White savior narrative in film
In film, the white savior narrative is a cinematic trope in which a white character rescues people of color from their plight. The white savior is portrayed as messianic and often learns something about themselves in the process of rescuing. The trope reflects how media represents race relations by racializing concepts like morality as identifiable with white people over nonwhite people. White saviors are often male and are sometimes out of place in their own society until they lead minorities or foreigners. Screen Saviors: Hollywood Fictions of Whiteness labels the stories as fantasies that "are essentially grandiose, exhibitionistic, and narcissistic". Types of stories include white travels to "exotic" Asian locations, white defense of racism in the American South, or white protagonists having "racially diverse" helpers.
David Sirota at Salon.com said, "These story lines insinuate that people of color have no ability to rescue themselves. This both makes white audiences feel good about themselves by portraying them as benevolent messiahs (rather than hegemonic conquerors), and also depicts people of color as helpless weaklings—all while wrapping such tripe in the cinematic argot of liberation." Noah Berlatsky in The Atlantic said the narrative varies from film to film, though slavery films, including award-winning ones, lack range in theme. He wrote, "All of these critically acclaimed films use variations on a single narrative: Black people are oppressed by bad white people. They achieve freedom through the offices of good white people." The white savior narrative is considered a cliché in cinema of the United States; the narrative is especially common in films about white teachers in inner cities.
List of films
- "Matthew W. Hughey: The White Savior Film". temple.edu. Temple University. Retrieved October 1, 2014.
- "Interview with Matthew W. Hughey". temple.edu. Temple University. Retrieved October 1, 2014.
- Vera, Hernán; Gordon, Andrew M. (2003). "The Beautiful White American: Sincere Fictions of the Savior". Screen Saviors: Hollywood Fictions of Whiteness. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 32–33. ISBN 978-1-4616-4286-2.
- Sirota, David (February 21, 2013). "Oscar loves a white savior". Salon.com. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
- Berlatsky, Noah (January 17, 2014). "12 Years a Slave: Yet Another Oscar-Nominated 'White Savior' Story". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
- Goff, Keli (May 4, 2014). "Can 'Belle' End Hollywood's Obsession with the White Savior?". The Daily Beast. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
- Lacy, Michael G. (2011). Critical Rhetorics of Race. New York University Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-8147-6529-6.
- Hughey, Matthew W. (Summer 2010). "The White Savior Film and Reviewers' Reception". Symbolic Interaction 33 (3): 475–496. doi:10.1525/si.2010.33.3.475.
- Metz, Jessie-Lane (August 21, 2013). "A Future Without Me: Matt Damon is the Great White Hope in 'Elysium'". Bitch Magazine. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
- Barber, Mike (December 3, 2009). "White Man's Burden Redux: The Movie!". The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
- Barone, Matt (September 20, 2011). "The 10 Lamest White Savior Movies". Complex.com (Complex Media). Retrieved May 14, 2014.
- Gehlawat, Ajay (2013). The Slumdog Phenomenon: A Critical Anthology. Anthem Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-85728-001-5.
- Kivel, Paul (2013). Living in the Shadow of the Cross: Understanding and Resisting the Power and Privilege of Christian Hegemony. New Society Publishers. ISBN 978-1-55092-541-8.
- Hughey, Matthew (2014). The White Savior Film: Content, Critics, and Consumption. Temple University Press. ISBN 978-1-4399-1001-6.