White Man’s Burden

You know what I’m sick of seeing on TV and in movies? Some white dude swooping in to protect and save either women, minorities, or people from a different culture from some thing – be it sexual slavery, rape, themselves, etc. What spurred this rant? This week’s NCIS episode.

Now normally, I love me some NCIS and Leroy Jethro Gibbs. (Mark Harmon just does it for me. I realize this makes me some kind of old, but whatever. Don’t judge me.) But this episode just pissed me off. Why? Because ostensibly, the episode was about smuggling Afghani women who were fleeing arranged marriages or abusive husbands into America. The women came to attention because some Afghani families hired a hitman to find the escaped women in America and “honor kill” them by dumping acid in their face. (Apparently too much hydroflouric acid can cause cardiac arrest. Who says TV doesn’t teach you anything?)

However, mostly the episode just highlighted Gibbs and his guilt over not helping earlier. When an Afghani women’s shelter is threatened with a bombing by the local men, Gibbs goes outside and fights off the mean Afghani men. *eyerolls* The women are just props and background. You never care about them except in a vague “feed the children” kind of way, and the emphasis is only Gibbs, his “bravery” for standing up to those “savages” and how he saves the day.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not pro bombings, abusing women, or marrying teenage girls to old men. But really? FFS, people. White dudes are not the only saviors in this world but time and time again, we get some stoic, no nonsense white guy swooping in (reluctantly, natch) to save these poor victims from whatever trite villainy of the day. It’s really just a prime time version of the After School Special and the Very Special Episode.

It’s contrived and really fucking annoying.

I’m all for shows that truly highlight issues that are ripped from the headlines, but I am NOT for using whole groups of people – especially victims – as gimmicks. They are only present to set up the hero. This objectifies and re-victimizes these people all over again.

Of course, I’m totally screwing up my explanation. I’m rarely very good at explaining issues of privilege in clear, useful language. I’m much more of a ranty “GAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!! THIS SUCKS BALLS!!” type of reactionary writer. For some coherent reasons why this situation is annoying, here are some recent articles I cribbed from Racialicious.

The Problem With Miss Saigon
Malala Yousafzai and the White Savior Complex
War Before Memory
Mighty Whitey (from TV Tropes)

So that’s what you get today for a post. Rantiness. But it can’t be just me who feels this way, right? RIGHT?

*Image courtesy of Racialicious.

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One thought on “White Man’s Burden

  1. ACtually several long time fans over at IMDB are having a real hard time with it because of the writers not the actors. However, on some level I think its something we all want to do.

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