“it’s disappointing that in a movie devoted to explaining the abolition of slavery in the United States, African-American characters do almost nothing but passively wait for white men to liberate them…Mr. Spielberg’s “Lincoln” gives us only faithful servants, patiently waiting for the day of Jubilee.”
This from an article by Kate Masur in the NY Times. I’m not entirely sure the movie was devoted to explaining the abolition of slavery. It was called “Lincoln” after all, not “Emancipation”.
I have a difficult time saying that any particular film is a “white savior” film. No single film should bear the burden of collective problem in the industry. The white savior complex is meaningful only when seen as a pattern.
White saviors can be found in many places but thrive in the following environments:
- inner city schools
- American courtrooms
- anywhere in Africa
- sporting grounds
By themselves, these movies do not portend any significant ideas on the depiction of race in movies. Seen together, the pattern is undeniable.
The settings may change but invariably, Hollywood is in love with stories of white people going out of their way to save the “others”. You will notice that many of the themes repeat over the years.
You would be correct in noticing that several of these movies are based on historical events. Is it the film maker’s fault that it was a white lawyer who defended the captured slaves in Amistad? That a white man was actually the head of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry as depicted in Glory? While these may be based on actual events, it’s no coincidence that Hollywood chooses to make such heroic movies, only if the savior is white.
There are of course some who go out of their way to insert white saviors and deserve ridicule. Continue reading “Hollywood’s White Savior Complex”