"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"All you need is a nice white lady."

I nearly fell out of my seat with laughter when I first saw this parody video about the "nice white lady" movie cliche, and now Jae Ran Kim has some great commentary about the trend on which the parody is based.  From her blog Harlow's Monkey:
"Taken as a whole, these movies suggest that people of color can't help themselves without the intervention of a white person. Even movies that aren't outwardly based on this premise often include elements of it, and I'm thinking of movies like 'Bring It On - All or Nothing' (the sequel) in which a popular white teen who is cheerleading captain is transferred to an inner city school and has to compete with her old squad in a competition, and somehow wins over her skeptical cheerleading team to lead them to winning over her snotty, rich, former teammates."
So true.  And I think the best point she makes is how although movies like "Dangerous Minds" and "Freedom Writers" may seem to be intended for a diverse audience, they intentionally put the "nice white lady" character at the center of the story.  Who would the white folks have to identify with, otherwise?  She says: "The critique gets lost because we're so caught up in empathizing with just how difficult it is for the White person to overcome their innocence/bias/prejudice/naivite/whatever so they can get on with the business of transforming 'people."  
Kim mentions the movie "Stand and Deliver" as an alternative example where someone from within the community is responsible for transforming students rather than an outsider.  I haven't seen that one, but an alternative I immediately thought of was "To Sir, With Love", wherein Sidney Poitier's character transforms the lives of his white students while withstanding racism from the community.   Can you think of any other examples that subvert the "nice white lady" story?


Molly said...

There's always the "nice token Latino"--what was that Antonio Banderas movie called?
But I'd say the one that comes to mind as an actual possibility is Finding Forrester. I'd have to see it again to be sure (there was definitely an influential teacher involved, and I don't remember who it was) but overall, the black kid unmistakably did more for the old white guy than the other way around, and the movie addressed racism (said black kid being accused of plagiarism, eg) in a concrete way.

Tracey said...

Good suggestion. I never saw Finding Forrester, but I'll have to put it on my list. Thanks!