White savior narrative in film
In "The Whiteness of Oscar Night" (2015),
A White Savior film is often based on some supposedly true story. Second, it features a nonwhite group or person who experiences conflict and struggle with others that is particularly dangerous or threatening to their life and livelihood. Third, a White person (the savior) enters the milieu and through their sacrifices, as a teacher, mentor, lawyer, military hero, aspiring writer, or wannabe Native American warrior, is able to physically save—or at least morally redeem—the person or community of folks of color, by the film's end. Examples of this genre include films like
Glory(1989), Dangerous Minds(1996), Amistad(1997), Finding Forrester(2000), The Last Samurai(2003), Half Nelson(2006), Freedom Writers(2007), Gran Torino(2008), Avatar(2009), The Blind Side(2009), The Help(2011)
Following the release of cinematic adaptations of the play
The White Savior trope's prevalence continues in often critically acclaimed films. Joseph Vogel writes of the trope in Django Unchained:
In the crucial climactic scene, the pattern of white centrality holds. It is [the white doctor] Schultz, not [the freed slave] Django, who, racked by conscience kills Calvin Candie, and in doing so, sacrifices his own life. When asked by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. why he decided to make King Schultz the Christ figure, Tarantino claimed he was simply drawing on the tropes of the western.
A study of 50 films between 1987-2011 found that 36% of studied films were produced by the 6 major studios (Sony, Universal, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox/Fox Searchlight, or Warner Brothers). These films are also responsible for a plurality of the major awards in this time period.