Two men at odds in a world turned upside down.White Man's Burden
is a 1995 film starring John Travolta
and Harry Belafonte in an alternate
America in which blacks are the racial majority, and whites are a minority group. Travolta plays as Louis Pinnock, a factory worker, and Belafonte plays as Thaddeus Thomas, the owner of the factory. One day, Louis is asked to deliver a package to Thaddeus' house. However, he accidentally walks by the bedroom window where Thaddeus' wife is undressing. Thaddeus sees him, and reports him to Louis' supervisor, who fires him the next day. Shortly afterwards, Louis is beaten by cops on the way home, evicted from his house, and lands in a sore spot with his family. Unable to find a stable job, Louis kidnaps Thaddeus in order to gain money for his family. A series of events follow that change both of their lives forever.
Not to be confused (and it's not related to) with the trope
with the same name
This film provides examples of
- Angry Black Man: But fitting with the theme of the film, it's actually a Stereotype Flip, with Louis being white instead of black in this film but it's played in the exact same way.
- Bittersweet Ending / Downer Ending: Thaddeus comes to see the error of his ways, but Louis is shot and killed by police, his surviving family now lives in a run-down hotel, and it is implied that Louis' son is likely heading down a bad path.
- Glorified Sperm Donor: Mentioned by Thaddeus when his wife is discussing an event she was at that had inner-city white children there. She is not amused.
- In Spite of a Nail: Despite the cultural reversal, America turned out pretty much the same, just with blacks in traditionally white roles, and vice versa. One slight cultural change that is shown is that heavy metal is the music of ghetto youth, instead of rap and hip-hop.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer makes the movie look like an action thriller where Louis is a Badass Anti-Hero. In actuality, the action moments in the trailer are practically all of the action moments in the entire film. Also, Thaddeus is made to look more villainous. For example, his line "white people are genetically inferior" is taken out of context so that it sounds like he's stating his own opinion.note
- Persecution Flip
- Police Brutality: Louis becomes a victim of this when two cops mistake him for a perp with a similar appearance (i.e. white).
- Scary Minority Suspect: Like many other race tropes, played differently than usual. Louis is thrust into this when two black cops mistake him for a similar looking perp, and eventually leads to his death when the police find him surrendering while he is holding his gun.
- Stereotype Flip: The entire movie has blacks and whites reversing stereotypes. The white Louis' form of speech is very street-wise, whereas the black Thaddus is much more articulate. One minor difference is that the music of white youth is heavy metal instead of rap.
- The Hero Dies: Louis is shot dead by police when they see him holding a gun, even though he is trying to give up.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Thaddeus gives Louis this after he almost escapes him. Ignorant of what Louis has gone through up until his kidnapping, he insists that all of his short-comings are his fault, and his fault alone.