Coming Soon To a Theater Near You, Another White Man Saves People of Color

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I only saw a glimpse of the preview for the upcoming movie The Great Wall, but what I saw I thought was hallucinating a bit. I thought I saw a white dude in what appears to be battle armor in the middle of what looks like a war. Turns out, the guy I saw was Matt Damon, and last time I checked, he was definitely white. And I knew that the title of the film indicated that the setting was in China as that’s where the Great Wall is. When it was revealed that the movie will feature a white male actor playing the lead hero, one thought came across my mental ticker. ‘Here we go again.”

Asian-Americans including famed actress Constance Wu were not amused. The star of the hit ABC comedy Fresh Off the Boat says that she’s sick of Hollywood “whitewashing heroism”. She wrote a lengthy yet poignant letter expressing her frustrations with Hollywood’s continuous obsession with white people saving the world, especially the lives of people of color:

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As you can see, Wu pulled no punches. She wasn’t about to hear any bullshit excuses or whitesplaining babble people of color have heard a thousand times. She even went after the tired-old “It’s about money excuse“.

Sadly, we’ve seen this troupe before in past films such as Dangerous Minds, The Help, The Blind Side, Avatar and The Air Up There, to name a few. And we will see more of the same in future films like the casting of Scarlett Johansson as lead protagonist Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost In the Shell – a movie based on the 1995 anime of the same name.

Call me pessimistic, but if the bigwigs of Hollywood haven’t wised up to see that their audiences of color are tired of seeing white people always saving their people from doom or that they’re sick and tired of seeing white actors cast in protagonist roles more suitable, written and intended for people of color, then it’s likely they’ll never get with the program. The push for white supremacy remains strong in the entertainment industry with white saviors as part of the racist propaganda machine. Of course, no one is saying that white people can’t be heroes, but dammit, they ARE NOT the only heroes, in real life or on the big screen.

For the moment, let’s just thank the Heavens and breathe a sigh of relief that they didn’t cast someone like say…Benedict Cumberbatch as the leading role for the 2018 Black Panther movie. (Nothing against Cumberbatch or his acting prowess. It just would not be too far-fetched, given Hollywood’s record, that the thought of having a white actor play a black African superhero would cross their minds.)

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6 thoughts on “Coming Soon To a Theater Near You, Another White Man Saves People of Color

  1. The Great Wall is also in keeping with this trend I ve noticed lately of White male heroes in Asian movies, but if any Black people are present, they’re often villains, like Mike Tyson. It’s very weird. There’s a few of them on Netflix, and I include the series Marco Polo in this too ( the show is full of Asian actors as its set in the East, but Polo is the center of the narrative. I’m not sure if he’s a hero, tho’.)

    I generally avoid Eastern movies with Western actors in them. I’m not interested in watching White people in Asian movies,as their acting styles and accents often don’t mesh well with the other actors, often looking and seeming like they’re in a completely different movie. I’m used to seeing only Asian actors in these movies after years of watching Chinese and Japanese action films, and it’s very jarring for me to suddenly see a Westerner in the middle of the story.

    Does the idea that it’s a Chinese owned company making this decision complicate matters?

  2. There’s also another trope I haven’t seen touched on by most people. The White Savior trope reinforces the idea that it’s individual behavior that can save people rather than collective behavior.

    It’s always the “Lone Savior”, in these narratives. Although I don’t imagine Hollywood would be able to get away with the idea of groups of white people doing good works, considering how history actually played. Collective works of good is not a trope that supporters of White supremacy want to established ther . That idea that collectively Whtie people could accomplish some good in the world. They don’t have much choice but to make the narrative about “the individual”.

    This accounts also for white people’s inability to think of themselves and the their behavior in terms of group dynamics, and accounts for their persistence that racism is an individual choice or behavior, rather than a collective/institutional act.

  3. Even though I agree with what was said here, it’s white folks’ money, so of course they are going to show themselves as heroic defenders of justice. We should expect it by now.

  4. These movies continue to bomb at the box office, yet they continue to make them. Last air bender was horrible, dragon ball evolution was atrocious, machine gun preacher was a laughable attempt and don’t get me started on ghost in a shell and Gods of Egypt.

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