White Man’s Burden

Richard Dyer writes about the difficulty of representing whiteness as an ethnic category in mainstream film in his article “White”.  He writes that “the colourless multi-colouredness of whiteness secures white power by making it hard, especially for white people and their media, to “see” whiteness (p. 459).”  An interesting, if not controversial film released in 1995, titled “White Man’s Burden” deals with this difficulty by setting the plot in an alternative America where the blacks are members of social elite, and whites are inhabitants of inner city ghettos. The film flips stereotypes upside down and lets the audience watch the effect that skin color has on countless social behaviors.  But, the title itself is directed towards conventional views, after all it is the white man’s burden…  Still, I think the premise of this film definitely allows the viewer to see whiteness as Dyer describes.

Below is a clip from the film and a link to the trailer:



2 Responses

  1. I think the idea of this movie is very interesting! Although I’ve never seen (or heard of) this movie, the clips and trailers give an idea of what characteristics of the other race that the filmmakers chose to extract and use as representative of each race. It’s definitely worth discussing why they chose to have Travolta adopt an affectation to his speech in order to “represent” the black or oppressed class.

  2. About this movie: sometime ago, I read a book by a British author (Marjorie Blackman, I think) called “Noughts and Crosses” which explores same concept, more or less. It was a fascinating book about an interracial relationship and the power relationship between blacks and whites. It would probably make an interesting read as a supplement to the movie.

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