Wa’qaar A Mirza, Co-Founder and Global CEO of Safi Ideas, shares his perspective on racial discrimination in filmmaking and calls for a truthful representation in future storytelling.
I am nostalgic for films depicting Britain's triumphant hits. Laurence of Arabia is beautiful, isn't it? It makes you proud. Put aside your concerns that an untrained Oxbridge graduate leads a foreign revolutionary army through the impassable Negev desert to slaughter the Turks. Instead, focus on the music and the sight of Peter O’Toole wrapped in Arabic robes and riding a camel through the desert. I feel inspired. Perhaps I, too, could enlighten the Middle East with my western attitude with rudimentary military preparation?
Welcome to one of the best celluloid examples of the white rescue film. As the sociologist Matthew W. Hughey defines in his book of the same name, the narrative about the white savior is usually based on a true story and involves a non-white character or community being saved from danger by the victims of a protagonist of a white hero becomes. The danger in the plot may arise from discrimination that threatens physical harm, a prejudicial legal system, or extreme poverty, but it will always ignore the fact that the central conflict itself was caused by white supremacy. Essentially, it is the White Savior's people who penalized the BAME characters in the first place.
To combat racial discrimination in filmmaking, this perspective needs to change. So what do we do What should our new approach be? Gone with the Wind was temporarily removed from its OTT platform in response to protests and the realization that the romanticization of the past made a statement that black bondage was acceptable. When it was reintroduced on the platform, there was an additional hour-long Q&A intro with a diverse panel of experts on the film's legacy and a disclaimer that the film denies the horrors of slavery.
Is that the best we can do? Is that really enough? Should we republish Green Book with a prologue warning viewers that the movie's makers fully accept people of color and don't need whites to teach them how to have a good time? Do Indiana Jones viewers need to be given advance notice that the crude racist stereotypes depicted in the film should offend and not inspire a sense of pride in the West? Or can we add a disclaimer before the opening credits of the films Three Kings and Million Dollar Arm recognizing the fact that racially diverse sports teams can achieve incredible victories without relying on a white coach to get to the finals?
One of the biggest problems with all of these films is that white writers create black and brown narratives. More diverse writing teams are needed. And it's not just racist stereotypes that are the problem. PT Barnum made his fortune famous with the backs of the disabled artists he employed. The Greatest Showman to Glorify His Life was a huge box office hit. On the one hand it offered the idea that PT Barnum was a unfortunate individual who wanted to profit from "freaks", on the other hand the whole concept of "freak shows" became sweeter for the white liberal elite by just showing how much he cared about his employees. Some might speculate that Barnum would have had no reason to save them from the deliberately started fire that threatened their lives if Barnum's performing acts had not been taken out of the darkness and made the objects of ridicule and hatred that they were.
It could be argued that these films, with their clandestine dose of prejudice, are actually more harmful than films that portray unapologetically cartoonish stereotypes. They are meant to make a white liberal audience feel good about themselves. that they make their contribution to racial equality; that the problem of racism is solved. They often feature black narrative but not black POV and have little consideration for the community they represent. The characters of the color are often underdeveloped, submissive, or simply secondary to the main action, with their primary goal being to help the white hero achieve his goal. An often cited example of this is The Oscar, which won the Oscar. It's about the story of how a white journalist made it possible for black women to get their stories published.
In some cases, the agenda of the film about the white savior is not only misjudged but also highly unsavory. Laurence of Arabia helped hide the masses that the real reason the Middle East was so viciously cut up by its invaders was the unprecedented ills and spoils of war of European courts. It is well documented that Constantinople was home to one of the most respected civilizations in the world. So it would take a hell of a big theme song to convince a western audience that Lawrence made their life better. But it worked! Now that we are older and wiser, it is not time to make films that showcase the brutality and destruction that Lawrence and his hero-contemporaries wrought. Films that show life, culture and societies that have been irreparably damaged?
Unconvinced? Do you think this film and others as if it were "its time"? Then think about it: imagine Britain becoming vulnerable after Brexit and eventually coming under the jurisdiction of Moscow or Beijing, which cost many lives in Britain. Would it ever occur to us to be civilized? Would we ever look at grandiose displays and thank our invaders for giving us a superior society and a superior political system?
The recent # BlackLivesMatter movements have resulted in statues of racist oppressors overturning, and I want to speak to the filmmakers that now is the time to get into historical whitewashed film agendas, spread knowledge, and the other half of the Story to deliver. Let's tell the truth for once. This is the only way to end the hatred and divisions created by glamorous epic films that faked history for fame.
About Wa & # 39; qaar A Mirza
Wa & # 39; qaar A Mirza is the Co-Founder and Global CEO of Safi Ideas. An accomplished UK entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience in direct response marketing strategy, Mirza has held senior positions at leading global media, financial and consumer brands such as PWC, British Telecom and HSBC.
An accomplished writer, speaker, producer, and director, Wa & # 39; qaar has worked primarily in cultural and religious production, with an emphasis on content that works toward greater equality and visibility for marginalized groups. Mirza has produced programs for National Geographic and the Discovery Channel.
In 2020, Safi Productions launched Zayn and Zaynas Little Farm, an inclusive preschool animation show that has set itself the task of conveying inclusive ideas and teachable moments in friendliness, mindfulness, family and community to all children.