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White Saviors and Rose-Tinted Glasses

America loves feel-good movies, especially the movies where a black person and a white person become friends against all odds and live happily ever after.

Just look at movies like “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Green Book.” A few weeks ago, “Green Book” won an Oscar for Best Motion Picture, and a few decades prior, “Driving Miss Daisy” took home the same award.

These movies are the epitome of racial mushy-gushy movies. Take “Green Book” for example. In the movie––which is essentially the opposite of “Driving Miss Daisy”––a black pianist named Dr. Don Shirley embarks on a concert tour in the Deep South during the peak of the Civil Rights Movement.

Shirley recruits Tony Lip as his driver and “bodyguard.” Lip is a white man from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx. To sum up the movie, the two men develop an unexpected friendship while dealing with severe racism in the heart of segregation.

Sounds great, right?

Moving on to “Driving Miss Daisy:” In the 1940s, an elderly Jewish widow with racist views in Atlanta crashes her car, causing her son to arrange a chauffeur for her. The new chauffeur, ironically, is a black man. While their relationship is initially rocky, they slowly form a close bond.

Both of these movies have exceptional values within them, which are important for any time period. However, very few people notice the flawed messages within them and the unintended consequences they provoke.

In both time periods these movies are set, racism was a hot-button issue. It was rare, if it ever occurred, to see a white person and a black person associating together, especially in the Deep South. These movies attempt to create positivity toward both of these eras, perhaps in an attempt to show human decency.

There is nothing inherently wrong about these movies, however, I believe they cause us to subconsciously put on rose-tinted glasses when we look to the past. Movies like this make us think maybe the past was not as bad as we make it out to be. After all, surely people like the characters in these movies existed.

A second issue I have with these movies is the “white savior mentality” underlying each of them. Late Night show host Seth Myers released a satirical trailer a few days prior to the Golden Globes with the caption: “A movie about a black woman who made history and a man who was white when she did.”

The trailer goes on to portray a successful black woman exceeding in her career and kiddingly throws in the importance of the white man by her side. While the trailer is humorous, it shines light on the messages of movies like “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Green Book.” While they may be wonderful films, the message falls short.

Racism was not solved the day Miss Daisy and Hoke Colburn became friends. Racism was also not solved the day Shirley and Lip formed a close bond. When movies like “Get Out” are still being made alongside these feel-good films, it should be a sign we still have issues.

For those who have never seen “Get Out,” the horror movie addresses the relationship between whites and blacks in a modern setting. The movie was released two years ago––decades after racism was “solved.”

Once again, movies like “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Green Book” are not bad movies with bad messages, but I am tired of producers feeling the need to romanticize the past as if this will place a healing Band-Aid over America’s mistakes. The relationships in these movies would have been one in a million for the majority of blacks and whites during the time periods they were set.

While these movies are good, they reject reality and enable viewers to exchange the bigotry of the past for rosy glasses––a past which is still very much real for millions of black Americans.

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