Revisiting The White Savior Complex

Our White Saviors

Dances with Wolves: John Dunbar

Avatar – Jake Sully

Matthew Hughey: White Savior Film

The following constitutes the various aspects of a “White Savior Film” according to Matthew Hughey.

  • Crossing the Color and Culture Line
  • His Saving Grace
  • White Suffering
  • The Savior, the Bad White, and the Natives
  • The Color of Meritocracy
  • White Civility, Black Savagery
  • “Based on a True Story”: Racialized Historiography
White Saviors On Trial

Case Studies: We will analyze our core films and The Help to determine if they are guilty of being a white savior film according to Hughey.

Dances with Wolves


The Help
Closing Ideas

Hughey: “The content of these films demonstrates a twofold dynamic: they collectively reflect the dominant ideological currents and unsettles racial times of each decade, and the demostract their creators’ attempts to design products that will resonate with audiences’ differing tastes and understandings of race relations”


Hughey: These films reinforce stereotypes of indigenous people and minorities  and take away from the real issue the film is about

Student thoughts:

Martinez: As read in an article in the first week of class, directors will make stories that they know. These films aren’t about a white savior, these films are about a white protagonist recognizing their privilege.


Martinez: A white savior film really disregards the ability of the minority groups to solving their own problems i.e. The Blind Side & Freedom Writers

Sites DOT MiddleburyThe Middlebury site network.