Hollywood says only white people can save us

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It seems one of the most powerful notions in Hollywood is that black people can’t do anything for themselves. I’m sorry; I just have trouble understanding why nearly every movie about African Americans portrays us as having a weakness only white people can help us overcome. It’s starting to be a bit annoying, not to mention redundant. I’m sure we have all seen the preview that sounds something like this:

Kai Beasley

Announcer: “In a world where people of color from the inner city act like blatant stereotypes, one woman understood how to touch them better than they understood how to touch themselves. When no one else cared, there was one white woman who was willing to give them a chance. Michelle Pfeiffer in . . . “Dangerous Minds.”

Two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank is starring in a similar film. Maybe you’ve seen the preview. It sounds something like this:

Announcer: “From the producers of all those other movies where white people are the only people who can save poor ethnic kids comes the same freakin’ story that you’ve seen over and over. When a bunch of unruly ethnic kids don’t want to listen to anyone, a random white woman is able to reach them. This time, it’s for real. This time, it’s for the future. This time . . . It’s not Michelle Pfeiffer. Hillary Swank in . . . “Freedom Writers .”

I mean, COME ON! African Americans don’t need white actors to help them do stuff. So what if Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise helped me write this article; that’s the exception, not the rule. So what if John Travolta helps me dress myself every morning, it can just as easily be Samuel L. Jackson. The fact that I can’t eat breakfast in the morning without being spoon-fed by Bruce Willis means nothing; Jamie Foxx can spoon-feed me anytime.

But seriously, are we as helpless and naive as our characterizations in film portray us? No! Do white people really care about our problems as much as they do in films? No! That’s the reason things are they way they are. If people cared as much as they do in the movies, there wouldn’t be any more movies like that, because society would have changed. But what really grinds my gears is that few movies give black people credit for the things we do for ourselves. In fact, the only thing they do give us credit for being good at is drug dealin’, rappin’ or pimpin’. Now I don’t know about you all, but I stopped pimpin’ a long time ago, and I would like to think that I have moved on to better things.

16 thoughts on “Hollywood says only white people can save us

  1. rikyrah

    Well, I’m glad the my girlfriends and I aren’t the only ones who feel this way.

    When I saw the first trailers for Freedom Writers, I rolled my eyes, and muttered, ‘ not again’ (clean version).

    My girlfriend and I were sitting around when the last time that a Black person got to help and save Black kids, and we came up with Morgan Freeman as Joe Clark. And before that, Sidney Poitier.

    Being the child of an educator who specifically CHOSE to teach in the ‘inner city’ for 35 years, it gets my goat to see folks like my mother and her cohorts, who slugged it out, and went to work everyday to educate our children in systems that didn’t value their work, and only the occasional parent (unfortunately) who also got what the teachers were doing for them. Actually demanding excellence while a system around them told the kids that low expectations were all they could acheive.

    But, of course, we can NEVER get a Black Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Dead Poets Society, or the movie with Kevin Kline a few years ago …..it always has to be some YOUNG WHITE TEACHER who just drops in to save our children.

    Whatever.

  2. Rikyrah,

    After Finding Forrester, I could tell my best friend was getting tired of the “Save-us-from-ourselves-please-white-man/woman-movie genre.” When I suggested Finding Forrester, I damn near lost my life.

    Needless to say, I didn’t ever bring up anything remotely like that again.

  3. Hollywood is right…only white people can save the likes of my ig’nant azz..I’m going to go get some fried chicken, watermelon balls soaked in Alize

    and wait for my white woman to come and save me.
    Maybe I’ll get Jennifer Aniston with her new nose?

    She betta make it quick because I’m getting tired of trying to figure out stuff for myself.

  4. yogo

    The White Knight saving the ethnic kids irritates me on the same level as the Magical Negro–he helps white folks loosen up and enjoy life or teaches lessons about life and love–then goes back to his humble janitor job…

  5. Sylvia, Iamnotstarjones, Yogo,

    It is horribly sad but true that most of us are seen through the prism of stereotypes. Sometimes I feel like I have lived my entire life perceived by others as a stereotype. It’s why I blog.

  6. Omigod, another Kai! How cool is that?!

    And yes, skeptical brotha, I feel the same way about perceived as a stereotype…I mean, I can practically hear gongs and chinky music in people’s heads when they see me walk into a room. It’s tempting for me just bang that gong again just for fun. This is part of my reason for blogging, as well: to give voice to an actual self-aware Asian American perspective, in contrast with the white media’s lame-ass one-dimensional representations.

  7. Well done!
    I would say, in defence of hollywood; that Akeehla & the Bee was a pretty good movie that didn’t fall into that trap.

    I’d be interested to hear your take on movies that fall in the Remember the Titans and Coach Carter line…

  8. dblhelix

    Does Benson qualify as a Magical Negroe?

    He did make his way from butler to Lt Gov. Is this Magic, or an eerie precursor to the Michael Steele story?

  9. rikyrah

    dblhelix,

    You just cracked me up. Cracked me up.🙂

    Remember The Titans – I liked it.

    Coach Carter – ok, against type

    But, both of these are sports movies, and you know Hollywood has NO problem showing Black folk doing some sort of sports.

    Akeelah and the Bee – you just KNOW some Hollywood type was just itching to put the Professor as White. Without Laurence Fishburne being one of the Producers, I doubt a Black man would have been in that role.

  10. It is horribly sad but true that most of us are seen through the prism of stereotypes. Sometimes I feel like I have lived my entire life perceived by others as a stereotype. It’s why I blog.

    My sentiments exactly.

  11. I thought the same thing………another white savior. White people saved Chris Gardner (Pursuit of Happyness). It takes all of us to make the world go ’round, but are there no people of color that have been “saviors” to white people, which can be depicted on the silver screen?

    Even with movies, World Trade Center and Flags of Our Fathers, actual blacks heroes were omitted so that whites could be the prominent heroes.

    In fairness, however, there have been many movies about Black people uplifting or empowering other Blacks (Marva Collins Story, Joe Clark (Lean On Me) – just to name a few.

    But yes, while stories of white heroes do need to be told – as do others – white people do seem to obsess with heroism more than other groups. It helps to feed their psyche of superiority – I think – particularly white males.

    Some white people love being heroes so much that they will spin the the war in Iraq as liberating the Iraqi people when they know it is a lie. Some spin African Captivity in America as an event Black people should be happy about because “white people” rescued Africans from the doldrums and jungles of Africa.

  12. The only movies worth seeing are the ones that don’t get made these days… because Hollywood thinks they would make no money.

    Terrence brings up some good reasoning about why we keep seeing the same themes…the heroism theme especially. And yes, if you really want to see white people weird out and used tortured logic, etc., just bring up the topic of slavery.

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