Film Analysis: “The Help”
Vickie Intro To Communications Dr. Nikki Hodgson March 25, 2013 Film Analysis “The Help” How did people use non-verbals to communicate their status and identities in The Help? (e. g. : artifacts used by wealthy/poor, language tones/volume, dress codes, appearance, rituals, etc.
) The lines between black and white are clearly delineated by more than color in this film.
While the socialite white women, even on routine days for mundane activities, dress in pretty pressed dresses, manicured nails, stiffly styled hair, and nice jewelry (reminds me of June Cleaver), the maids must wear identical uniforms, have severe hairstyles, and little or no jewelry. Their greatest possession is the purse they carry…
this seems to be of great importance, especially to Yule Mae when she is arrested. The maids are disallowed to speak in company unless it involves serving of some kind and must always address white folks with “sir”, “ma’am”, or “miss”.
The maids must submit to white authority in all things (for fear of job loss or worse) and keep their voices low and calm in order to avoid tension or stress. And sassing (verbal and nonverbal) is a punishable offense as seen when Minny uses Hilly’s bathroom during the storm. Hilly could not care less about Minny’s safety in going outside during the dangerous storm, but rather is more concerned about how “clean” her toilet remains. There are many facial expressions and body postures that convey status/identity as well as artifacts.
Hilly’s consistently raised chin and haughty expression mark her as quite self-important and the self-appointed leader of the socialites. Conversely, the maids (with the exception of Minny) keep their eyes down, if not their heads, hands to their sides, unless working, and maintain a social distance (more than 4 or 5 feet) from white people. Skeeter and Celia are the two white exceptions since they both accept the black women as equals and treat them with respect and kindness. Can prejudice and discrimination be expressed nonverbally? How? Provide examples from The Help when prejudice and discrimination was expressed nonverbally.
One of the physical ways used in this movie to express prejudice is the use of hand gestures by Hilly.
She flicks her hand in an upward motion when she orders Minny to cut a slice of pie for Mrs. Walters. The wicked facial expression indicates her hate of the black woman, especially because of her refusal to obey an order. There were several instances when Skeeter was speaking with one of the maids and one of the Junior League women caught her that they reflected their disapproval and distaste for so personal an interaction between a white and a black person.
A painful expression is worn by Aibileen as she is forced to overhear Hilly’s insulting speech about the need for separate bathrooms. Not only does the hurt show on Aibileen’s face but she also hides in the hallway rather than have to be present during the conversation, as if she should be ashamed of her skin.
Another example, this one involving white rejecting white, is when Celia shows up at Elizabeth’s during the bridge club luncheon. Not only do they refuse to answer the door but make a half-hearted attempt to hide from her when she comes to the window.
They are giggling, covering their mouths with their fingers (as if this is a grand joke or oh, so cute), and you can overhear rude remarks about her desperation and obvious lack of social etiquette. One last example was in the grocery store at the end of the movie. Aibileen and Minny are shopping, walking down the aisle side by side with their carts.
However, when a white woman approaches Aibileen it is made clear that she is to move aside and let the white woman pass, which she does with an apologetic look and hanging of her head (as if she were ashamed for having been in the way).
Give me an example of someone in The Help whose nonverbal behavior was insulting, ridiculing, or demeaning to others. Which character was not insulting or demeaning to others? Explain. There are more variations of prejudice in this movie than just between races. One of the painful moments, at least for me, was when Celia Foote shows up, uninvited, to the bridge club luncheon at Elizabeths house.
Pie in hand, she is hoping to make friends and finally be included in the social circle of Jackson.
However, at Hilly’s urging, the entire group “hides” and is “shushed” in a poor attempt to evade Celia, who is considered an outcast because of where she came from and how she grew up (poor). Celia’s face, when she realizes what is happening, is painful to see and as she comes up out of the flower bed, her short attempt to be brave dissolves into tears. I believe where Celia came from and how she grew up gives her a greater compassion and understanding of the maids’ lives.
She seems childlike in her acceptance of them and is ignorant of “proper social etiquette”.
She simply takes them as they are, respects them as human beings and fellow women, and bestows care and affection generously. She is also open-minded concerning Hilly’s behavior and tries to shed a kinder light on why there is conflict between them, even after the luncheon debacle. Have you ever made a prejudgement about someone because of their nonverbals? If so, provide an example. Anyone who says they have never prejudged another person is lying.
It is, unfortunately, in our nature to judge others, especially when we think we are better than they are. Most of the time we are wrong, but, once in awhile, we get it right.
I was hired at The Home Depot in Kansas several years ago as a cashier. Shortly after I finished my training and was put on the register another woman, about my age, came out of training and joined me up front. She, like me, was an extrovert and seemed happy and friendly, coaxing confidences out of all of us. Particularly me, since we shared (or at least I thought we did) a common faith.
It wasn’t until later that I found out she was not only cheating on a husband and using a boyfriend for free shelter and food, she was also a liar and a backstabber.
She had been telling others things we had shared in confidence, with a little embellishment for good measure. My mistake was giving her credit for being a good person because of her clean appearance, she was well-dressed and accessorized, she had a winning smile and bubbly laughter, and seemed so open with her life and beliefs. She cemented these nonverbals with proclamations of sincerity and Christian values.
I suffered some very embarrassing moments over my misjudgment. Have you ever had a negative nonverbal experience? Tell me about it.
It was Wednesday choir practice and I was sitting with the director’s wife on the front row waiting for rehearsal to begin. Her husband was on stage arranging his music and making small talk with us. I responded to one of his quips with a “cute”, and I though humorous, quip of my own. I found out immediately that she didn’t appreciate my comment and perceived it as a “territorial dispute” (him being the territory! when she stomped on my foot with extreme force (I limped for a couple days) and growled in my face, “He’s mine! ” I was stunned and I’m sure it registered on my face. However, she was unapologetic and stomped away. I was mortified since we were not the only people in the auditorium.
Clearly, she communicated her anger, resentment, disgust, and an unspoken threat to keep my hands off her property (since I didn’t like him, my thought was she’d be the only one who’d have him anyway). Explain the differences in the usage of proximity between the two cultures in the movie.
While the white socialites observed white rules of space (hugging, sitting close, touching, etc, though it is stiff and emotionless) the blacks were not allowed to engage white people this way. There was a social distance maintained, unless children were involved. The maids would stand a distance of more than 4 or 5 feet away from white people and wait to be commanded.
It was rather humorous to me that the white women didn’t want the maids to touch their utensils, cups, dishes, skin, toilets, etc. ut were entirely at peace with them cooking (handling food), laundering (the clothes touched by blacks then touched their bodies), and mothering the children. Even when Skeeter goes to Aibileen’s own house, Aibileen has a difficult time sitting in Skeeter’s presence (she finally ends up sitting on the arm of a chair, the furthest place away from Skeeter) and, for a time, continues to act as if she’s waiting on the white woman. As we see the intimate times in Aibie’s house between she, Skeeter, and Minny, it becomes clear that the black people share space much more than whites do.
They touch one another, hug firmly (as opposed to a light, meaningless embrace), laugh loudly, and have much more passion in life than their white employers. Define culture shock.
The friendships created between Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny broke societal rules during the 1960’s in Mississippi. How did people react when the secret friendships were revealed? Did people experience culture shock? Explain. Culture shock is the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.
There was an uproar, socially, about Skeeter’s relationship with the two maids. People were incensed that she would debase herself, her family, and her race in this way (by fraternizing with “the enemy”). However, as people began to read the book, I believe they were faced with the choice of what to do with this knowledge.
The stories in the book revealed the truth about what happens behind the scenes to the black women that serve white families and raise white children. Many of these stories, I’m sure, were ugly, painful, and humiliating.
Once everyone knows the truth, each person must choose how to deal with that truth. This creates a type of culture shock. Some, like Skeeter’s mama, chose to support her and confess fault.
Others, like Stuart, openly denied the truth or validity of Skeeter’s stance and ended their relationship. Hilly is very obviously divided within herself when Aibileen asks her, “Aren’t you tired Miss Hilly? Aren’t you tired? ” I think she meant tired of holding on to an outdated way of thinking, fighting the tides of change, and being such a sad, lonely, mean person. 8. How did Skeeter deal with cultural tension between both cultures? Provide an example. a.
Skeeter started out the same way all the other young women did. The daughter of wealthy, respectable white families, and raised by a black nanny/maid. Upon arriving home from college, she integrates herself back into society by attending the various meeting, luncheons, and bridge club dates. However, as she sees and hears the ugly, supremacist treatment of The Help, she begins to bite back at her friends, though small at first.
The initial example of this is at bridge club when Hilly is discussing her ‘Home Health Sanitation Initiative’ and Skeeter finally busts out with, “Maybe we should build YOU a bathroom outside, Hilly! ” As her incense grows, Skeeter begins to form friendships with the maids Aibileen and Minny in a hope to write a book and thereby, maybe, right a wrong.
She lies about her conversation in the kitchen with Yule Mae and intentionally plays a joke on Hilly with the toilets on the lawn. These are Skeeter’s little ways of dealing with the racial situation she finds herself in.
I was a bit disappointed in the indirect ways she chose to “voice” her disapproval but it was a dangerous time for black sympathizers as well as the blacks themselves. 9. Did the more powerful societal group in The Help establish the rules for communication? How? a.
The power group, the white women, certainly set the rules on how, when, where, and to whom the maids could interact. Fear was the crux of their power. The maids chafed under the Supreme rule of the white yet they were powerless to do anything about it or they would lose their jobs and be blacklisted. Or worse, imprisoned or killed.
Because of white supremacy sentiments and Jim Crow laws, blacks could be mob-lynched (killed by hanging or dragging) for the smallest of infractions, even if they were imagined.
So, the black women only voiced their feelings to one another, in private, and even then they whispered. Otherwise, they kept their heads down, did their work, and tolerated the abuse. Times have changed how we communicate with others. How can you improve your intercultural communication skills? Provide examples. a. One of the biggest obstacles to accepting and positively interacting with an other person is a closed-minded attitude.
We must first be willing to accept the fact that our own way of thinking, believing, and doing things is not the only right way. So, an open-minded approach is always best when communicating with others. Another way to hone good skills is to look for ways to positively interact with others, especially those with whom you do not share a common culture. Volunteer work, random acts of kindness, being openly friendly, making eye contact, smiling, and even attempts at vocal niceties can open many avenues to deeper, more meaningful experiences.
Get involved with the community.
I had many opportunities to interact with Hispanic people during spring break while volunteering at the Parks & Recreation Center. One other thing that occurred to me (and has for some time) is to learn their language. This can be applied to more than just a foreign language, like Spanish. A language can be any nonverbal code (touch, time, distance, body language, artifacts), dialect, or jargon. All of these can give valuable information in order to communicate more effectively and with respect and equality.