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James Madison Undergraduate Research Journal (JMURJ)

Authors

Brett Seekford

Abstract

Filmmakers continue to use the “White Savior “ archetype to construct racialized messages in the post-Civil Rights era. These protagonists, who resolutely defend the rights of African Americans, ultimately focalize whiteness and marginalize black characters and voices. Though a white savior features prominently in both To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and The Help (2011), The Help’s regendering of the archetype invites viewers to imagine a world in which a white savior is no longer necessary. The Help’s update on the white savior trope from Atticus Finch to Skeeter Phelan allows for deeper development of black characters and a different ending, and creates opportunities for a further shift in filmic protagonists.