In the film The Help, directedby Tate Taylor, Eugenia “Skeeter”Phelan uses career as a writer to combat the racism and denial black maids arefaced with by gathering their stories to put in her book. In the film, AfricanAmericans don’t receive the same privileges as white people do and Skeetertakes notice of this and decides to oppose racism. Skeeter writes her book inhopes of making her and maids voices heard, with the intent of shedding lighton the harsh treatment that black people and receive and why they deservebetter. Her experiences with maids such as Aibileen and Minny and how they aretreated by whites such as her friend Hilly detail the cruel life of an AfricanAmerican and their lack of rights.
Despite being the only white character whodoes anything in support of black people, Skeeter uses her voice to fight forracial equality because she believes its time they are better blended intosociety.Throughout the film, several scenesdepict the circumstances for black woman who are forced to work as maids underwhite people’s households. One such character is Hilly Holbrook, a wealthywoman in Mississippi who is pushing to have separate bathrooms for blacks. Inone scene, she refuses to give her maid a loan for her sons to go to college.
“… God don’t give charity to those who are well and able. You need to come upwith this money on your own.” She is always looking to be in a position ofpower, influence and looking to make black people’s lives as depressing aspossible.
The hypocrisy here is that Hilly talks about morals and beliefs whenshe herself isn’t living up to what she’s saying. She’s telling her maid tocome up with the money herself when Hilly is in control of her salary. She ispaying her below the minimum wage and tells to come up with the money tosupport her children when her maid isn’t “well and able.” Because of this andher support of segregation, her best friend Skeeter goes against her. Seeinghow Hilly mistreats her maid further pushes her to write her book and evenchastise her for being a racist. In the town ofJackson, Mississippi, black women mostly work as maids for white families.
Theyaren’t treated with respect and don’t earn the money they deserve but becauseat that time, blacks were heavily discriminated, they didn’t have a say inanything. Minny is fired by Hilly for sitting on her toilet because then whitesbelieved that black people carried diseases. Aibileens son dies in a tragicaccident and received no justice. At the time, black men had to work physicallydemanding jobs, and this shows how little appreciated African Americans are andweren’t considered important. Skeeters mother, Charlotte, fires their family maid, Constantine. In ascene, Charlotte fires Constantine with no remorse for old age. She even liesto Skeeter about the reason for Charlotte leaving and Skeeter is shocked thather mother would do such a thing. The fact that her mother fires the maid whotook care of her as a child leads Skeeter to publish her book and get herargument out in the world.
For Skeeter, she decided to use hervoice to fight for African Americans natural rights. A person’s voice is anauthor’s style, what makes their work stand out, and gets across theirarguments. In this case, it’s the best way for her to express her beliefs. Sheis a college educated women who resorts to her brains instead of her fists toget what she wants. She seemed get her pain across to people by writing herbook that would show the reality of life for African Americans. Skeeter states”You said to write about what disturbs me,particularly if it bothers no one else.” Even though she doesn’t have thesupport of her friend, Skeeter finds her own way of fighting for blackequality.
Like King who saw segregation plagueBirmingham and opposed it through nonviolent actions and his words, Skeeteralso has her eyes opened to the racial injustice that existed in Mississippiand used her mind to write a book that would reveal to everyone how much racismwas taking place. Each got their argument across using their voice and words.King staged harmless demonstrations to oppose the white power structure thatexisted in Birmingham. He expressed his thoughts with his words rather than hisactions. King states “Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation abetter path?” King was also alone in his own little world because nobody elsewas stepping up to fight for African Americans natural rights.
But he uses hisvoice to explain the power struggle that has put whites on top and black peopleon the bottom. Exactly like the maids that Skeeter is trying to help. InJacksonville, the African American community is suffering, and women are forcedto work low pay jobs as maids for white families.
Maids are doing the biddingof whites who don’t even respect them, and Skeeter chose to write about theirbackgrounds to make them more relatable. King followed a process in hisnonviolent campaigning to fight for what he believed. He had steps he wouldfollow to achieve what he wanted. King writes “In any nonviolent campaign thereare four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injusticesexist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action.” He followed thesesteps in Birmingham to battle segregation. Through marches and speeches, Kingsvoice carried all throughout Alabama, unifying all blacks to stand with him.Skeeter goes through a similar experience when maids approach her to tell theirstories.
How she goes about writing her book is asking maids to give theirstores on how they were being treated, gathered stories, and write them in asympathetic fashion that would capture her readers. Skeeter wanted their voicesto be heard because they believed that what they were striving for was for thegreater good. African Americans today are grateful for their actions as it hasbrought more respect in society. Skeeter relies on her writing skills to getwhat she wants which is what American icon Thomas Jefferson was known for. Shewrote her book and expressed her thoughts with justification to back it up.Jefferson used this strategy when writing the Declaration of Independence. Hebelieved in natural rights and that everyone is born equal.
Jefferson writes”that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator withcertain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuitof Happiness. Skeeter revolved around a similar philosophy. The black womendon’t have the same rights as the colored people and wrote her book to givepeople like Aibileen and Minny their unalienable rights. In many ways theDeclaration of Independence is arguing the same things as Skeeters book.Jefferson was fed up with how American colonists were being treated by GreatBritain and decided to write a document detailing his arguments.
Skeeternoticed how hard it was for African Americans. She argues “You said to write about what disturbs me,particularly if it bothers no one else.” Skeeter is the only person in the filmwho seems to show any sign of remorse for blacks. She manages to convinceAibileen and Minny to get on board with her and soon gathers the attention ofother maids in the city. Skeeters voice was heard throughout Jackson and shefinally managed to bet black people the respect they needed. Segregation was plaguingthe city and African American people were on their knees, but Skeeter finally broughtthem justice.
Her tactics reflected those of King who also fought for African Americanequality and her she used her words just as Jefferson did when he argued for equalityfrom Great Britain.