The Help, a drama centered on African-American maids in Jackson, Mississippi and the white reporter who aims to bring their mistreatment to light, is currently stirring up controversy over its sentimental portrayal of the civil rights movement and relying heavily on a “white savior.” The concern is reasonable, as Hollywood is notorious for sticking to what they know works and sells instead of telling a truthful story—certainly, a less sensitive approach to social commentary.
While the movie’s trailers may have people believing one thing, The Help defies standards and allows each character to work through their problems on their own, white or black. There’s no superheroism here.
Which brings us to Machine Gun Preacher, the latest movie from Gerard Butler and director Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Stranger Than Fiction and Quantum of Solace). In the movie, Butler portrays a former drug dealer who finds new meaning in life after embarking on a mission to save kidnapped children in Sudan. Based on a real life story, it’s a meaty part that, from the looks of the first trailer, Butler has really sunk his teeth into and could spell Oscar-nomination when the awards season rolls around. An inspirational story with bazookas, how could it go wrong?
But considering the fervor of those who found issue with The Help, Machine Gun Preacher seems even more likely to spark debate among those who consider Hollywood a proponent of racial insensitivity. Butler’s Sam Childers is literally a white man coming in and saving the day. Not easy to swallow.
Machine Gun Preacher looks like a solid film, with Butler anchoring and an equally strong supporting cast, including Michelle Monaghan, Kathy Baker and Michael Shannon, backing him up—but this one is certainly at risk of controversy.
But you know what they say: any publicity is good publicity.
Machine Gun Preacher hits September 23. Check out the trailer below.