SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS FOR THE HELP
Additional Discussion Questions:
Continued from the Learning Guide...
4. Males play minor roles in this film. Which male characters seem to contribute to the theme of female empowerment and what do they do that advances the women in their lives? Suggested Response: Johnny Foote, Celia's husband, supports and loves her despite the class differences between them. Stuart Whitworth, Skeeter's boyfriend, unwittingly helps Skeeter move on with her life. He breaks up with her when he discovers her role in publishing the stories about the black housekeepers, thus freeing her to leave for New York for a writer's life.
5. Skeeter's mother experiences redemption in this film. What lies behind this powerful change and which scene shows the redemption? Suggested Response: Skeeter's mother, Charlotte, who is dying of cancer, is one of the few white women to show remorse and assume a degree of responsibility for the treatment of blacks by their white employers. Skeeter's broken heart, caused by the unexplained loss of Constantine, her own personal black nanny, seems to trigger remorse in the older woman and she then defends her daughter's efforts on behalf of the maids in a scene with a highly rattled Hilly.
6. Various discussions and glimpses of news on television reveal the time period in which the story is set. What contribution is made to the progress in the story by these references to the ongoing Civil Rights Movement? Suggested Response: It can be asserted that the unrest and excitement caused by the promise of social change give the black women hope, courage and the ability to see past their narrow lives to a greater cause, thus enabling them to speak more freely. These clips also anchor the movie in its chronological and social context.
7. What differences do you see in the friendships shown among the employers and the friendships among the maids? Give examples. Suggested Response: Answers will vary. Be sure each response is backed up by reference to a scene or to dialogue. Some may suggest that the women who employ the maids are highly conscious of social status in their friendships and adhere closely to the set of unspoken rules that dominate their relationships. The maids, in contrast, are usually caring, open, and loyal to one another as individuals.
8. What does it do to a person's self-respect if the culture around that person treats him or her with disrespect? Suggested Response: Most people will adopt the judgment of their society and have little self-respect. It is only exceptional people who will be able to develop strong self-respect while living in a culture that doesn't respect them.
9. Hilly Holbrook wanted separate bathrooms from the maids. In the American South in the first half of the 20th century, whites espoused the doctrine of "separate but equal." This was supposed to keep the races separate but treat them equally. Did it work in practice? Can it ever work in a society in which one race has all the power? Suggested Response: As a practical matter, budget considerations will almost always mean that the separate facilities for the less powerful race will be inferior to what is provided for the more powerful race. In addition, the fact that one race wanted to be separate from the other is a demonstration of disrespect that injures the self-image of members of the less powerful race.
See also TWM's Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction and Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories or Plays.
Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions
1. Can you think of a situation in which you or anyone you know, made a radical change in their life from what they were expected to do by their family or their community?
Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.
(Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don't threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements)
See Questions 8 & 9 above.
Continued from the Learning Guide...
5. In a formal essay, determine whether or not The Help is a classic "chick flick." Begin with a review of the genre itself in which you carefully define the term and establish the standards that would classify any film as a "chick flick." Apply those standards to your review of The Help.
6. In a narrative project the characters Skeeter and Aibileen ten years into the future. Explain where their lives have taken them by writing a scene that would serve as an epilogue to the film. In it, show how the empowerment earned through the experiences in the story has played out. Write in present tense. Use description and dialogue.
In your narrative describe action (including dialogue), reveal thoughts (including internal monologues), describe observations by the characters, use descriptive language (including images of people, places and things), and compare one thing to another.
To prepare for this assignment, have students complete TWM's Exercise in "Showing Rather than Telling" When Writing a Narrative. Also check out the Narrative Writing Lesson Plan.
See also, Additional Assignments for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction and Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories or Plays.
Links to the Internet:
- An Open Letter to the Fans of The Help by Ida P. Jones, National Director of the Association of Black Women Historians;
- Looking for Help Understanding The Help Lisa Boehm, Professor of Urban Studies, Worcester State University and author of a real volume of interviews of domestic workers: No Way: African American Women and the Second Great Migration (Mississippi, 2009), Popular Culture and the Enduring Myth of Chicago (Routledge, 2004);
Common Core State Standards that can be Served by this Learning Guide
(Anchor Standards only)
Multimedia: Anchor Standard #7 for Reading (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). (The three Anchor Standards read: "Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.") CCSS pp. 35 & 60. See also Anchor Standard # 2 for ELA Speaking and Listening, CCSS pg. 48.
Reading: Anchor Standards #s 1, 2, 7 and 8 for Reading and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 35 & 60.
Writing: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 5 and 7- 10 for Writing and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 41 & 63.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 3 (for ELA classes). CCSS pg. 48.
Not all assignments reach all Anchor Standards. Teachers are encouraged to review the specific standards to make sure that over the term all standards are met.
Selected Awards, Cast and Director:
Selected Awards: 2011 Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress (Spencer); 2011 Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress (Gina Davis), Best Supporting Actress (Chastain), The film won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
Featured Actors: Emma Stone as
Viola Davis as
Bryce Dallas Howard as
Octavia Spencer as
Jessica Chastain as
Ahna O'Reilly as
Allison Janney as
Chris Lowell as
Cicely Tyson as
Constantine Jefferson; and
Mike Vogel as
Director: Tate Taylor
See websites linked in the Guide and selected film reviews listed on the Movie Review Query Engine.
This Learning Guide was written by Mary Red Clay and James Frieden. This Guide was first published on August 6, 2012
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