was so benevolent that he purchased land just to make her life easier. The over-riding problem is that they were such a minority that they were almost as great of outcasts as the humans they treated that way, which others did not.

Unfortunately, I believe this is a real-to-life story that paints a largely accurate picture of the majority of people out there. The tremendously unbridled ignorance that the majority showed was so egregious that I hate to think the populace of the country I love could have been that way just a generation and a half ago. I also know that no amount of so-called reparations can ever right the wrongs that were committed.

Another thing I know, however, is that we are getting better. I have no doubt that racism still exists. I have no doubt that many “employers” or even parents mistreat those in their charge to this degree. Notwithstanding this, I also know that these things are now called out by the public-at-large and the leadership of society in concert. And instead of largely unjust things happening to the abused parties, we see more justice in this area by the authorities than ever.

We live in a society where our President and many of my favorite public figures to talk about are of a minority race. The reality is that Dr. King’s dream of people “being judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin” is largely a reality. In my conversations, more people probably cast a vote for a person because he is a minority than people who would not vote for him for the same reason.

I don’t think we as a society are perfect, but that will never happen in this world, as we are all sinful creatures. I do, however, think that the situation as shown in this movie is largely gone. And the vestiges of it that remain can begin to be stamped out by, among other things, movies like The Help. Yet I feel overcome by so many unspeakable feelings upon watching this movie, that I am almost wordless (and that’s bad for the blog).

I guess the problem with watching a movie like this is we see our own tendency to be sinful. I clearly thought throughout the movie that I would never think or act in such a way, but I also know that there must be some egregious sin that this culture is largely blind to, and I am fitting right along with culture in general.

The problem is that we see how blind society can be to its own shortfalls, which necessarily leads one to introspection to the point of questioning what we are blind to. I believe in the Second Law of Thermodynamics enough to know that the world is not getting better. The fact that this one thing has been largely beaten does not give us overall improvement.

Nevertheless, we do not watch movies to come to grips with our own sinfulness, but rather to watch our triumph. While this triumph may be thinly defined and not across-the-board, it is still triumph. I am glad I have never been in an immediate situation where these attitudes were prevalent. I am glad that it is not even difficult for me to side with the side of the right in this issue. I am also glad the movie was done well and that it can open the dialogue so that we never become condemned to repeat these mindsets. The movie was good and entertaining, but it exposes the seedy underbelly of a portion of our heritage, and I, for one, am just glad that Dr. King’s dream lives and is largely becoming reality!

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