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Octavia Spencer

The Atticus Finch effect at the movies: Do we still need a white savior?

The Atticus Finch effect at the movies: Do we still need a white savior?

Something odd happens after Gregory Peck delivers one of cinema's most celebrated courtroom orations as attorney Atticus Finch in the 1962 film adaptation of "To Kill a Mockingbird." The wrongful conviction of his client, a black man named Tom Robinson accused of raping a white woman, unfolds as an afterthought. When the trial's white audience files out, the black observers in the balcony remain, not to express anger or grief, or to confer about how to help Robinson's wife and children, but to honor Atticus by rising silently from their seats. "Miss Jean Louise, stand up, your father's passin'," an admiring black minister tells Atticus'...

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