I wrote a short story a while ago called “How to Write a Literary Masterpiece”. (see above slideshow)
It’s a comedy that points out the absurd commonalities in most so-called classic literature. For example, these novels usually take place during some horrible time in history and highlight the suffering of some particular group of people. (The Holocaust, the Great Depression, the Civil War, etc.) The characters usually include the fresh-faced youngster, the hard-working parent, the affable black friend/servant/confident, the reluctant co-conspirator and of course, the authoritarian oppressor. They’re written to tug at your heartstrings and leave you with the feeling that if you stand up for what’s right; you will win out over all obstacles.
History has proven otherwise. Again, and again and again.
And just when I thought such ridiculously stupid novels had been relegated to the landfill of history, out comes ‘The Help.’
Having only seen the movie I can’t comment on the book but I’m willing to bet the screenwriter didn’t stray too far. Does it possess all the elements of a so-called masterpiece? You bet’cha! The horrible time in history? The civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties. The oppressed group? African-American maids in the affluent south. The socially conscious fresh-faced girl? Front and center! Reluctant co-conspirator? Steps right up when all seems lost. Authoritarian Oppressor? Why it’s those evil, evil southerners.
Now this makes for a great read right?
Maybe, maybe not.
That’s not my issue. My issue is that asinine propaganda like The Help is what gets people hurt and sometimes killed. What should be explained to all those socially conscious fresh-faced kids is that throughout history rebels/protesters/rabble rousers were routinely beaten senseless, stabbed, hanged, poisoned and shot. They should be reminded again and again that the Status Quo has money, power and influence and will not go quietly into that good night.
And in the case of that fresh-faced girl in The Help, she probably would have been thrown into the back of a panel van and then beaten and raped. Her parent’s home would have been fire-bombed, a cross burned on their lawn and the family ostracized by the community.
Does any of this happen in the movie?
What the story does tell us is if you stand up for what’s right, if you demand change, if you fight the good fight and challenge the Powers-That-Be, you will be successful and live a long and happy life.
I don’t think Dr. Martin Luther King, or Mahatma Gandhi or Malcolm X or Nathan Hale or those kids at Kent State would agree with that conclusion.
Rebellion is serious, very dangerous, and when necessary, worth the all risks. But before some high-mined fiction novel convinces you to march gallantly into the breach, take a moment to reflect on Valley Forge and the British prison ships, then on Gettysburg and Andersonville, especially if the thought of being pepper sprayed, handcuffed and jailed gives you pause.
This is not to say that I am against fighting for a cause, In fact, I firmly believe in the old saying, “In order for evil to succeed, all that is needed is for good people to do nothing.” But novels like The Help should come with this disclaimer.
This is a work of pure fiction featuring characters rebelling against established authority. While they are successful, in most instances rebellions fail and their participants are jailed, tortured and executed. The author strongly suggests that you do not embrace any radical cause or political agenda unless you are willing to die for it.
That’s right, die for it.
Can I get an Amen?