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Correspondence

Who Now Helps the Help?

In his essay entitled “The Call to Service,” John Erskine posed these questions:

Do you look on the unfortunate as your brothers, in temporary distress, or do you see in them objects of charity?  Do you think your function is to serve, and their function is to be served?  If by a miracle they should get on their feet, would you have lost your career?

Those questions caused me to think about the movie The Help.  No, I have not read the book.  The film’s most obvious biases were the usual ones: Southerners have historically mistreated Negroes, have underpaid them, have insulted them, have abused them, have even sometimes killed them.  Nonetheless, colored maids, cooks, and nurses raised and loved the white children in the homes where The Help were employed.  There are essentially two groups of women in the movie: the spoiled, beautiful, idle, well-to-do, and insensitive white women; and the hard-working, underpaid, loyal, loving, and sensitive uniformed colored women.  Given that lineup, the story is simply one about the hardships and travails of The Help at the hands of the privileged young matrons.  Ordinarily, such a tale would hardly qualify for a ten-minute, one-act, high-school play.  However, that test is not applied to efforts to lambaste Southern whites for their never-ending...

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