My mother does not know this, but “The Help” bothers me to no end. It makes me uncomfortable when a perfectly smart and caring woman is mistreated, forced to use a glorified Porta-Potty and (SPOILER ALERT!) eventually fired for being black, and having an opinion different from utter devotion and praise. (I told you it was a spoiler.) I believe in giving everyone respect, regardless of description. That includes blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, and LGBTs. This is by no means an exclusive list, of course. I believe cordoning off and determining people are better or worse keeps people from achieving their full potential. “I am better than you” is holding us back as a society.
What does this have to do with “The Help?” Plenty. Women are absolutely cruel to other women, even their daughters, due to the fact that they don’t live up to some expected image of the Happy Servant, or the Thin, Perfect Daughter, or the Happy Slave Master. (No more spoilers; watch the movie or read the book.) A side plot revolves around one of the rich white women’s daughters being too fat for her mother to accept her as she is. The mother is told in the end, “Give that sweet girl a chance,” but to me, there is this unfortunate feeling that the girl will die of anorexia nervosa in the 1970s, the decade after the movie/book takes place. One sad side effect of childish thinking is that the child feels responsible for the parent’s happiness, and any negative message received is blown up into monstrous, self-harming psychological damage. For instance, a note on “chubby” or “fat” can turn into a toxic relationship with food, and that eventually develops into an eating disorder. I myself, as another example, turned to food to stuff down any feelings of betrayal and rejection inside my own life, and became a compulsive overeater. But this damaged relationship with food can go a myriad of ways, from overeating, to the binge-based bulimia nervosa, to anorexia nervosa. I guess this anger at her daughter for being too fat is a form of cruelty which resonates with me.
“But you’re not talking about the racism enough!” The excessive Jim Crow laws of 1960s Mississippi and the cruel treatment of blacks and servants in general is enough to make me vomit. Fortunately, it keeps much of it in the visceral, and exposes it deftly, and rightfully. There is so much cruelty across race, across class, across body, across society. Why are women so cruel to women? Were they born that way, or was it extreme competition for the few token spots at the Table of Love and Acceptance? It troubles me that women could be so cruel. It’s just like the bullies in high school.
Truth is, I only have a few friends, and they are a good split between male and female, I think. “The Help” is, to me, a study in female cruelty, and I don’t like that female cruelty exists. Stop it.