Film Analysis: "The Help"

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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...
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