synonymous with evil

Watched The Last King of Scotland last night. Strong Minor Bridge thought it was a mild depiction of the horrors Idi Amin wrought on his country in a mere nine years, enough to rank him with Stalin, Lenin, and Pol Pot as the worst dictators of all time. As a character study, I wondered about the historicity of the role of the Doctor as the foil for showing Amin’s volatile and manipulative nature. The character of Dr. Nicholas Garrigan in the film is a fiction, however there was a real “white rat” (as opposed to the “white monkey” Garrigan is labeled in the film), Bob Astles.
While there is no doubt that Forest Whitaker is brilliant as Amin (absolutely creepy), I was intrigued by the portrayal by James McAvoy of a young, naive, and very “white” Dr. Garrigan. What is that element in human character that is so prone to worship, so heedless of cautionary warnings, so bent on idealistic vision that hard evidence fails to convey meaning? How frightening to be pulled so far “in” as to be unable to escape, yet how consequential. The lines concerning racism in the film are compelling: all of them point to the power of “whiteness” as an unconscious (in Garrigan) and deliberative (as experienced through the lens of “blackness” or “Africanness”) force.

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