When I was eleven, my cousin Cindy took us to the drive-in to see the movie Willard, a bright and cheery movie about rats overtaking the world. Up to this point, I had avoided horror movies at all costs. My mind had no images of Linda Blair’s spinning head in The Exorcist, or shower stabbings from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. I had no mental pictures of flocks of birds dive-bombing our house. (Although there was that one unfortunate incident where the student council of Hudson elementary showed The Blob as an after school movie, complete with little red and white boxes of popcorn. I could never look at Jello without shuddering again). But then came Willard, and for years after visions of rat-infested neighborhoods would creep into my dreams. I would run from the room when the “Dialing for Dollars” movie on Sunday afternoon would show the re-run. Even Michael Jackson could not convince me of the emotional attachment one might have to a rat, with his academy awarding winning performance of Ben, the scarier sequel to Willard. Into adulthood, I have mostly managed to keep my mind riveted on “sunshine, lollipops and raindrops” as I have carefully made my movie selections. That is until last weekend, when I once again had the experience of seeing another “horror” movie, a movie that disturbed my sleep, a movie that has me looking over my shoulder into my past, a movie that left a pit in my stomach—Steve and I went and saw The Help.
After reading and loving the book, I couldn’t wait to see how it would be portrayed. I had fallen in love with the tenacity of the character, “Skeeter.” She has given me the courage to speak out against some of my own generation’s prejudices. The movie was cast perfectly. I mean who doesn’t love Sissy Spaceck or Emma Stone. The vintage dresses and earrings made we want to run home and put on some bright red lipstick. And the southern cooking, you could almost taste the fried chicken. Plus every “southern” movie always causes a pang of homesickness for my own very southern Nana. I loved it…. I loved it that is until that one scary, horrible scene! The scene where “Celia Foote”….poor, misunderstood Celia Foote is left standing on the porch while all the ladies quickly hide under the table pretending not to be home. Like a rat climbing up my leg, I wanted to shake it off and scream…instead I just shuddered.
My friend Kimme said it best…”The Help is high school on steroids.” Maybe life at times is high school on steroids. The Help is more than a story about racial prejudice; it is a story about human life and human foibles and speaks to what it means to be kind, no matter what our circumstances. It shows how important it is to acknowledge each other, to reach out to each other, to say “I am sorry I made a mistake,” to help each other when we are down and most importantly, to open our circles and hearts to include those who may be different. And for me, at the center of the entire movie was Celia Foote—poor misunderstood Celia Foote.
As many may have not seen the movie, I will say no more …but to acknowledge that one scene on the porch. I can remember when I have been left standing on the porch, pie in hand. More horribly, I can acknowledge the times I have been one of the ladies hiding under the table…caving to the peer pressure around me to exclude someone from the group. Fortunately, every generation has their Atticus Finch to remind us once again how important it is to be kind. A beautiful movie is helping us to remember this summer. Hopefully, this time I won’t forget….. and next time I feel peer pressure to judge or be unkind, I will jump up, run to the door and say, “Celia, welcome, we are so happy to see you.” You know it is rather paradoxical how appropriate the Michael Jackson song is to this movie!
Again…. I loved it—thank you Nate Berkus and Kathryn Stockett