The movie doesn't sugarcoat the difficulties of being African American in Jim Crow Mississippi, but there are positive messages about how the '60s were a revolutionary time for civil rights, even as so many had to die to achieve it. Through Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny's partnership, the idea that a member of the "elite" class can find common ground with disenfranchised African-American servants is critical to the movie, even if it was improbable in real life.
Positive Role Models & Representations
Minny is domestically abused; it happens off-camera, but viewers do see her with bruises on her face. The assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers is a key moment in the film; President Kennedy's assassination is also discussed. In a disturbing scene, a character suffers a miscarriage and is shown sitting in a small pool of blood. A police officer is rough with an African-American woman he arrests (and her friends), even hitting her in the head with his night stick. Parents sensitive to physical discipline should know that a parent spanks her child for a minor "mistake." A mother recounts how her son was basically left for dead by his white employers; another woman explains how she was threatened at gun point. The maids seem genuinely fearful of white men, whom they know could kill them without any repercussions.
For the first half of the movie, there's virtually no sexuality (except for the occasional presence of Celia, who wears form-fitting outfits and has considerable cleavage). In the second half, Skeeter goes on a date that turns into her first serious relationship, although she and her boyfriend only kiss and hold hands. A woman's history of multiple miscarriages is discussed; she and her husband are depicted as playful and flirty. Other married couples embrace and dance at a holiday gala.
The word "s--t" is of prominent importance to the storyline and is said several times throughout the movie. Other language includes "damn," "hell," "jackass," "a--hole," "goddamn," "oh my God," and the "N" word, which is used once, in a casual, matter-of-fact way: "Some n---er just got shot, now y'all got to get off the bus." Hilly often pronounces the words "negro" and "negra" in a way that sounds like "niggra." Other insults used toward the help include "thievin'," "sass-mouthin'," and "no-good."
Coca-Cola is shown a couple of times, as is a Piggly Wiggly supermarket.
Ease of Play
Accurately for the '60s setting, almost everyone in the movie (even a pregnant character) smokes. One character orders drink after drink on a blind date. A woman gets drunk at a party and accidentally rips her social rival's sleeve; she then throws up on her adversary's party gown.