Price Laurel, Literary Trope
A Kirkus Review on idiot characters turns into an examination on the White Savior Trope.
The White Savior Trope is one that gets thrown around for accusatory references.
September 12, 2021
Kirkus Reviews gave Predator / Nomad a mixed review. I'm thankful, but I'd like to address it. Specifically, this passage:
"Price is supposed to read as naïve, but he frequently comes across as an idiot: 'One thing runs through his mind: clones. If Jordan is creating clones, then that is illegal. Especially if she's making them for mass production. There's got to be a law against that, somewhere. Also, it's unethical. If Jordan successfully cloned a human being and then terminated said human being, then that constitutes murder. However, is the clone considered a human being?' Some of the other characters don't fare much better. Few are fully convincing in the roles they occupy."
If I've created idiot characters, then that's my fault, and I take full responsibility. However, I take issue with the quote because it's the character wondering the parameters of cloning, and the problem gets addressed as it is a prominent theme in the book. Cloning is legal with some restrictions; actual life facts.
Let's talk about Price Laurel because, as the main character of Predator / Nomad, he takes objective action to achieve his goal. He makes every choice for the betterment of his fellow man. Price is at odds with this theme, and as the creator, I'd like us to see it as a new social order. What do we owe our fellow man? Price is selfless. He has to do something to validate his existence in San Francisco. It's his personal desire, his selfish goal.
Saleh and Jordan are the focus of early reviews. Representing two sides of a very selfish coin; tit for tat, revenge, etc. Judge these characters based on their actions. The critic response to Jordan and Saleh is like watching the Matrix and rooting for Agent Smith.
Price is the person we should aspire to be. People idolize wealthy doctors because they seemingly have the freedom we covet. Similarly, the Saudi princess lives a life of excess but still strives to do the "right" thing. The bottom line is both Jordan and Saleh commit unethical acts with redemptive qualities. They are who we want to be, but Price is who we should be or, most likely: who we are. But therein lies the rub; we should take solace because most of us are not in a position to hurt society. In fact, if given Saleh or Jordan's power, we should aspire to do what Price does and help our fellow man.
A Literary Trope is typically used to echo a story's theme. It accentuates a plot by providing a juxtaposition to conventional thought.
On a grander scale, what is it about the fool trope that we dislike? Price is literally a fool entering a new world, rightly insecure, and turns his persona towards the end, actively stopping the violence.
Now we have a more compelling argument; do we dislike Price because he's a male with light skin? A white savior that fulfills the stereotype of saving darker-skinned characters. Are we in that world yet? The world where it's trendy to hate white males. Is that a trope?
Think about all those great books with white male leads, The Stranger, Lord of the Rings, Catcher in the Rye, and just about every single story ever. Since the beginning of time, it's been fed to us: Jesus, Julius Caesar, Oedipus, Ulysses, etc.
Let's define the white savior concept. The term white savior refers to a white person who provides help to non-white people in a self-serving manner and is sometimes combined with savior complex in descriptions of a white savior complex. If it has to be self-serving to be a white savior, then Price is pretty selfless, but if you see giving as a selfish act to make yourself feel better, then that is self-serving, and so are all acts of philanthropy.
A conundrum in itself, philanthropy is a two way street, rewarded by taxes.
Altruism is the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. Self-perception, the way we see ourselves. Don't we want to be seen as generous? Caring? We can only be judged by our actions. Doing good makes you feel good about yourself. Doesn't doing wrong? There may be exceptions.
Anastasia and the theory of altruism. This movie illustrates the point. Dimitri returned his love to her family and gave up the reward money. His act was selfless, and he held true to what he believed. Technically, it's a selfish reason. He didn't accept that money because he would've felt wrong. The perception of himself. If you want to go further with Disney, watch The Road to El Dorado or The Once and Future King and look for white saviors vs. colonizers. It gets very messy.
All in all, remember that we need a good mix of racial representation within our stories. Although, the white savior trope is a horse that's been beaten to death. We can't cut it out entirely unless risking history repeating. Imagine 100 years from now complaining of a black savior or savage savior. I'm not fond of that thought but let's talk again around September 2121. Then we'll see the social climate and determine if we've made progress.
BTW, Price has a 9 chapter backstory. His father is Latino, and his mother is white, so his white savior label may not fit. Also, Price doesn't save much of anyone for all his hard work. In fact, by the end, he wishes he could go back and change it all. Can anyone relate to that? Maybe that's a good reason to hate him.