I know that I purchased The Help on January 7, 2010 because my Amazon account told me so. It was a good book. It wasn’t great. It started beautifully and everyone loves a good Southern Novel. There’s richness in the characters of south that we all love.
I wanted to love the book. I devoured the first two thirds of the book but then I was disappointed as the author dragged the ending out and had a need to package it up tidily. I saw the movie and I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a movie and thought, “that was better than the book.”
I know some people find the movie offensive. I guess I can see that. Historically it’s probably at least partly accurate but I sat alone in the movie theater wondering what I would do if one of my past housekeepers walked in. Would I sit with her? Would I know her children’s names?
We had help. Barbara came three times a week to our house after school and her daughter Debbie babysat us every morning before school. Debbie only missed one day of work. It was to go to the radio station and see Peter Frampton on his birthday. When I was six Debbie was a few minutes late to watch us, she was crying. Her father had just died.
I loved going to Barbara’s house. She would make us Jello recipes like the ones Bill Cosby showed on commercials. She used Cool Whip and she even had white bread. She said fuck and shit a lot. She’d taught herself English and apparently had started with the cussing. I loved Barbara and I’d like to believe that Barbara loved me back. We celebrated many Mother’s Days with Barbara and my mom. They were the women who shaped us.
When I was pregnant Barbara helped me get my house in order. Shortly after Jane was born Barbara died and I unimaginably raised a child that she never really knew.
In my teenage years there were Nellies, and Marthas, there were Letties and Mayras, but in my heart there was only Barbara. I’m not sure that The Help isn’t a movie that couldn’t be filmed today. I look at the Dream Act and those who would like to kill it, and I wonder if they were ever rocked by a Central or South American Nanny who sang them songs, and with a slip of the tongue called them by the wrong name, her own child’s name.
I don’t think The Help is our past. For a completely different (and probably better written) perspective read this. Now.