Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Help

Because I have a decent commute, with not a lot to do but not spill my tea on the person next to me attempting to do the same thing (easier said than done with some bus drivers...they are not all created equal!) I get quite a bit of reading done on the ride. This week's book (read very quickly) was The Help. Like most people, I have seen the movie, and I saw it long before I read the book. Good thing to because if I had read the book before watching the film I wouldn't have enjoyed all.

The film turned a great book into a flimsy, one-dimensional "black and white"--no pun intended--story with plastic, trite characters that are either Barbie Dolls who won't say boo to a goose (though I guess knowing how mean geese are, I wouldn't either, but I didn't make up the expression) or helpless buffoons. I'm glad Viola didn't win the Oscar. Her character could have been played by any capable actress (which she indeed is) because she was so meek, helpless, and totally a sympathetic character. We were supposed to love her, and of course we do! I think Octavia Spencer's performance did indeed deserve the Oscar because her character was, to me, the only character in the movie that had any depth, and range.

I did think the book reminded me of Gone With the Wind: Protagonist who dares to step out on her own, do something different, have different ideas (Scarlett/Skeeter) runs afoul of the leading social lady (Hilly/India Wilkes) and all of a sudden has not a friend to her name. then has to fight to get what she wants...and ultimately leaves (though to be fair, this doesn't happen in GWTW, but its sequel Scarlett, by Alexandra Ripley. I have some interesting ideas (that are probably stupid) about GWTW and how it is a very in depth study of a woman's maturation and can be interpreted as an early statement of feminism and female empowerment, but given the time period it was written in a lot of that message had to be veiled. It helps if one has also read Scarlett, but you most definitely need the first installment, and even still the fact that we get to read Scarlett's mind is great.

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