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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Help can be found here.
Recent college graduate Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone) returns to her hometown in Jackson, Mississippi and lands a job at The Jackson Journal writing the "Miss Myrna" cleaning advice column. Raised as a southern society girl, Skeeter has little experience cleaning, since it's the 1960s and all white society women have black maids to do the cooking, housework, and child-raising. In order to get help answering the letters until she "gets a knack for it", Skeeter asks her best friend Elizabeth Leefolt (Ahna O'Reilly) whether she might be allowed to speak with her maid, Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis). Elizabeth agrees "as long as it doesn't interfere" with Aibileen's work. After seeing the way her friends, particularly the arrogant Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), treat and talk condescendingly about their own maids, and learning that her mother (Allison Janney) fired their beloved maid Constantine (Cicely Tyson) after 29 years working for the Phelans, Skeeter decides to write a book from the point of view of the maids (referred to as "the help"), exposing the racism they face when working for white families ...that is, if she can get any maids, most of whom fear for their lives, to talk to her.
The Help is also a 2009 novel by Mississippi-born novelist Kathryn Stockett. The novel was adapted for the screenplay by Stockett's childhood friend, American screenwriter Tate Taylor.
Medgar Evers [1925-1963] was a prominent Black American in the civil rights movements during the 1950s and early 1960s, in Mississippi. He was assassinated by Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the American white supremacist organizations known as the Citizens' Councils, in June 1963.
"Jim Crow" has never referred to an actual person but a set of segregation laws, known as Jim Crow laws that mandated separation of facilities between "whites" and "nonwhites", e.g., public schools, public transportation, restrooms, restaurants, and drinking fountains, in the southern United States from 1876 to 1965. Other examples of segregation laws, as read aloud by Aibileen from a pamphlet of the Mississippi Laws Governing the Conduct of Nonwhites and Other Minorities include:
(1) No person shall require any white female to nurse in wards or rooms in which Negro men are placed; (2) Books shall not be interchangeable between the white and colored schools but shall continue to be used by the race first using them; (3) No colored barber shall serve as a barber to white women or girls; and (4) Any person printing, publishing, or circulating written matter urging for public acceptance of social equality between Whites and Negros is subject to imprisonment.
The Help causes quite a stir amongst Jackson society. Skeeter receives a publisher's check for $600, which she divides up between all the maids who told her their stories, and is offered a job in New York as junior editor for Harper and Row. Charlotte thanks her daughter for having the courage to write the book, but her boyfriend Stuart (Chris Lowell) breaks up with her. Johnny (Mike Vogel), husband of Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain), admits that he's known all along about Minny (Octavia Spencer) working for them and promises her a job for the rest of her life, a promise that allows her and her children to leave her abusive husband. Aibileen and Minny are applauded by their church for doing what they did. Hilly tries to convince the town that the book wasn't about Jackson, but she soon discovers that everyone knows about her and the "terrible awful". In retaliation, Hilly accuses Aibileen of stealing a silver fork and two silver spoons and convinces Elizabeth to fire her. Aibileen finds the inner strength to stand up to Hilly, calling her a "Godless" woman for using lying and scaring to get what she wants. In the final scene, Aibileen sadly says goodbye to Mae Mobley (Eleanor Henry and Emma Henry) and begins her long walk down the street to the bus stop. In a voiceover, she says:
Mae Mobley was my last baby. In just 10 minutes, the only life I knew was over. God said we need to love our enemies. It's hard do, but it can start by telling the truth. No one had ever asked me what it felt like to be me. Once I told the truth about that, I felt free. And I got to thinking about all the people I know and the things I've seen and done. My boy Treelore always said we gonna have a writer in the family one day. I guess it's gonna be me.
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