“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

2 Oct

I’ve found those words rolling around in my brain this week…and I’m wishing they would tumble around in there more often.  The Help is a wonderfully made movie, and if you haven’t seen it, you should.  I was hesitant about seeing it before hearing more than “it’s a must-see,” mainly because I was worried it would be sad or so serious it would cripple my over-sensitive heart.  While it is sad in part, on the whole it gave me more than it took out of me.

The Help is about a group of young women in Jackson, Mississippi.  They were all raised by black maids, all went to school at Ole Miss together, and are now all having children of their own who in turn are being raised by black maids…except for one.  Beau-less, “Skeeter” Phelan finds the job hunt more pressing than the man hunt.  She puts her dreams of writing novels aside, momentarily, to accept the only open post at the local newspaper: a housecleaning column.  Only she knows nothing about cleaning.  So she asks one of her housewife friends if she can interview her maid to come up with the answers to the questions from the readers, not realizing where this minor journalism job is going to take her.

Did I mention this is the 1960s?

Segregation is still in full force.  MLK hasn’t quite made it to march on Washington yet.  But the pot is coming to a boil.

Until now, Skeeter always saw her own black nanny as someone to be loved and valued, but now she begins to see how the young women of her generation, who were raised with the same love for their nannies, are turning from what’s right into their mothers who treated the help so badly.  The maids endure humiliation, and must, if they value their jobs…or their lives.

The story’s strength is its ability to laugh at the ridiculous, especially when you’d rather just pick up a rock and throw it.  The stories of courage from all sides of the table are inspiring.  The characters are gorgeous.  Just plain gorgeous.  I love that it’s a South story about women.  The men don’t come into this story (except as far as the man hunt is concerned), and neither does the violence that skirts all around the edges of the picture.  You won’t see blood thirst, but your heart will bleed for your sister on the other side of the table.  It definitely ranks in the “films I will see again” category because it does not spend time flinging blame but applying a mending balm on the brokenness of every woman in the audience by reminding us all…

“You is kind.  You is smart.  You is important.”

Repeat as needed.

(If Viola Davis and Allison Janney don’t receive Oscar nominations, I will not be held responsible for my actions.)

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