Rumbling Undercurrent of The Secret Life of Bees

The Rumbling Undercurrent of The Secret Life of Bees
By Laura Major

It's no coincidence that the backdrop to Sue Monk Kidd's New York Times bestseller The Secret Life of Bees is the raging transformational environment of the South during the Civil Rights movement. The movie is a coming of age story about a young girl escaping her abusive father in search of love and belonging on her own terms. However, as the author, who came of age during the same time in Georgia, said of adolescence in the 1960's South, "I do think race is the wound of my's the wound of the South and of American life." More than just the injustice of the South's racial divide, Monk Kidd said, "...also it had a motif about the whole civil rights backdrop and this separation of people that I wanted to highlight."

Segregation, the right to vote and the carrying of the world's cruelty within were all societal themes the adaptation covered. In preparing for the role Dream Girls Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson remarked, "In doing my research I had went to the dentist and in sitting there with my assistant and I saw a little white boy and a little black girl reading a book together and I almost started crying. I got chills.

Before then, I would have thought nothing of it. People overlook that..." A contrasting moment during filming lead Oscar-nominee for the movie Chicago, Queen Lafitah to come to a similar conclusion, "Wow, this is what I really do. Look at this...I mean, there was a time when this would not be possible. And so even when we're shooting the March scene in Hairspray which is a big old musical. I'm looking around and I'm like they got the white kids who are there and they're like 'Black Kids... White kids' and I've never been on a set where they say 'Black kids, white kids'. I have no clue between cut and action you know what I mean. So the reality is that at a different time this would have been a separated... seriously segregated situation." Everyone on the interview panel could agree that scenes such as these conjure a whole new level of respect and appreciation for where we are.

However, The Great Debaters star Nate Parker had no desire to witness complacency with what we've accomplished. He stated about leaving the role behind when the job was done, "We're still in the Civil Rights Movement. The only thing that changes is the clothes and the hair. You know what I mean. I come out of roles like this inspired to teach about this period. So the transition it's pretty clean. Because when I get out of this role and people ask me about the roles I can talk about the NAACP and the importance of voter registration and its relevant and it 2008 is an historic election time right now..."

Hudson was equally empowered by her character's transition, she stated, "I think Rosaleen had a serious arc like a journey. My favorite thing about her is, was her strength. She was completely alone, no family, no nothing. And she knew things weren't right the way that they were. And she didn't mind fighting for what they should have been and what she wanted. Especially right now at the moment, I love that moment of her going to get that right to be able to vote. And I hope people will take that and say, 'We didn't always have that option.'"

Life's journeys whether it be through social injustice or the inability to rise above the obstacles put before love, many of the movie's cast expressed the profound existence of Hotel Rwanda star Sophie Okonedo's character May. The actor of Nigerian and European descent plays May Boatwright a surviving twin who never really got over the painful death. Playing a conflicted character that is simple-minded with moments of sharp clarity and a child's maturity in a woman's form, Director Gina Prince-Bythewood described Okonedo's performance as "expressive, warm, childlike and just beautiful. She digs down so deep and gives you so much."

Her passing in the film was something everyone remarked about, Monk Kidd said, "May's death was very hard for me to write and she was a character that I just had a tender spot for. She's a unique character, she's not typical in any way. So I hated when she died but I had foreseen the inevitable theme out of her character and she was just made that way and she wasn't going to have a long life because she took in the suffering of the world and experienced it and felt it, it was just too much." Every piece of literature has its tragic figure demonstrating how not everyone can overcome their weaknesses making those who survive that much more courageous.
The Secret Life of Bees explores the complexity of the layers that make up our lives with a variety of themes that can relate to anyone's own personal story.

About Laura Major: Laura Major is a multicultural fiction author and freelance writer residing in the greater Phoenix area of Arizona. Her first novel, Mismatched was published by Amira Press in February of 2008. Laura also manages a multicultural website, Sable Lit, one of the few of its kind providing commentary on the multicultural impact of current events as well as multicultural book reviews.