This trope has been going around again. So here's a helpful refutation of the idea that Dune is a "white savior" story.
The video is put together by a prominent black science fiction critic.
I don't agree with every point he makes. But the key ones are irrefutable for anyone who reads the books at all closely. Note that point 3 is a spoiler to those who have not read the books:
- The available textual evidence suggests that Paul and the other Atreides are not white (as we understand that term today).
- Dune is set thousands of years in the future in an era when generations of intermarriage have effaced and rendered irrelevant the racial/ethnic distinctions that matter in our time (though there are other cultural conflicts, of course).
- Most important of all (SPOILER here):
Paul, regardless of his race, is NOT actually the savior of the Fremen! The point of the story is to critique his charismatic leadership of that people, not praise it. Frank Herbert even explicitly said that the danger of charismatic leadership was the point of the story. Even Paul himself recoils in horror at the evil he unleashes.
I would add that Dune is also NOT a simple left-wing story where a pure and noble native culture gets spoiled and/or "appropriated" by evil imperialists. Herbert shows that preexisting Fremen society was deeply flawed and unjust, and that many of its structures and traditions are themselves the products of past oppression and manipulation. But that's a subject for another post.