"The Help" Southern Movie Experience

Y'all know I have been waiting to see the big screen version of The Help for ages, and yesterday was FINALLY the day! A fun irony: I went with my new Junior League friend, Tiffany. (If you're not familiar, Junior League plays a role in the story, although today's JL has certainly evolved, as has our society, over the last 40 years.)

Another "only in the South" twist: Tiffany already knows JB!!! (They worked together here until she went to a different company this summer!) We discovered this after the showing we had planned for was sold out, so we killed two hours chatting at Mellow Mushroom. I am telling you, this stuff happens to me all the time in the South and never once in 5 years up north. I can't think of a single round of "do you know?" that produced mutual acquaintances b/t me & new friends there; and it's not just b/c the South is my home. My real home is 6-7 hours away [not "close"], and we have no college connections here, either. But there is just something about the South that fosters these associations - the openness? The willingness to share our lives & personal business, as opposed to the more private, personally reserved tone I felt up north? [I acknowledge I am making sweeping generalizations; there are always exceptions (MOPS! NCC! :-))...but stereotypes stick for a reason.] Tiffany & I didn't stop gabbing for 2 seconds while we waited at Mellow Mushroom. It was such a blessing in disguise to be delayed, b/c we really got to know each other. (We had only said "Hi!" to each other last weekend at the JL council retreat; we made our "date" over our JL FB page, just b/c we had both mentioned wanting to see this movie. :-)) We talked in-depth re: work, college, family planning, and esp. religion! (More Southerners being open about spirituality! :-D) I truly can't imagine this kind of 1st-time-meeting-you convo taking place outside the South. But honestly, what's the point of life if you're not connecting & investing in others? Why hold back & exist in a private bubble? I love everyone knowing all of my details, b/c when people truly know me, we can go forward together with genuine ease.

After spilling our guts, we headed back to the theatre for our show: it was AWESOME! Technical notes: it was so well cast, and I think reading the book first HELPED! I would actually recommend reading the book before seeing the film, (if you ever plan on reading it. If not, just get to the movies ASAP! :-D) They stayed pretty true to the book, and the few changes didn't feel like travesties; it was obvious they just made the timing flow better. The film also wrapped up a little neater than the book ended.

It's almost hard to believe that this film was regular life just one and a half generations ago. ("Half", b/c Skeeter & friends are about 10 years older than my mom, and when you talk about the difference b/t being 23 in 1963 vs. 1973, that is a significant social & cultural change! Talk about a different world view!) I have to say, I felt really blessed to have the viewing experience I did. The theatre was filled [sold out, again!] with black & white women, all intermingled, and we *all* expressed the exact same emotions & reactions throughout. I think audiences (& book readers) in other parts of the country may have a more detached experience, viewing the setting as "somewhere else" instead of "home". One of my favorite sociology classes at Davidson was "Ethnic Relations", and our professor [Dr. Nancy J. Fairley], through various methods over the semester, made it crystal clear to all of us that regional differences are truly much stronger dividing lines than racial ones. I thought about that class last night during the film, sitting beside these two sweet black women, with whom I know I have more shared cultural understanding than some other white, middle class, educated, young 30's mom in a different part of the country. The whole film and its viewing were a fascinating sociological experience that I am treasuring.


  1. What I find Intersting if you went to Boston at the same time period...the white maids were treated the same as black maids in the South. Think the class divisions in the titanic movie (yes years before setting of the help) but still a class of people was forced to be subservient (sp??) Even look at our society today. How many times are politicians in Trouble for having their nannies off the books?

  2. Our book club is taking a field trip to see the movie next week! We read the book this summer, and everybody loved it, regardless of their race.

    I see that sharing thing happen here in the Midwest, but it seems to happen more often when people have something in common (maybe that is the barrier you see?). So, being a female engineer, I tend to have conversations like that with other female engineers, even if we have just met. I'm also an extrovert who thinks nothing of talking to our dog or anyone else, so I guess I tend to talk to people whether they want to or not! I had lunch with one of our female executives today (I requested it), and she and I had only ever talked briefly in passing at meetings. We hugged upon leaving and plan on doing it regularly, and we actually only covered work stuff today...we ran out of time before hitting the good stuff!

  3. My friends are *ALWAYS* the exception! :-P I attract more open extroverts! :-D
    I think you hit the nail on the head, though, Heather: the big difference *I* personally experience b/t regions is that people in the South openly & OFTEN spill our life stories & personal business to *complete strangers* - like in the check-out line at the store. Oooo, now I've got a whole post brewing!!! :-D

  4. Just read your new post...yeah, that happens to me sometimes here, but definitely not on a daily basis, even as an extrovert. Like I said, if I'm at, say, a UM football game, odds are that I'll talk to other UM fans. If I'm at the grocery store talking to complete strangers, I'll do the hi/please/thank you thing, but not a ten-minute conversation (although I'm tempted to compliment this one cashier on her state of Michigan tattoo, even though I'm not a fan of ink). OMG, if I lived somewhere where it was like that all the time, I'd never get any errands run! LOL! :P

  5. i just heard a life story of a sweet little old lady (husband died a decade ago, she's living life to the fullest, but mlisses him every day) AND a woman my age (struggling with fibromyalgia, "a disease you can't see by looking at me, but it's kiling me from the inside") at the salvation army this afternoon. and we're nowhere near the south. this happens everytime i'm out alone. only sometimes when i'm with the boys, shopping. :)

  6. See! I told you I attract the exceptions! :-P


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