Minny and Aibileen are oppressed and not given equal treatment because of their skin color. It’s this oppression that leads Skeeter to have the brilliant idea for her book. She wants them to tell how life really is. Minny is a “sass mouth” black and decides to join Aibileen and Skeeter. These are non-traditional roles and not realistic for the time but they make a great story. More typical roles are assigned to Charlotte, Elizabeth, Skeeter, Hilly, and Celia. How is Skeeter in a typical role? She still follows the wishes of her dying mother. But she asserts herself and breaks free. Celia is type cast as white trash by all of the other women in Jackson and is treated as a sex object. In the fundraiser scene we see both by her actions and her manner of dress. The men look at her and the help talk about her saying the women better hide their husbands. Charlotte is stuck as the frustrated mother. Her daughter is still single when all of her friends are married, whether happily or not. Granted we see a change in Charlotte at the end and that is more realistic.
Elizabeth is stuck under the oppression of Hilly. Hilly is a down right bitch, with all capital letters. She pushes people around and thinks she’s the best person out there. She makes decisions for Elizabeth and Elizabeth doesn’t say anything to her. This is surely a realistic situation. Of the women in the film Hilly is depicted as the most powerful because of the hold she has over people.
Skeeter empowers the help with her book. Still, the film is not a very realistic situation in the middle of the civil rights movement and in Jackson, Mississippi of all places. The only equal treatment in this film is when Skeeter is with Minny and Aibileen, when the help is all together, or when the whites are together. There are several moments of inequality between the women. Hilly treats everyone like they are beneath her and she elevates her friends in the presence of the help. She is particularly mean to Celia.
The portrayal of women in this film is accurate to the period. Children in the well to do families of the south really did get raised by the black maid. Some of these women did spend their time in the Junior League and organizing fundraisers. They knew no other way. It had been passed on for generations and didn’t show any signs of changing.