Australian Council on Children and the Media

Help, The

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Not suitable under 13, PG to 15 (Disturbing scenes and themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Help, The
  • a review of Help, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 30 August 2011.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not suitable due to disturbing scenes and themes.
Children 13-15 Parental guidance recommended due to disturbing scenes and themes.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Help, The
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes
Length 146 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Based on the book by Kathryn Stockett, The Help, set in the early 1960’s begins with narration from one of the film’s leading characters Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis).  She tells how generations of African-American woman (always referred to as “The Help”) have spent their lives caring for the children and families of prominent Southern families in Jackson Mississippi.

Following the film’s opening narration, we find Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) returning home after graduating from college and promptly landing herself a job at the local paper as a household tips columnist. Skeeter knows next to nothing about housework, and asks her socialite friend Elizabeth Leefolt (Ahna O’Reilly) if she can interview her maid Aibileen to gain information for her column. Before long, Skeeter begins to ask Aibileen about her life and Aibileen’s answers are so moving that Skeeter feels compelled to use the stories to write a book from the perspective of “the help”.

Skeeter sends Aibileen’s story to a New York City editor Elaine Stein (Mary Steenburgen) and the editor loves the idea but wants the stories of more maids. At first the only other maid willing to risk telling her story is the feisty Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer), who was recently fired by the town’s social matriarch and chief bigot Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard). However, events escalate and lives are changed forever.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Racism and intolerance: the civil rights movement

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

Most of the physical violence in the film The Help is inferred rather than graphically depicted, although a couple of scenes do briefly depict blood and injury. The film also depicts psychological violence and discussions relating to violent occurrences that some may find emotionally intense and disturbing. Examples include:

Aibileen tells how her son had fallen at work and was then driven over by a truck. We hear how the son’s employer threw his injured body in the back of a truck, dumped him in front of a hospital front door and honked his horn before driving off. The hospital couldn’t fix his crushed lungs and he was bought home and died on the couch in front of Aibileen.

During a phone conversation between Aibileen and Minny, we hear a man’s voice shouting and hear sounds suggesting that Minny is being attacked by her husband. We see a pot being thrown at Minny and hear her screaming. Later we see Minny with a bruised swollen eyebrow that has a bloody cut. Aibileen says that she is worried that Minny’s husband will kill her one day.

A mother smacks her toddler for using the wrong toilet.

We hear a radio report about a Civil Rights activist being assassinated by a sniper and how the bullet entering the man’s body and exploded. A bus Aibileen is travelling is stopped by a police blockade. The bus driver says “Some nigger got shot”, and we hear it referred to as a “gold blooded killing”.

A maid is arrested by two police officers who push her face down on to the bonnet of a car with one officer raising his baton to strike her. We do not see the officer strike the woman, but the implication is clear and a second woman who is being restrained by police watches as her friend is beaten.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

N/A

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of eight, including the following:

  • In one of the more disturbing scene in the film, Minny breaks through a locked bathroom door to find a woman kneeling on the floor in a pool of blood, we see blood covering the toilet seat, the woman’s clothing and hands. She asks Minny why there is so much blood. Later she tells Minny that she has had two other miscarriages and we see her burying a shoe box. The woman plants a rose bush on top and there are two similar roses nearby.
  • We hear, but do not see, a drunk woman vomiting.
  • Minny tells Aibileen a story of how she had given Hilly a pie and that Hilly had eaten two pieces of the pie before Minny informed Hilly that she had just eaten her “shit” We see Hilly running from the room and hear the sounds of her gagging.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above mentioned scenes.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above mentioned scenes.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Coca cola

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • We hear a mother say to her adult daughter, “Your eggs are dying. Would it kill you to go on a date?”
  • The mother also asks her daughter if she is attracted to men, saying that girls who get unbalanced start to have unnatural thoughts about girls.
  • A woman confronts a second woman, telling her that she didn’t go behind the woman’s back with her boyfriend and that she got pregnant after the couple broke up. 

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • One woman in particular wears tight dresses with low-cut tops.
  • The same woman’s husband pinches her on the bottom, wraps his arms around her, kisses her on the neck and makes a remark about being hungry.
  • A man flirts with Skeeter and kisses her on the lips in a couple of scenes. 

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Frequent cigarette smoking.
  • A number of scenes where people consume alcohol including wine, champagne and beer. At one party a number of the guests appear to be slightly intoxicated. Hilly’s mother constantly has a drink in her hand. 
  • A woman at a party drinks constantly until she becomes extremely drunk, slurring her words, staggering and finally vomiting on the floor. We do not see her vomiting, but hear the sound.
  • Hilly drinks from a bottle of beer while driving in a reckless manner. She rapidly consumes the bottle after which she appears drunk and becomes verbally and physically abusive towards Skeeter.

Coarse language

The film contains coarse language, putdowns and name calling. Examples include:

  • Oh Christ; shit; goddamn; nigger; for god’s sake; holy shit; white trash; jerk; greasy stinking men; drunken arsehole; filthy negro

In a nutshell

The Help is an emotionally intense drama designed for a mature audience, with a number of scenes and themes likely to disturb children and younger teens.

The main messages from this movie are:

  • Great courage is required to tell the truth, which in turn sets us free. 
  • A strong message against racism and intolerance

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

Selflessness: Regardless of the manner in which the maids in the film were treated they cared for the children of their white employers with great love and affection. Throughout the film Aibileen repeatedly made the children in her care feel proud about themselves by telling them “You are kind. You are smart. You are important”.  

Courage and sacrifice: Aibileen and the other maids displayed great courage and self sacrifice to tell the truth and their stories.  

The film raises a number of topics that parents of older children may wish to discuss, including:

  • the prejudice and racist attitudes depicted in the film, how the situation has changed (or not) since the 1960’s and how this relates to our own society.
  • the smoking and alcohol abuse seen in the film
  • domestic violence

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