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The American Comparative Literature Association

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Organizer: Jamie Buster

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The White-Hat Savior: Red Dead Redemption 2  and the White Savior Complex

For the past 100 years the story of the white hat cowboy riding into the sunset has dominated the American Western genre. However, in the past few decades there has been a widespread examination of  these narratives and the use of the White Savior in American Western storytelling. While there has been extensive examination of the White Savior Complex in film and writing, there is little research into the impacts of how the world of gaming perpetuates this white savior narrative, specifically in the western genre. In this paper, the author will argue that Rockstars Game open world game Red Dead Redemption 2 perpetuates the narrative of the White Savior and continues the conversation on the use of the White Savior as a protagonist in American Western stories. Using the New Historicist theory, this paper will argue that the game’s attempts at creating an accurate American Western game actually creates a White Savior narrative in a genre that already perpetuates this stereotype.  The author will analyse the works of Teju Cole’s article “The White Savior Industrial Complex,” published in The Atlantic, as a lens to analyze three key moments throughout the game where the protagonist, Arthur Morgan, interacts with a KKK meeting, receives a quest from an indigenous chief and his son, and aids a traveling black doctor. This paper sheds light on how this game perpetuates the harmful white savior narrative through the narrative of the western cowboy.


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