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September 4, 2011 / lizatwood

Media makes a difference in The Help

I went to see The Help last night and I was struck by what the movie showed and didn’t show about the media’s ability to bring about change.

 Quick plot summary for those who haven’t seen it: Skeeter Phelan, a recent Ole Miss graduate, returns home to Jackson, Miss., and takes a job at her local newspaper. She’s given the take of writing an advice column, but she really wants to be an writer who makes a difference. A New York book editor gives her that chance and Skeeter writes a book about the lives of the black maids who work for Jackson’s white families. The book changes the lives of the maids, the young writer and the Jackson’s white uppercrust.

If only the effects of the media in real life could be so definitive.

The movie doesn’t show much of Skeeter’s world in the newsroom, but I kept thinking of the reporters in Jackson. The newspaper in the movie is the fictitious Jackson Journal. In real life, Jackson was served by three newspapers–the Jackson Advocate, the Clarion-Ledger and the Daily News.  The publishers of these papers resisted the social and political change brought about by the Civil Rights movement.

In the movie, Skeeter eventually heads for New York. In real life, she would never have had a reporting future in Jackson.