"Screen Saviours" studies how the self of whites is imagined in Hollywood movies - by white directors featuring white protagonists interacting with people of another colour. This collaboration by a sociologist and a film critic, using the new perspective of critical "white studies", offers a bold and sweeping critique of almost a century's worth of American film, from "Birth of a Nation" (1915) through "Black Hawk Down" (2001). "Screen Saviours" studies the way in which the social relations that we call "race" are fictionalized and pictured in the movies. It argues that films are part of broader projects that lead us to ignore or deny the nature of the racial divide in which Americans live. Even as the images of racial and ethnic minorities change across the 20th century, Hollywood keeps portraying the ideal white American self as good-looking, powerful, brave, cordial, kind, firm and generous: a natural-born leader worthy of the loyalty of those of another colour. The book invites readers to do their own analyses of films by showing how this can be done in over 50 Hollywood movies.
Among these are some films about the Civil War - "Birth of a Nation", "Gone With the Wind" and "Glory"; some about white messiahs who rescue people of another colour - "Stargate", "To Kill a Mockingbird", "Mississippi Burning", "Three Kings" and "The Matrix"; the three versions of "Mutiny on the Bounty" (1935, 1962 and 1984) and interracial romance -"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner". Forty years of Hollywood fantasies of interracial harmony, from "The Defiant Ones" and "In the Heat of the Night" through the "Lethal Weapon" series and "Men in Black" are examined. This work in the sociology of knowledge and cultural studies relates the movies of Hollywood to the large political agendas on race relation in the United States. "Screen Saviours" should appeal to the general reader interested in the movies or in race and ethnicity as well as to students of communication, American studies, critical white studies, American film, cultural studies and the sociology of race relations.
Hernan Vera is professor of sociology at the University of Florida and an author of several books on race relations. Andrew M. Gordon is associate professor of English at the University of Florida and a film critic.