I haven’t read Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel The Help, although it is sitting on a bookshelf in my house. Mrs. Pajiba-hyphenate has read part of it, and being the hippie pinko political correct kind of gal she is, she couldn’t bear to read more than 100 pages before fuming about how “troubling” it is, compounded by the fact that it’s a very popular book among privileged, white female’s book clubs. Also something about it being a measure of white privilege that a some woman feels that she has the right or responsibility to appropriate the voice of black servants and fictionalize them for commercial gain. But then again, Mrs. Pajiba-hyphenate finds a lot of things “troubling” that I do not. That’s because she’s a good person, while I am a movie critic. But the trailer for The Help, which may not be reflective of either the full movie or Stockett’s novel, looks “troubling” in the same way that, say, The Blindside was troubling: It’s focused on the great white savior (here played by Emma Stone) who helps a lot of African-American house maids / caricatures voice their problems with the way that their white family employers treat them.
Now, to be fair, the synopsis says this: “From their improbable alliance a remarkable sisterhood emerges, instilling all of them with the courage to transcend the lines that define them, and the realization that sometimes those lines are made to be crossed—even if it means bringing everyone in town face-to-face with the changing times.” The “sisterhood” isn’t all that apparent in the trailer, however. But reviews of the book suggest that Stockett handled the material — based on true events — with grace and nuance. These are not qualities in abundance in Hollywood, however, so there’s the real potential that the Hollywood version could be shameful and offensive. The trailer certainly portends as much. But for now, it gets the benefit of the doubt.