In "The Help," Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone) is shocked by how her socialite friends treat their Black maids when she returns home from college, so she decides to interview the maids for a book.
Unlike her friends, Skeeter is single, college-educated, and wants to be a working girl. The movie uses these elements to show that Skeeter is different from these women: She's the only white woman in the film who respects Black people.
Most of that has to do with her relationship with her childhood maid Constantine. It's clear that their relationship has gone past the boundaries of employer and employee; they're more like mother and daughter. We see that tight bond when Skeeter learns that Constantine has died. She breaks down in tears, which suggests that she's capable of caring about Black people and the discrimination they face.
The major issue with films like "12 Years A Slave" and "The Help" is that good white people must see themselves in narratives about people of color in order to "acknowledge" racism, according to Hughey:
"[White savior films] are marketed as plausible and moral narratives in which whites are invited to idealize and identify with these white saviors qua role models and to take up a racial crusade.These films subtly rewrite historical events so that white colonizers, paternalistic controllers, and meddling interlopers seem necessary, relevant, and moral.
When telling a story about POC, it's vital that they have the spotlight, instead of trying to work within the experiences of white people.
White-savior films imply that certain stories are better left untold — unless they're anchored by a white character. White people are allowed to be the protagonists, the villains, the producers, and the directors, but POC are lucky if they're the lead in stories about racism. It's time for Hollywood to realize that the white savior is an outdated concept that only contributes to harmful stereotypes.
No one should be clapping for the white savior at the end of the movie; instead, they should be cheering for the POC to save themselves.