Cultural Differences

For my English 3 class we begin each class with a YouKu video that a student’s chosen. They explain what the video is and why they like it. Today we had one that’s longer than usual, that all the students really liked, though it made me uncomfortable.

Stand up comedian Russell Peters jokes about how white people should hit their kids. While it’s original, I guess, I just didn’t find it funny. I thought it was troubling in so many ways. I’ve always been greatly opposed to corporal punishment and am well versed in it’s negative effects. Still in much of the world it’s common.

At the end of the set, he talks about how rude, angry and rebellious American white kids are. That rang true and I am still wondering why. Why do we accept rebellion and why is it so severe, when other cultures don’t express it?

the help

A fine film about a horrible time when the middle and upper classes of Mississippi were blind to the hideousness of the racism that kept their households running. (If they weren’t blind, they’d taken denial to new heights.) Based on the best selling novel, the film follows an aspiring journalist who after getting a job as a columnist writing about house cleaning decides to expose the inequity inherent in a society where African American women raise white people’s children, cook all their meals, and keep their homes immaculate, yet can’t use the same restrooms not just in town, but  in the homes where they work. It’s a look at a society that is starched and genteel, where asking a few questions about the injustice all around them is sure to get you in trouble, big trouble.

Skeeter, the journalist, doesn’t really belong in pink and poofy Jackson, Mississippi as the civil rights movement begins. She’s smart and hasn’t rushed into marriage as all her friends have. She wants a job and respect. This frustrates her Southern Belle mother to no end. Her goal is to write about “The Help.”  The hard part is convincing the housekeepers to participate. Most know that in this society where vengeance is swift and severe.

The film is touching and often humorous, though there were a couple parts I didn’t quite by. I do think anyone would detect the smell or consistency or something about the special ingredient the housekeeper she fired added. Yet that was a small matter. I liked the film, though I hated Mississippi. I just kept thinking “How can anyone stand living here?” Even in the days of Jim Crowe, Mississippi was considered the most racist state.

What’s interesting about the plot of the book is that while the action develops, there isn’t much change in the characters. Skeeter becomes moderately successful, but she never was a racist. Her beliefs were just confirmed. The housekeepers, Aibileen and Minny, become a bit braver, but it’s not like they’ve gone under a major change. They were always strong, smart women. None of the racists change. So much for scriptwriting rules — and that’s okay by me. This was more plausible. I’ve grown tired of the same old narrative structure and its rules.