Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Sociology (Applied), PhD

Committee Chair

Gast, Melanie Jones

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Christopher, Karen

Committee Member

Rollins, Oliver

Committee Member

Brooms, Derrick R.

Committee Member

Smith-Jones, Siobhan E.

Author's Keywords

controlling image; film; intersectionality; Obama; racism; white savior


This dissertation analyzes how black characters across twenty movies released in the years 2006-2018 inspire, coach, “save,” or “rescue” other characters. Studies on “savior” characters in film tend to focus on white savior characters who seek to “save” people of color from harm. When comparing black characters and white saviors, I find that black characters use three specific strategies—revolution, vigilantism, and altruism —to help other characters. The characters who use the revolution and vigilantism strategies seem to be what I call “black saviors” who work to fight against institutional and systemic racism to save the black diaspora. Altruistic characters seem the most similar to white saviors. I end by discussing my findings and their connection to past literature on race, class, gender, and colorblindness, and I discuss implications for social change.