White Saviors, Netflix and Consumerism
Do you like movies that include:
- White Saviors
- Violent slaughter of brown people
- Violence against children
- Stockholm Syndrome
- american war propaganda
- Predictable narratives
Then you should definitely watch Netflix's latest production: Extraction.
Somehow, in 2020, Netflix still believes that the white savior narrative is acceptable, and that violently killing brown people is "entertainment."
NEWS FLASH: THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.
Basic white savior movies always include some very simple (yet highly detrimental) narratives:
1. They have a white character that is "superhuman" and can do things no other person on earth can.
2. There is a person of color (POC)* that would not survive with out this white character's interjection into their lives.
3. A belief that the white character is acting out of selfless intentions.
4. A Stockholm syndrome transition when the POC believes that the white character has pure intentions.
Movies like this are written by white people* for white-people. They attempt to play on one's heart strings in the push for "feel good" movies, where there is always a positive ending. Some great examples of other white savior movies include: The Blind Side, Freedom Writers, The Last Samurai, and sooooo many others.
To read more about this issue from additional writers of color, check out this story in the Atlantic by Teju Cole, this blog post from Onlyblackgirl, and this article by Fariha Roisin. And if you still don't believe it's an issue, keep reading, there are plenty more articles and blogs available for your educational pleasure.
So lets break down the movie! If you still want to watch this excuse for entertainment, be warned there are spoilers below.
First, let's talk about our "superhuman" Tyler Rake, an ex-military, opioid addict that voluntarily went to war instead of staying and supporting his wife while his 6-year old child was dying of cancer. What a great guy. He is considered an expert in the highly regarded position of mercenary. But don't forget, he is a "good" person because he doesn't kill children... just everyone else. He feels a lot of guilt for abandoning his family and only took this job for the money, and because he wants to die, but for some reason doesn't want to kill himself (what a hero). Did I mention he is addicted to pills, and was still asked to lead an "expert" extraction mission... oh right, I did. He is truly a superhero.
Second, lets discuss our POC who needs to be saved. This character is a child, making them a more vulnerable candidate for the white man to save, who has been kidnapped by a rival drug lord. Wow, aren't this plot lines intricate? The child, Ovi, is highlighted to be a piano player, because why would you save a brown child without special skills? Ovi also hates his drug lord father, because he is a murderer (don't forget this part). He sneaks out of the house one night, gets his best friend killed, and "starts" this entire chain of white savior events. Did you forget that the father was a drug lord, and the most likely reason this entire plot exists? I almost did too, since they (the white comic and screen play writers) tried to push that major element under the rug by only briefly showing the father once throughout the entire movie. Additionally, Ovi is told to hide during all of the violent killing scenes, because he clearly needs to be saved by the white man. He does end up killing one white man, but only to save his "superhuman" when the Stockholm syndrome had clearly set in (more on this later).
Thirdly, there is a belief that the white savior is acting out of selfless intentions. Wow, if you really believe this then you will be shocked to hear that the white savior specifically tells the child he is only saving him for the MONEY, he is just a PACKAGE to the white savior. Surprise, surprise. Now, if you are thinking that when Ovi kills Tyler's old friend (that random white guy that just so happens to live in a Bangladesh and have a wife, that we never see) that Tyler would fall in love the child and suddenly care for him like his own son... then you are sadly forgetting that he abandoned his own son. Tyler is still operating on the fact that saving this kid is a job for him and he still wants to be paid. The gushy love story is a lie folks.
Lastly, let's discuss the quickness and absurdity of the Stockholm syndrome (SS). Wow, is it mind boggling. It only takes the gifts of a bullet proof vest and a protein bar for Ovi to start considering that Tyler might actually be a "good guy." Although later the same day, Ovi has an entire conversation with Tyler about the fact that Ovi is no more than a "package in brown paper" to him. Ovi's father has an aid named Saju, who watches over Ovi, and went to Bangladesh to specifically help rescue the child, because they could not afford the full mercenary fee. Saju is also an ex-special forces operator, but is no match for super Tyler. When Ovi sees Saju, he does not immediately go to the familiar face because the SS has already set in. Ovi chooses to leave with Tyler (choosing his as his savior), although Saju has been badly injured by Tyler.
Remember when I mentioned earlier that Ovi hates his father because he kills people? Yet somehow Ovi is able to look past the fact that not only does Tyler kill people for a living, but violently murders them in front of his own eyes. It's absolutely absurd that Ovi would ever come to love this man, because he is exactly like his father. How ever would this story make any sense unless is was written from the mind of a white savior???
Tyler eventually reaches out for Saju's help, something he would have done in the first place if he wasn't only saving Ovi for the money. In the end, Saju dies the real hero, doing everything he can to protect Ovi, while Tyler pops in at the end killing more brown people, before his team whisks the boy away from the violence. There is a glimpse of Tyler at the end of the movie, indicating that Tyler somehow survives being shot several times, including once in the neck, and falling off a bridge a couple stories high, you know, typical white savior shenanigans.
There is talk that Netflix will do a sequel to this movie, due to all of the "great" ratings and huge fan base, this type of american war propaganda brings in top dollars for the company.
Please educate yourselves and recognize theses patterns in the different media you consume. As long as people are blissfully unaware of the negative stereotypes, oblivious to the impact of visual violence, and have a vested interest in war propaganda against POC, people will continue to watch and support movies that socialize us to believing in white savior culture.
You may have read some of my previous blog posts, or are familiar with my Instagram page. This may seem like a very different voice from me, if you don't know me in person. I have been on a path to becoming more anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-consumerist for the last couple of years, and have struggled to express my views on these issues through social media. Topics that I have worked on unlearning and growing more comfortable with in my personal life do not translate easily into a simple Instagram post. This movie struck a cord with me, it lit up red flags for every issue I have been working to unlearn during this process.
This movie highlighted capitalism through the two different drug lords amassing wealth (huge homes, gold clad furniture) through the exploitation of workers, at one point it was clear that children were being used to make their money. Racism was shown through the white savior lens, and sexism shown through the lack of female characters (right on par with most action films).
The consumerism mentality is not restricted to the items we purchase with money; it includes the media we watch, listen and subscribe to, the people we believe in and vote for, the books and authors we support. Most importantly it includes the items we learn about then turn around and share with our friends and family. I believe we need to be highly aware of the items we ingest to ensure we are not supporting narratives that continue to suppress and oppress people of color.
Thanks for reading, I hope you were able to learn something and will look out for these detrimental narratives in the future!
*White-people - People who only marked "White" on the race category in the US 2020 census.
*People of Color - Anyone who marked a different box (or an additional box) under the race category in the US 2020 census.