White Savior Complex

Ngai’s piece discussed the pairing of desire and disgust in a very intriguing way, and it made me think about the articles we have read in the last week more. The difference between the two emotions, but how often they are juxtaposed is a weird phenomenon. Ngai explains that disgust is urgent and specific, while desire is often vague and ambivalent, and how the rhetoric surrounding both emotions are vastly different. Moreover, Ngai references arguments, such as Miller’s argument that disgust ranks and orders people in hierarchies. This thought made me circle back to my final project topic, because I think they relate to each other. When examining the many race-related tropes and stereotypes that appear in media, it is clear that a racial hierarchy exists. In many crime shows, its common to see a black actor featured as the criminal, while a white cop is the one saving the day. When black actors are portrayed as cops, it is often within a good cop/bad cop dynamic, where the black cop is the more aggressive one. There is a plethora of films with the trope of the white savior, where a white character saves a character of a different race (think The Blind Side or The Soloist). Obviously, tropes such as these perpetuate the hierarchy of race that has so deeply been engrained in our society. While many works of media have challenged these norms, it is quite apartment that the underlying sentiment stubbornly remains in the industry, and much more progress must be made.

As I mentioned before, my video was inspired by the quote “…Disgust ranks and orders us in hierarchies by making assessments of inferiority and superiority, and, in particular, but doing the moral work of disapprobation or blame.” I chose not to include the text in the video, as I was relating it to the white savior complex, not the emotion of disgust. I cut clips from two movie trailers (The Soloist and The Blind Side) that highlights the white savior aspect of the films, and included several points from a video of a man discussing the impact of the white savior complex. The point of the video is to get people thinking about the implications not of the existence of these kinds of dynamics simply, but about the implication of the lack of variety in race/power dynamics in media. The problem isn’t necessarily that some films, like The Blind Side, feature a white character saving a black character. The problem lies more so in the fact that those power structures are the overwhelming norm in films/media. Holistic and realistic representations of race needs to be a priority in the film/tv industry.
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