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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Help

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

“The Help” is based on Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 best selling novel of the same name.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Even though it is a fast read, it is a great read.
 
It is Jackson, Mississipi, in 1962.  Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) returns home to her privileged life in Jackson, Mississipi.  All her friends are married with children and following the paths of their mother’s before them, they have hired maids, or “the help”. These are African American women who have served these families for generations, with great love and personal sacrifice. And for what? Often for very low wages and to be mistreated.
 
Skeeter tries to get a job in New York but an editor tells her to get experience. She is hired at the local paper to write household hints, about which she knows nothing. So she asks “the help.”
 
She begins with Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) who tells the little girl she cares for, “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.” But the child is chubby and her mother is embarrassed by her.
 
Meanwhile, Minnie (Octavia Spencer) manages to get herself fired by the horrible rumor monger Holly Holbrook, who heads the local women’s society. Minnie’s sweet revenge is priceless. Sissy Spacek plays Mrs. Walter, Hilly’s mother. She is in the early stages of dementia, and she gets Hilly, too, with hilarious élan.
 
The rest of the maids are unwilling to tell their stories because they fear retribution. But an event galvanizes them. When the book is published, you can imagine the reaction.
 
The cast is filled with the finest African American actresses of our day, beginning with Cicely Tyson, as Constantine, the maid who brought up Skeeter. Emma Stone seems everywhere this summer, and she is credible and spirited. 
 
Yes, the white women are caricatures as contrasted with “the help.” And the film looks almost too pretty to tell stories of such heartbreak and betrayal.
 
But we get the point. Racism, white on white, too—and domestic abuse—is with us today, hidden behind closed doors.
 
“The Help” is a tribute to human dignity, faith, and forgiveness. It  is relevant, engaging, and entertaining. It will take you by the heart.




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Joan of Arc: 
		<p>Burned at the stake as a heretic after a politically-motivated trial, Joan was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.</p>
		<p>Born of a fairly well-to-do peasant couple in Domremy-Greux (southeast of Paris), Joan was only 12 when she experienced a vision and heard voices that she later identified as Sts. Michael the Archangel, Catherine of Alexandria, and Margaret of Antioch.</p>
		<p>During the Hundred Years War, she led French troops against the English and recaptured the cities of Orléans and Troyes. This enabled Charles VII to be crowned as king in Reims in 1429. Captured near Compiegne the following year, she was sold to the English and placed on trial for heresy and witchcraft. Professors at the University of Paris supported Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvis, the judge at her trial; Cardinal Henry Beaufort of Winchester, England, participated in the questioning of Joan in prison. In the end, she was condemned for wearing men's clothes. The English resented France's military success–to which Joan contributed. </p>
		<p>On this day in 1431, she was burned at the stake in Rouen, and her ashes were scattered in the Seine River. A second Church trial 25 years later nullified the earlier verdict, which was reached under political pressure.</p>
		<p>Remembered by most people for her military exploits, Joan had a great love for the sacraments, which strengthened her compassion toward the poor. Popular devotion to her increased greatly in 19th-century France and later among French soldiers during World War I. Theologian George Tavard writes that her life "offers a perfect example of the conjunction of contemplation and action" because her spiritual insight is that there should be a "unity of heaven and earth."</p>
		<p>Joan of Arc has been the subject of many books, plays, operas, and movies. </p>
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