Playing With / White Man's Burden

Basic Trope: A white character sets out to help improve the lives of a (usually racial) minority.
  • Straight: Wanda takes Bill into her Big Fancy House, and helps him achieve his dream of becoming famous.
  • Exaggerated: Wanda seeks to help the entire country of Bulungi.
  • Downplayed: Bill drops his books, and Wanda stops to help him pick them up.
  • Justified:
    • Wanda is a teacher at an Inner City School; getting through to students and helping them succeed in life is her job.
    • Wanda is well-connected and really does have the resources to help Bill, who happens to be her friend regardless of race.
  • Inverted:
  • Subverted:
    • Bill tells Wanda, "Thanks, but no thanks."
    • Wanda's motives are not pure at all; she's doing this as part of an Assimilation Plot or something.
    • Wanda passes Bill's resume along to her contacts, but the rest is all his doing.
    • Wanda is non-white, or not wealthy.
  • Double Subverted:
    • Then he decides he could use Wanda's help anyway, and contacts her again.
    • But Bill doesn't know that.
    • She did not ask Bill if she could do that.
    • But she is privileged in some other way, shape, or form.
  • Parodied:
    • Wanda teaches Bill basic skills, such as how to use a spoon.
    • Bill is actually a Starfish Alien.
  • Zig Zagged: Some cases of this are due to genuine concern; some are only for ulterior reasons; some are for both...
  • Averted:
    • Wanda doesn't help Bill, for any reason.
    • Wanda and Bill's races are never mentioned (as in a piece of literature); the question of what they look like is left up to the audience's imagination.
  • Enforced: "Let's make our story more inspirational!"
  • Lampshaded: "Oh, is your help out of genuine affection... or some kind of guilt?"
  • Invoked:
    • Wanda meets Bill, and he seems really down on his luck, and Wanda feels bad for him.
    • Bill poses as poor and ignorant to help Wanda learn to use her advantaged situation to improve the lot of others.
  • Exploited: Wanda is sent as a missionary to Bulungi to give them access to clean water and food...and also convert them to the church of Crystal Dragon Jesus.
  • Defied: Wanda doesn't really know Bill, or whether he would like help (and if so, how much help is OK versus "too much"), so she gives him her best wishes but doesn't take him under her wing.
  • Discussed: ???
  • Conversed: "And now this white girl is gonna lead the black guy to success because, you know, she's white. Is it always like that the black guy can't achieve anything on his own?"
  • Deconstructed: People of Bulungi don't trust Wanda because they think she might not be as well-meaning as she appears. So they either just ignore her, or worse, start a rebellion to depose their new leaders.
  • Reconstructed: Rather than getting Bulungi outright assimilated into a white culture, Wanda only teaches them to adjust to modern life with all technical and scientific wonders, while encouraging the locals to go on with their old cultural and religious ways (well, most of them) and even taking on some of the local traditions herself.


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