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Dismantling The Help: The Hollywoodization of The Civil Rights Movement in 1963


Mendoza, Aramis J. (2023) Dismantling The Help: The Hollywoodization of The Civil Rights Movement in 1963. Other, California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/64ny-py51.


[Introduction] The Help directed by Tate Taylor and based off Kathryn Stockett’s novel portrays an incomplete narrative of Black women’s domestic work in white households through a white feminist lens under the backdrop of the 1963 Civil Rights Movement. While the movie seeks to show the perspective of these Black women often ignored throughout history, the movie instead focuses largely on an upcoming white woman writer named Skeeter. To shape Skeeter’s ultimate writing success story, the movie utilizes the Civil Rights Movement and the Black domestic workers, mainly Aibileen and Minny, to jumpstart Skeeter’s writing career, subsequently leaving the Black community to deal with the aftermath of the publication of Skeeter’s novel. Based in Jackson, Mississippi, The Help details the racial turmoil of the time through the grossly comic portrayal of outdoor bathrooms for the domestic workers, the unrealistic arrest of Yule Mae Davis, and the turbulent assassination of Medgar Evers. While Medgar Evers killing was historically accurate, the oversimplification of white allyship, Black resistance, and the softening of segregation and discrimination allow the audience to feel a false sense of accomplishment at the end of the movie which would realistically end in bloodshed. Although The Help builds its story around various key aspects of the Civil Rights movement in 1963, the movie substantially underplays the intensity of discrimination against Black people by heavily filtering the movement to craft an agreeable Hollywood narrative.

Item Type:Thesis (Other)
Subject Keywords:Gordon McClure Memorial Communications Prize; Gordon McClure Memorial Communications Prize in History; Hixon Writing Center
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Humanities and Social Sciences
Major Option:History
Awards:Gordon McClure Memorial Communications Prize in History, 2023.
Thesis Availability:Restricted to Caltech community only
Research Advisor(s):
  • Thabet, Andrea
Group:Gordon McClure Memorial Communications Prize, Gordon McClure Memorial Communications Prize - History, Hixon Writing Center
Thesis Committee:
  • None, None
Defense Date:23 February 2023
Record Number:CaltechThesis:06162023-220426254
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:16120
Deposited By: Hanna Ramsey
Deposited On:20 Jun 2023 18:36
Last Modified:18 Jan 2024 17:29

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