This article looks at two controversial war films—Eye in the Sky (dir. Gavin Hood, UK/South Africa, 2015) and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (dir. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, US, 2016)—both of which feature white female protagonists as conflicted but central participants in the racialized domains of war and political machinations. While one film takes on a serious ethical polemic (the innocent lives of civilians caught in the visual crosshairs of drone cameras) and the latter is a romantic comedy following the adventures of a journalist in Afghanistan, both visually capture important ethical questions around white imperial violence, the disposability of brown lives, and the current political shift of and toward white women in positions of intense power. The article argues that these two technologies of domination—visual culture that entertains its citizens and political practice that secures its citizenry—are profoundly interlinked public archives in which to read what here is called “ethical whiteness,” its relationship to the death drive, and the gendered currency of both. Using the figure of the little brown girl that sits at the center of Eye in the Sky, the fetish object central to the story, alongside the comedic characterology in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, the article underscores how ethical whiteness is tightly bound up with the death drive but in a way that destroys through the empathetic dimension. Analyzing these widely circulated visual moments of “ethical whiteness” exposes a pernicious social text that prioritizes the necropolitical through the necro-pedophiliac.
Moon Charania; Ethical Whiteness and the Death Drive: White Women as the New War Hero. Camera Obscura 1 May 2020; 35 (1 (103)): 109–137. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-8085135
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