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3 YEARS

'The Help': Judge Tosses Lawsuit Claiming Character Stolen From Real-Life Maid

Ablene Cooper, a maid in Jackson, Miss., claimed the character Aibileen (played by Viola Davis in the film) was based on her.

Viola Davis The Help - H 2011
Dreamworks
Emma Stone, left, and Viola Davis in "The Help"

The Help author just got a little assistance from a Mississippi judge.

Katherine Stockett, who wrote the book on which the hit movie about maids and their employers in the1960s South is based, on Tuesday was granted summary judgment in a lawsuit brought by a woman who claimed Stockett used her likeness without permission.

Ablene Cooper, a maid in Jackson, Miss., claimed the character Aibileen (played by Viola Davis in the film) was based on her. But Judge Tomie Green has dismissed the case based on a one-year statute of limitations that elapsed between when Stockett gave Cooper a copy of the book and when the lawsuit was filed. Cooper had sought $75,000 in damages.

The case is somewhat ironic given that the plot of The Help centers around a controversial book written by a young white woman about a group of anonymous black maids who are mistreated in white homes. Here, Stockett, a white woman from Jackson, Miss., was accused of misappropriating the identity of a black maid to write a book about mistreated black maids.

Cooper claims big similarities between her and the Aibileen character (besides the names). She lost a son before working for Stockett’s brother, for instance. 

Outside the courtroom in Mississippi today, Cooper is said to have wiped away tears and screamed at reporters as her lawyer said he is considering an appeal.

"She's a liar,” Cooper said, according to Fox News. “She did it. She knows she did it.”

Email: Matthew.Belloni@thr.com
Twitter: @THRMattBelloni