COLUMN LIKE I SEE 'EM
I hate movies about slavery and civil rights. I hate these movies because they are definitely white people feel-good movies.
That might sound bad taken out of context. Let me explain. Let's look at “The Help.” There are three white characters that make the film a “feel-good” movie in the eyes of white audiences.
The first is a white woman, Skeeter, who decides she's going to write a book about the lives of a select few black people working as helpers. They wash the dishes, cook the food, raise the kids and do pretty much every other household task.
The second, Hilly, is a white woman employing the services of a helper and is portrayed as extremely prejudiced. She even goes as far as building an outhouse in her backyard so her helpers won’t have to use her bathroom.
Next, Minny, one of the black helpers, quits her job for the racist woman and gets a new job for a different white woman, Celia.
This third white woman is different. She's kind, accepting, basically color blind. She treats this black woman as she would any other human being.
At the end of the film, Skeeter, the author writing her novel, finishes and publishes her book. This act makes a difference for the helpers, spreading their story to readers across the country.
These three roles essentially whitewash the film—the racist one, seemingly cartoonish, the colorblind one, accepting and indifferent to society, and the savior, the one white character that helps the cause in such a way that tips the scale from gallant struggle to undeniable victory.
This white savior has to aid with the black struggle and, preferably, be the straw that breaks white power’s back. It doesn't have to be the meat of the resistance, it just has to be the key to the whole thing.
In seeing a film structured this way, with these three white stereotypes, the white person watching can then say, “Oh I'm not that mean white lady. I acknowledge that racism exists and was, and possibly is still, a problem; but it is a problem that I would not, and do not, contribute to. I am actually the extra nice white lady, who treats all as equal, and am indifferent to superficialities such as skin color. Given the opportunity, I would, without a doubt, aid in the struggles of minorities, which are, in fact, just struggles of humans.”
The existence of the racist is there as a way for the white audience to avoid denying racism exists, or at least existed, and the other two white characters promote the idea that we are not racists, and, even if we were born in a society in which it were the norm, we would not be racists.
And I hate that.
It's like a multibillion-dollar industry dedicated to making an entire genre of films allowing us to keep our heads buried.
Now, I realize that these films are appreciated by non-whites, and that they often times do a phenomenal job of depicting the prejudices that black people do and did have to swim against, but I cannot tolerate that, in every film I have seen, a white person held and bestowed the power necessary for liberation. If you have seen a film contrary to this please, let me know.
A white woman writes a book in “The Help.” A white man leads and fights for the first black infantry in “Glory.” It's even a white man who grants Django his godlike marksmanship. Even “Avatar!”
Colored minorities apparently can't do anything unless a white savior gives the go ahead.
My one hope seemed to be “12 Years a Slave.” The main character is seemingly helped by several white people who all end up stabbing him in the back. That is, until Brad Pitt shows up and literally saves the day. What the heck, Brad Pitt? You ruined the best slavery movie ever.
These movies are adored and given awards by guilds and academies left and right, but these are the same academies that have nominated exclusively white actors in all major acting categories for two years straight, something Spike Lee is boycotting this year.
All I want is a film devoid of white influence, and I'm going to have to look outside of Hollywood to find a place where, hopefully, movies aren't as white as the letters on the Hollywood sign.
Kevin Niederman is a junior nursing major hailing from Santa Rosa CA, about an hour north of San Francisco. He enjoys cartoons, hats, and driving ridiculous distances for food that has the potential of being amazing.