“The Help” Bears Witness to the Truth

post date: August 25, 2011


I am not surprised that “The Help” has turned out to be a huge hit at the box office. As of August 23, the movie has earned $77 million, making it the sleeper hit of the summer.

A friend called several days ago to ask how the movie is being received in Mississippi. I can tell you this much. When Marlene and I saw it last Friday night, the theater was absolutely full. I did notice something almost extraordinary. During many dramatic moments in the movie, there was something close to total silence. Instead of the usual talking or rustling that you hear during most movies, in many scenes the theater went totally quiet. At other points, most notably the “chocolate pie” scene, the whole place went up for grabs. 

It is fitting that “The Help” is drawing huge crowds just as the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial opens in Washington, D.C. Together the movie and the memorial remind us how far we have come as a nation since the 1960s. 

Many critics have pointed out that “The Help” is an entertainment vehicle and not a complete social commentary. But the best movies bear witness to the truth. In that sense the movie (and the book on which it is based), though fictional, tells a true story. 

I don’t know how the movie will be received in other parts of country, but in Tupelo people spontaneously clapped at the end. Touching, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting, “The Help” reminds us that things don’t always have to stay the way they are. 

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