A lot to unpack here
Release date: December 25, 1962
Director: Robert Mulligan
Who should watch this movie: High school students
When should you watch this movie: In your high school english class
The sell: This movie was monumental for a lot of reasons, especially for its time. It was also emblematic of the same entrenched racism that it was attempting to address. This is a classic white savior story, where a narrative about racism revolves around a white person acting heroically for the benefit of a black person or people. The centering of a fictional white character in a story about racial injustice, especially when it frames being not racist as a heroic act, erases black voices. Furthermore, it allows a white audience to engage with racial violence without being uncomfortable. By identifying with Atticus, white viewers can feel smugly content in their “not racism.” One could argue that at the time, the white savior narrative was an important channel through which white people could begin engaging with issues of racial justice. But it quickly allows one white man’s heroism to absolve “well intentioned” and “not outwardly racist” white people writ large, which does more harm than good. Though I would recommend that everyone see this movie, I would note that a critical eye is necessary for truly absorbing its message.