According to oddsmakers, Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” does not have the best chance of winning the 2013 Academy Award for best picture. That top spot right now goes to Ben Affleck’s “Argo” — but it shouldn’t. If history is any gauge, “Lincoln” has to be the front-runner thanks to its status as this year’s only Oscar-nominated White Savior film.
If you’ve been to the movies in the last half-century, you know the White Savior genre well. It’s the catalog of films that features white people single-handedly rescuing people of color from their plight. 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.
~ from Oscar Loves a White Savior by David Sirota ~
Okay, so Sirota's prediction turned out to be wrong and the oddsmakers got it right. I'm not concerned about that. It has more to do with Sirota's overall point that America seems to love saviors who are white, rich and/or male. Saviors that are non-white, poor and/or female just don't play as well.
At times, Della likes to watch movies on the Lifetime Network. Personally, I can't stand most of them. They typically feature a heroine who, despite being wrong-headed and often hysterical, saves the day with the help of a strong white male. I'm sure you know the type of TV movie I'm referring to. Our heroine decides to confront or chase down some wicked guy. She does so half-cocked and, at some point, falls down and twists her ankle. It looks like it will be the end of her...until her white knight in shining armor arrives in the nick of time.
We see much the same dynamic when it comes to poor people. Yes, they may get the ball rolling, but they almost always hit a major roadblock somewhere along the way and all seems lost...until a person (usually a white male) of means steps in to save the day. The poor schmucks then prostrate themselves at the feet of their rich savior.
And, of course, we can't leave out the Jesus that most fundamentalists worship. While he may not be rich, he is lily white and as powerful as they come. He would be the ultimate example of white power except for one tiny little fact: He actually wasn't a white guy! He was the sort of Palestinian that today's fundamentalists tend to loathe.