Name an A-List white actor. Any one you name has played a non-white character (historical or fictional) and/or played a white savior. Since film was film, audiences have internalized white characters as being the necessary heroes in rescuing people of color from their plights. Perhaps what’s most nauseating about this approach is that these white protagonists inevitably learn something about THEMSELVES during the story, forcing the plot to focus on their journey and not the supposed poor, desperate, disenfranchised, impoverished, experience of the people that they are drawn to save (barf). Their own bullshit self discovery serves as the primary narrative, creating a predictable, boring, and outdated as fuck commentary on their understanding of morality. By usually being placed in some role of racial leadership that departs from their normal footing in society, the white savior trope is generally narcissistic and damaging. It legitimatizes white people as a necessary facet for minorities to overcome the social constructs that hinder them, and that makes me want to murder things with fire forever all the time. So let’s look at some of the worst examples!
White Teachers Need to Save Inner City Youth Cuz LOL who Else is Gonna do it?!?!
Basically these films are like watching your racist aunt or uncle fumble over an, “I’m not racist, BUT…” prompt at Thanksgiving. It fuels an ideal that inner city kids need a fucking out of element, fish out of water (like a whitefish! ba dum tish) character to help them become fully realized because their environments need saving. And what better person to save a bunch of non-white kids than fucking Sandra Bullock, who I’ve already picked on for being in another horribly racist film
White Dudes Save a Bunch of Non White Dudes and Dudettes from War or Something
Ugh whatever. Why do audiences need to see some ill equipped, war torn, non-white region saved by the likes of Tom Cruise or Matt Damon or Leo, who you should all know I love very much, or whatever other white actor who has probably done so too? I guess, and I might be wrong on this, but maybe, just maybe, we as western audience members have become conditioned to see white guys as synonymous with bravery and leadership! It’s a wild, irresponsible theory I know. Don’t read this blog.
Cloud Atlas Because it’s just the Worst Fucking Movie Ever Made
I can’t talk about this film for more than a minute before I transition in to a fever dream, so I’ll cut right to the chase and say that an English actor is whitewashed as a Korean hero who helps an actual Korean actress (who is a slave in the movie, duh) by inspiring her to lead a revolution. This is a thing that happens in a movie that would otherwise be horrible apart from this plot point. Fuck Cloud Atlas always.
Anyway, it’s more of the same. Middle Eastern people are terrorists or need saving from terrorists. Black people are criminals or need saving from criminals. Hispanics are drug dealers or need saving from drug dealers. And there’s plenty more! But one constant that has remained and will continue to so long as we keep forking over our money, is the blinding light of the white hero in film. The light that sweeps in like a hand and alters the dire circumstances that the first act establishes, while the second act dives in to the white hero’s conflict and unfamiliarity with his or her surroundings. And the third act is that hero saves the fucking day, usually with the help of a supporting character who is played by a minority.
Hollywood has always been described as liberal. If that’s your brand of liberalism, then you’re doing it wrong.