December 17, 2017

“The Help” is About Mother/ Child Relationships as Much as Racial Equality

the helpBy Julie Samrick

I enjoyed reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett a few years back, and tonight I finally watched the film version to gear up for the Oscars next weekend.

 

 The Help is about a white woman living in Jackson, Mississippi during the early Civil Rights era.  She write an anonymous book from the point of view of the hired black “Help” and in doing so uncovers secrets that blow any pleasantries out the window within her community and even tighter circle of friends.  

 

The story is presented to be about gross racial inequalities and what it was like to be black, living in the south, during that period of time.  What particularly touched me, and had me bawling by the end of the movie, though, were the mother/ child relationships depicted throughout, particularly Viola Davis’s character, Abiline, and the maternal bond she shares with the white child she’s cared for since birth, Mae Mobley.  

 

Abiline is the one who feeds and loves Mae Mobley; she potty trains her and does her best to instill values and positive self-esteem in the chubby little toddler, whose biological mother is much too busy to “lift her up more than once a day.”  Abiline reminds little Mae with the daily affirmation, “You’re kind…you’re smart…you’re important,” and the little girl repeats it back to her in earnest.  

 

To see their bond shattered, even after Mae says to Abiline, “You’re my real mama,” was as authentic as any of the other great mother/ child scenes I’ve ever seen.  Think when Meryl Streep was forced to choose between her children in Sophie’s Choice, or when our hearts broke along with Sally Field’s as she lamented the loss of her daughter at the cemetery in Steel Magnolias.

 

Watching The Help also affirmed yet again what an honor it’s been to raise my children on my own each and every day since the day they were born (nearly 10 years).  The days can be tiring, and sometimes long, but when they hug me and look into my eyes with trust and the confidence that I will be there to guide them through the next day, well, I just wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

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