Mighty Whitey

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
If movie titles were honest

Jake: I'm one of you. And I have the right to speak!
Mike: Especially since I'm already better at being one of you than all of you are!

A common trope in 18th and 19th century adventure fiction, when vast swathes of the world were being explored and 'properly' documented by Europeans for the first time, Mighty Whitey is usually a displaced white European, of noble descent, who ends up living with native tribespeople and not only learns their ways but also becomes their greatest warrior/leader/representative. Extra points if he woos The Chief's Daughter along the way; an unfortunately common variation that perpetuates into present-day media is that she will continue to love our hero even if he is directly responsible for the death of her husband, brother or even father.

Sometimes the foreign societies are shown to be realistic, three-dimensional and actually rather pleasant places to live. Indeed, sometimes the native peoples are shown to be better in some way than European society and the white man begins to despise his old home. In modern-day fiction, sometimes the Mighty Whitey is there to lead or inspire the Noble Savages or bring some aspect of modern technology or knowledge to their aid, something they presumably could not do before he showed up. One particular version has it so that the sympathetic Author Avatar whitey is not only now the Great White Hope for the non-white Noble Savages, but is very often defending them from other evil whites.

In modern-day fiction—particularly in Hollywood movies—Mighty Whitey pops up as the result of creative types trying to appeal to as broad a cross-section of society as possible to get their cash back. And since the majority of major Hollywood stars are white Americans (despite the fact that only a small minority of their audiences are Americans at all, let alone white Americans), it's almost inevitable that the all-singing, all-dancing hero is also going to be registering low on the melanin count... which can become a self-perpetuating mess.

Of course, these writers might also just be doing the respectable thing, and be writing what they know. Perhaps not in the 'I'm a badass Adventurer Archaeologist' sense, but the 'I'm used to the cultural norms of my race/gender, and would be terrified of offending people with incorrect cultures cues' sense. See Jive Turkey as well.

Remakes of shows/movies with the original trope often subvert this; for instance, making the Mighty Whitey into a dunce, and their Ethnic Scrappy sidekick into a smart, street-savvy Badass. Sometimes this goes a little too far. This trope can also occur as an unintended side effect of writers trying to show the equality of all races and cultures—in a tone-deaf and more than potentially offensive kind of way.

Non-American media, such as anime, can exhibit versions of this trope tailored to their home audiences. But Not Too Foreign is often used as a way to set up this version of Mighty Whitey.

Can be a Justified Trope as it did happen in real life. Explorers from a more advanced civilization had access to education, technology and general skills and experience that a native who never traveled further than the neighboring village didn't. Especially as only those who were already among the strongest and bravest in their home countries did have the courage and motivation to become explorers in those dangerous times.

See also White Male Lead, Humans Are Special and Going Native. Compare Jungle Princess, Noble Savage, Only One, God Guise, Asian Gal with White Guy and Instant Expert. Contrast Positive Discrimination, Token White, Mister Danger and White Man's Burden. And of course not to be confused with Tighty Whitey.

Examples of Mighty Whitey include:

Conventional Examples

Anime and Manga

  • Code Geass plays it straight with Lelouch vi Britania, a white man leading a war to drive out evil white men from Japan, but also subverts it with Suzaku Kururugi, a Japanese man who is the best Knightmare Frame pilot in the white man's army. Both examples are somewhat justified, however, since it's implied that Lelouch had been scheming to take down the Empire since his mother was killed and Suzaku's physical skills effectively a Charles Atlas Superpower.
  • Fatal Fury, especially the anime, is founded on blonde-haired white guys mastering eastern martial arts teachings beyond everyone else. The two Japanese members of the main cast are respectively The Chick and the goofball.
  • Played with in Freezing. All the top Pandoras in the world seem to be of Caucasian descent, even the ones situated in Asian countries. However, the one Pandora touted as the most powerful Pandora ever who lived ( Kazuya's sister Kazuha) was Japanese, while the currently-living most powerful Pandora is Korean.
  • In Oke no Monshou, the girl who carries on the story of Ancient Egypt and changes it for the better is—a blue-eyed blonde lass, Carol Reed, mistaken as a goddess or goddess avatar due to her hair and eyes.

Comic Books

  • Iron Fist was adopted and raised in mystical city of K'un-L'un to take the title and powers of Marvel's ultimate martial artist.
    • And not just the current one either; his predecessor was a whitey too. Both of them did start training when they were very young though.
      • Immortal Iron Fist, on the other hand, reveals that Iron Fist is just one of several Immortal Weapons. Most of the others are Asian, and most of them are better than Iron Fist.
  • The Phantom, a generational line of more than twenty white males who protect the African jungle, including tribes of native Africans.
  • The Legion of Super-Heroes, set in 30th Century earth, for decades managed to have blue-skinned members, orange-skinned members, and green-skinned members, but no blacks or Asians. They were still almost entirely Northern European body-types right into the 1980s. When they decided to have a martial arts expert join the Legion—in 1966, before it was fashionable—they got Val Armorr, Karate Kid raised on an earth colony, allegedly of mixed human genetics, but with features and curly red-brown hair that suggested Irish ancestry, if anything.
    • There was a (probably unintentionally) funny bit in the issue which examined Val's origin, where he's absolutely SHOCKED to discover that he's not actually entirely Japanese. Despite his appearance being as white as possible without making him blond, and his name being decidedly non-Japanese.
    • Jim Shooter originally wanted Ferro Lad—who joined the Legion at the same time as Karate Kid to be of African descent but got vetoed by Mort Weisinger (likely out of fear of offending readers in the South.) So Shooter had him make a Heroic Sacrifice seven issues after his introduction. Later iterations of the character would be white.
  • Inverted in the early-'80s comic Arak: Son of Thunder, in which a Native American crosses the Atlantic to become the greatest swordsman in Scandinavia.
  • Recycled in Space in the Adam Strange comics, which used a concept nearly identical to the John Carter Of Mars books. On Earth, Adam is just an archaeologist, but he uses his jetpack to make himself the hero of the space planet Rann. Popular comic author Alan Moore later subverted this by having the Rannians still treat Adam with contempt because they have superior intellects.
    • Note that Moore's interpretation was a Retcon, and has been ignored since.
  • B'wana Beast, originally appearing in the DCU's Showcase #66 (1967), is called "the White God of Kilimanjaro". During Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man (1989), he passes the title to a (black) successor, who rechristens the character "Freedom Beast".
  • In the Marvel comics G.I. Joe series, Snake-Eyes, though a blond blue-eyed white guy born and raised in America, proves to be a better ninja than his closest friend, a Japanese man trained from birth (though said friend admits that when he moved to the US his skills got a little rusty). Not entirely justified, but Storm Shadow is much better at range, and Snake-Eyes is presented as pretty much the most Badass guy on the planet before the two of them even met. (Not much is revealed about his early life, but he was already considered spooky by other Army Rangers in Vietnam.)
    • For what it's worth, Larry Hama claimed two things: basing him very lightly on a real sergeant who was a friend of his, and making him a Self Insert (Hama is Japanese-American; it was sort of a way of proving that a Japanese-American is just as worthy of exploring his heritage as a Japanese citizen born in Japan) God Mode Sue, possibly subverting the trope.
  • Take the Snake Eyes and Iron Fist examples above, swap out "martial arts" for "mystic arts," and you have Doctor Strange. A wealthy, spoiled, arrogant Dr. Jerk travels from Manhattan to the Far East for purely selfish reasons (a car accident injured his hands, he wants a cure so he can go back to being a surgeon), meets The Ancient One, and within a matter of years he has surpassed all other students in The Ancient One's temple to become the next Sorcerer Supreme. In both the comic and animated adaptation, the second-best student is consumed with jealousy and becomes Baron Mordo. Incidentally, his replacement as Sorcerer Supreme was Doctor Voodoo, a black man.
  • Both parodied and played straight in the comic book Charisma Man, produced for English-speaking expatriates in Japan. The title character was a dorky Canadian unsuccessful with women in his own country - until he arrives in Japan where he instantly becomes suave and supercool, admired by all the locals and able to pick up any girl he wants. His mortal enemy is "Western Woman", the only one aware of what a loser he really is.
  • In the Marvel Universe, Daniel Lyons was chosen by a "Black Feet" (sic) Indian chief (not specifically tied to the real-life Blackfoot tribe) to be a champion of justice, after besting 100 challengers by outrunning a deer, outswimming a salmon upstream, hitting the bullseye while blindfolded and then catching arrows that were fired at him, and then wrestling a bear, finally winning by breaking its neck with his bare hands. He was given a long bow into which he carved a notch whenever he performed a good deed. When he had attained 100 notches, would be judged worthy of having taken the mantle of the Black Marvel.
    • There is actually a Blackfeet tribe, separate from Blackfoot tribal bands. [1]
  • Asterix and Obelix come to mind in Asterix and the Great Crossing and its animated adaptation Asterix Conquers America, since they quickly excel at everything the natives challenge them at, it certainly helped that they were aided by a magic potion that gives superhuman strength and speed.
  • Dr. Doom is one of the villain examples. Stumbling upon yet another clan of monks in Tibet, he quickly surpasses them at their disciplines to become their new master. They loyally forged his mask and armor.
    • This is debateable due to the fact Doom was already a very experienced and extremely talented occultist before heading to Tibet. It wasn't a discipline he just picked up and suddenly became good at, but a continuation of his training since childhood.
  • Tarzan is parodied in Youngblood: Judgment Day with Zantar, the White God of the Congo. The narration in his story is casually racist towards the natives, but heaps accolades upon Zantar. A descendant of his remarks upon discussing Zantar's adventures that it's all pretty offensive.
  • Subverted in Elfquest. Although Leetah is definitely The Chief's Daughter, Cutter and the Wolfriders mix pretty thoroughly with the Sun Folk and their cultures support each other relatively equally (and the white Wolfriders are considered the Noble Savage types). It's further subverted with Dart, who teaches the Sun Folk warfare as a child, but it's because he's lived in the village all his life; he stays living there for most of the rest of the series.


  • The Indiana Jones franchise plays with this trope, playing it straight (Belloq and the Hovitos), inverting it (bumbling Marcus Brody, given extra comedy by Indy's describing him as the ultimate Mighty Whitey, immediately cutting to his being hideously out of his depth in Darkest Africa), and subverted, inverted and played straight at various times with Indy himself. As the movies are inspired by the tone of old adventure serials, this was probably intentional.
  • Deconstructed in Apocalypse Now, in which Colonel Kurtz becomes the leader of a native tribe, but in doing so goes absolutely bonkers. This subversion originates in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, where a white trader had made himself god to an African tribe before losing his marbles.
  • In The Proposition, Arthur Burns is essentially the evil version of this. He lives up in the hills, and the Aborigines are terrified of him and think he's a werewolf.
  • Averted in The Forbidden Kingdom. While it's true that Jason does become a kung fu master in a short period, and is able to beat large numbers of Jade Soldiers, he is weaker than any of the other named characters. And while he is The Chosen One, he fails to defeat The Dragon, has his possible Love Interest killed off, and is unable to save his mentor, free the Sealed Good in a Can, and kill the Big Bad without help. He doesn't even get to fight the Big Bad directly. It's also notable that the movie was originally going to feature an Asian-American kid learning about his roots, but Jackie Chan though the story would work better with them teaching a white American whose knowledge of Chinese culture was limited to kung fu movies, since that's what the average viewer would be.
  • Crocodile Dundee: Averted by the eponymous Mick Dundee, a white Australian bush expert who was raised by Aborigines. As such, he knows a lot of mystic secrets and survival tricks that serve him well in the bush. However, he's never shown to be any better at it then his Aborigine friends. He simply has one foot in the urban world, allowing him to make a living showing off to tourists and newspaper reporters.
  • Although each mummy they've encountered has had its own particular native guardians/jailkeepers who have been watching over it for centuries, only the white O'Connell family of the recent Mummy movies can actually destroy the mummies, even if the guardians are the ones who have made the means for doing so. This is true to just about all mummy films.
  • In The Quest, Jean-Claude van Damme plays a street criminal who is shanghaied and sold into slavery to a Thai boxing camp. Without any past training as a fighter, within two years he is one of their top-ranked members, despite the native boxers having trained from early childhood. And this just from watching the classes on the beach...
  • Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia goes native and leads the Arabs to great victories. Of course, a big part of the reason he did so well was because he could talk to his British commanders and get support in the form of money, machine guns, armored cars, and explosives... things that the Arab rebels were notably short on. Also, Lawrence had the leadership advantage of being completely removed from Arab tribal rivalries. The trope is subverted, however, when Lawrence's hubris and bloodthirst appall his Arab companions and ultimately cause his efforts to fail.
  • Step Up is a good example. As one critic amptly put it , sellable wholesome white guy\girl with enough street in them to be hip but not too much to be unsellable to middle America outdance and out hip their rivals who are usually not as talented , or pale.
  • Avatar : Jake Sully becomes one of the Na'vi, goes native, convinces their "Goddess" to assist the protagonists, gets the girl, masters a flying beast that only a tiny number of Na'vi have tamed before him, and gets chosen by a dying Tsu'tey to replace him.
  • Deconstructed in The Last King of Scotland, in which the white protagonist Nicholas Garrigan is at first presented as a likable young man who wins the favor of Ugandan leader Idi Amin, but descends into Fallen Hero / Villain Protagonist territory as he allows himself to be seduced by the power and luxury Amin offers (even as the evidence of Amin's brutality mounts). When Garrigan finally has his Heel Realization and decides to resist Amin, he's laughably out of his depth, and nearly every Ugandan who aids or gets involved with him is punished horribly for it. For all this, the movie ends with Garrigan getting on a plane out of the country.
  • In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Snake Eyes is a white street urchin in Hong Kong who fights Storm Shadow to a draw on their first meeting, even though presumably Storm Shadow has been combat-trained since he could walk, by virtue of throwing every object he can get his hands on at Storm Shadow. After being accepted into the dojo, it takes Snake Eyes only a short time to surpass Storm Shadow's skills, though it seems Storm Shadow retains the edge with a Katana—in their climactic fight, Storm Shadow disarms Snake Eyes and breaks his Katana, and the Joe is only able to win after switching to bladed tonfas.
  • Averted in Little Big Man; though Jack Crabb was adopted by the Cheyenne, he was never their best warrior or their best leader. It could be argued that he was led by the events that unfolded around him, and could do little to change their outcome, being more an observer then anything else.
  • Kill Bill fits this trope to a T. The Bride is a skinny white woman who goes to Asia, trains under a wise old martial arts master Pei Mei, and becomes his best student. She goes on to fight an entire army of Asian martial artists (and mops the floor with their bloody remains), and then kills their mistress, who is also a hardcore Asian martial artist. She's so exceptional that the wise old martial arts master who hates both whites and women teaches her his Dangerous Forbidden Technique that he has never shared with anyone else.
  • The French film, White Material, looks like it's heading in this direction. Taking place in an unnamed African country torn by a rebellion, Maria, a fierce and fearless white woman, refuses to abandon her coffee crops and to acknowledge the danger to which she is exposing her family. Maria puts the farm in even more danger when she looks after a wounded rebel officer known as 'The Boxer'.
  • Averted in Blind Fury. It takes Nick Parker something like fifteen years of training to become an master swordsman, and he isn't any better than the natives who trained him.
  • Balian of Kingdom of Heaven spent his entire life in France. When he get's to his father's home in Jerusalem, he teaches the desert dwelling people (who include Christians, Jews, and Muslims) how to set up an irrigation system and turn the dusty place into fertile land. Somehow even his dad thought his land was fine with the sun blocked out by dust.
  • The title character of His Majesty O'Keefe starts out as a Mister Danger, but becomes a Mighty Whitey after being shown the error of his ways and undergoing a Heel Face Turn. Hey, it was made in the '50s.
  • District 9 technically uses the same progression as Avatar with a white former member of the oppressors going native and siding with the oppressed. However, the whitey isn't very mighty, remains a cowardly jerk until about the last 15 minutes, only manages to help fix problems he directly caused and rather than painlessly getting a superior native body, he goes through all-out Body Horror, making him perhaps less likable as a person than Jack, but a much better character.
    • It might be a Deconstruction of this trope, showing us that a real-life whitey probably wouldn't become some messianic leader type of things if he joined an oppressed minority group's side, but instead he would probably become just an oppressed nobody like the rest of them, only worse because he would then be seen as a traitor by the other whities. In fact, those whities that actually are mighty are those with enough guns to continue oppressing the other side.
  • Black Rain. The Japanese Police Are Useless, it's up to the white American protagonists to catch the criminal. Neither side is portrayed as flawless, but in the end the white guy wins after persuading an uptight sympathetic local officer to loosen up a little.
  • Dangerous Minds has ex-Marine and sassy white girl Michelle Pfeiffer inspiring a class room full of angry ethnic minority teens to learn. Based on a true story, though the Hollywood treatment given to said true story isn't reflective of reality in many ways.
  • The white teacher turning the lives of the diamond-in-the-rough minority students around has had quite an outing: Freedom Writers, The Substitute movies, The Principal, and Music Of The Heart all come to mind. This cliche has spawned its own trope as well as a pretty scathing Mad TV sketch.
  • A recent example is the Tom Cruise drama The Last Samurai. Cruise is captured by Japanese warriors who are impressed by his Determinator status, goes native, and eventually becomes the Samurai's equal (though not quite their superior) in sword-fighting skills and honor. He then uses his superior knowledge of modern weaponry to heroically lose against the greedy dishonorable other whites and their army of Japanese mooks. He is the only survivor and also gets the (native) girl.
  • Pathfinder has an 11-year-old Viking boy raised by Native Americans and becoming their greatest warrior. This is somewhat justified however, as it's established that Vikings are better warriors than the Native Americans (although a lot of that is due to their metal weapons.) The boy is the best because he learns to combine the savage combat skills he learned as a child, with the patience and cunning ambush skills he picked up as a teenager.
  • Big Trouble in Little China subverts this by presenting a big, brawling, two-fisted white guy who thinks he's the hero, but who often gets his ass handed to him in the battle against the Big Bad. The real hero of the movie, of course, is Jack Burton's competent, martial-arts savvy, Chinese-American "sidekick," Wang Chi. Of course, Burton is the only one in the movie that can shoot straight, even when he isn't really aiming. As he would say, "it's all in the reflexes." According to the DVD commentary both the director and the star wanted to make the subversion more obvious but Executive Meddling prevented it.
  • The Last Airbender: The movie made its world more "diverse" by casting white actors to play the show's originally Asian and Inuit-inspired heroes, which, when combined with the ethnic casting of the background characters and extras results in strong example of Mighty-Whitey. The pan-Asian world of Avatar: The Last Airbender was expanded to include Caucasians, Middle Easterns, "African American" (per M. Night), and other ethnicities, but the heroes with actual speaking-roles somehow ended up being Caucasian while the villains are dark-skinned Indians, Arabs and other assorted dark-skinned ethnic groups. Every non-villain person of color that performs a heroic action needs inspiration from the white heroes before they take action.
    • Rifftrax lampshades this near the start of the movie with the line "How come some of us are white, and the rest of us look like for real Eskimos?"
  • The Last of the Mohicans is an excellent example of Mighty Whitey in traditional American literature and, hence, in classic movies. Imitations and similar characters appear in Westerns. Although Chingachgook is just as much of a badass as Hawkeye—and he's the one who kills the main antagonist in many adaptations and he's the guy who the entire book/movie is named after.
    • The worst of them was White Comanche in which a white rancher and the most fearsome of Comanche warriors are twins, both played by . . . William Shatner. Complete with pale, hairless torso, round, well-fed face and stagy Captain Kirk style emoting.
    • To their credit, most of the better Western movies and series avoid this trope. If a white mountain man/scout/tracker of phenomenal wilderness skill and wisdom appears, he is usually (and admittedly) no better than or slightly less skilled than the Indians he tracks. He most often serves as a Gandalf or Cassandra to the soldiers or white civilians he works for.
  • In the Americanized live action version of Fist of the North Star, Kenshiro and Shin, who are both inheritors of secret assassination styles, are played by Caucasian actors Gary Daniels and Costas Mandylor, whereas Julia, Bat, and Lynn, the Love Interest and the two kid sidekicks respectively, are played by Asians. Moreover, Kenshiro's Old Master, Ryuken, is played by another Caucasian, Malcolm McDowell.
  • Subverted twice in Farewell to the King: (Blond, blue-eyed) American Learoyd deserts his command, flees into the Borneo jungle, winds up with a tribe there, slays their best warrior in a duel, marries a beautiful princess, and becomes their chief...but he has no more power or influence than any other native chieftan would. The second subversion comes when the British try to invoke the trope by sending an officer to subvert the existing chief's authority and lead the natives as a guerilla strike force. The officer in question is a scrawny, nerdy Lieutenant, aided by the very competent Sergeant Big Scary Black Man.
  • Played with in Woody Allen's Bananas, in which Woody Allen gets mixed up with a revolution in a fictional Latin American country. Of course, since he's Woody Allen, he isn't exactly competent, but when the revolution succeeds and the Great Leader immediately goes crazy, his underlings get rid of him and force Woody Allen to become the new dictator because Woody Allen is an "educated American."
  • Generally averted in The Ghost and the Darkness, about a pair of lions terrorizing an African railway town.
    • The protagonist, Patterson, is played by Val Kilmer, who is blond and blue-eyed. Patterson is a military engineer, so it's not too much of a stretch when he lies in wait and kills a maneating lioness, though much is made of his doing it in one shot.
    • However, Mahina, the foreman working under Patterson, notes almost offhandedly that he's killed a lion too. Asked how many shots it took him, he says, "I used my hands." Patterson also, in letters to his wife, praises Mahina as an amazing worker. This seems to be a version of The Worf Effect, though, as Mahina is promptly dragged off by one of a pair of man-eating male lions.
    • Later, the American hunter Remington shows up with a group of Maasai hunters in tow. Notably, the Maasai end up thinking the lions are evil spirits, and neither Remington nor Patterson believe so. However, after killing one of the lions, the three white men in the movie (including Samuel, Patterson's effective sidekick) get drunk, and Remington is killed as well.
    • If it's justifiable anywhere it's in this movie only because the events were actually based on a true story. They actually made the whitey less mighty than he was in the true story. (Or at least as it's generally accepted to be true.) In real life, Patterson killed both the lions himself, without the help of a professional hunter.
  • Parodied in Beverly Hills Ninja where Chris Farley's character is adopted by a tribe on ninja who think he'll be the prophesied Great White Ninja. As it turns out, Farley is a blundering klutz, who is far outmatched by his Japanese brother. Though they do end up playing it straight in the end.
  • In Dances with Wolves, Kevin Costner's character is badass enough to hang with the American Indians and warns them against the other white men.
    • A Lakota commentator in the documentary "Reel Injun" had this to say about it: "Wait, so this white dude had to teach us to fight? My tribe? The Lakota? The tribe that won the biggest victory against the US government of any tribe in history at Little Bighorn? that white dude?" Of course, the commentator thereby reveals his own ignorance of both history and the movie, because A) Little Big Horn was far from the biggest victory a Native American tribe won against the U.S., as the Shawnee and Miami both inflicted three times more casualties on St. Clair's force at the Wabash in 1791, and B) the Sioux in Dances With Wolves are clearly portrayed as long experienced in fighting, against other Indians as well as whites, before Dunbar ever arrives.
  • The cast of Dragonball Evolution live action film are mostly Asian but Son Goku, the main character and hero, is played by a Caucasian (Justin Chatwin). To be fair, while most of the cast are human beings, he's a Saiyan from the planet Vegeta, but it still rankled people (Imagine Superman being played by an Asian). Green-skinned Namek villain Piccolo (James Marsters) and the most prominent female Earthling character, Bulma Brief (Emily Rossum) are also played by Caucasians.
  • Parodied with a throwaway remark by Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean while recounting his adventures.

Jack: And then they made me their chief.

    • We even see the tribe he became chief of in the sequel. However, this trope is still subverted because even as the chief, Jack can't stop the natives from doing what they've already made up their minds to do, like keeping his crew imprisoned or honoring Jack by having him ritually sacrificed and eaten.
  • Hidalgo takes the route of The Last Samurai by opening with the guilt of a white protagonist after the massacre of native Indians. Assuages the guilt by becoming a champion of the Indians and protecting their horses for them. This is perhaps forgivable, seeing as how he is half-Indian, and rides an Indian horse. Less forgivable is the entire premise of the film, in which the underdog whitey beats Arabs and Bedouins in their race, on their own lands (which he had never before visited). He gets the bonus points for having a good chance with the Shiek's daughter, whom he rescued.
  • The Emerald Forest is touted as being Based on a True Story. A white engineer working on a dam in the Amazon rain forests spends years searching for his son who was kidnapped as an infant (because the natives were fascinated by his green eyes) and Raised by Natives. The real story? The kid was the son of a Peruvian worker on a dam project. Instead of finding a great Peruvian actor who could project universal emotions like a father's anguish and hope, John Boorman just changed the story and made it all white people, saying that American audiences would be unable to identify with Peruvians.
  • Deconstructed in The Mosquito Coast. Harrison Ford plays a brilliant but arrogant inventor who, disillusioned with the consumerism of American life and believing nuclear war is around the corner, moves his family to a village in the rainforest of Belize and attempts to construct a utopian society there. Sanity Slippage ensues.
  • On Deadly Ground is more an environmentalist fable than anything else (if a particularly demented one), but Seagal's character puts it upon himself to speak for the Inuit who are being screwed over by the oil companies. Because, well, the Inuit have no voice. There's even a scene where undergoes a Vision Quest to essentially purge himself of white guilt.


  • Dick Lestrange, son of the original couple in Henry Stacpoole's 1908 novel The Blue Lagoon. He appears in the sequel, The Garden of God and the follow-up novel The Gates of Morning. He can best be described as an intelligent, likeable and very easygoing Surfer Dude. Katafa, something between a Jungle Princess and a Broken Bird, washes up on the shore and causes trouble. She isn't really a Kanaka, but a Spanish girl who was Raised by Natives. To ensure the plotline, she's been cursed as an untouchable. After sundry how-likely-is-that events, Dick and Katafa fall in love. Katafa becomes touchably soft and takes him home with her, where he is immediately hailed as King, the old King having died in Katafa's absence. More to the point, laid-back ol' Dick immediately accepts, as a matter of course! (Having earlier picked up a Royal MacGuffin probably helped with this decision.) Stacpoole (usually fairly nonracist) clearly implies that in their present predicament, the natives need a white couple to save them.

Dick was, in all but blood, a kanaka, a savage--and yet the white man was there. He could think forward, he could think round a subject and he could imagine possibilities.

  • Lord Greystoke, AKA Tarzan, was shown in the original books to be far better suited to life in the African wilds than any of the black natives. The original books explicitly said that his European noble ancestry (and not being raised by apes) is what allowed him to shine. Eugenics was a popular topic at the time.
    • According to Tarzan Alive by Philip Jose Farmer, Tarzan actually belonged to a group of interrelated genetic supermen descended from seven couples who were exposed to a radioactive meteorite that landed in 1795. Members of this family include Sherlock Holmes and Doc Savage. One fan website even adds a line of African-Americans to this group.
    • Eugenics was a particular hobby horse - maybe even an obsession - with Edgar Rice Burroughs. In the Amtor series, Carson Napier is specifically told that his "bad blood" constitutes a "menace to the continued existence of human life on Amtor." That was the very best—and most progressive—science of his day.
      • Arguably a subversion. The Amtorians are the natives; Napier is the white guy. Despite being considered fit to take up the White Man's Burden on Earth (he was an astronaut supposedly going to Mars, but they forgot to take the Moon into account in their calculations, so he wound up on Venus instead), by the standards the Amtorians of the particular city where this occurs he's a good but not astonishing warrior, sub-par in terms of intelligence (after all, he wouldn't even be there if he didn't come from a race that, y'know, forgot about the Moon), and then there's the whole "bad blood" thing.
    • Burroughs took special care to create environments where he could justify racism and classism by claiming that his white upper-class protagonist was superior for some reason unrelated to being white. However, it's very difficult to suspend disbelief when reading Burroughs because his plots are so unrealistic that they don't pass the sniff test unless the reader desperately wants them to, which is easier for the reader who will glibly accept the natural superiority of upper-class white men.
    • In fairness, most other white guys are portrayed as quite hopeless in the jungle. Or evil. Or both. This gets really weird in some of the later books, in which the following occurs regularly: White Guy comes to jungle. White Guy gets hopelessly lost. White Guy stumbles on lost European civilization hiding in the jungle, kicks ungodly amounts of ass among them. In short, White Guy's only Mighty Whitey to other white guys. It seems with a close reading of some Burroughs novels that while Burroughs did believe some people to be genetically superior to others he did not link this to race. Lost Continent, for instance portrays a superior black upper class who seem at least on par with whites alongside a more stereotypical black lower class.
  • Half-Justified in the Disney version and the following TV series. Tarzan is shown to be on the same level as the local African village's greatest warrior.
  • Recycled in Space in the John Carter of Mars books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. These featured an Earthman who, due to Mars's lower gravity, had super-strength compared to the humanoid inhabitants of Mars. To modern eyes, this appears to subvert expectations of Puny Earthlings who might-or-might-not be special. However, the Puny Earthlings trope had not yet evolved at the time the books were written. Attempted subversion later in the series, when (blonde) White Martians are introduced. And they're jerks. It seems to try to change the message to "red martians and some exceptions".
    • There's also the black martians. Who are fairly advanced and, almost universally, pretty darn fit; Carter (who, it must be remembered, fought in the Civil War on the losing side) comments more than once that he feels a little odd admiring them. (The black martians are also mainly jerks, though it turns out that a lot of them are just arrogant rather than evil after their truly evil rulers are deposed, and a few of them are actually quite decent.)
    • And the yellow martians. Pretty decent people for the most part, ruled by a real jerk.
    • And the green martians, who while humanoidish are not exactly human (they have six limbs and multi-inch fangs and they'd consider someone 7 feet tall to be a dwarf), stand out as a Proud Warrior Race even on Barsoom (where the only culture that wouldn't qualify for that designation by Earth standards is possibly the white martians). Carter becomes a minor chief among them by killing two of them in single combat, but this is almost accidental on his part... he himself realizes that he's incredibly strong, comparatively speaking, and that if a green martian were to be transported to Earth, he probably would not even be able to stand up against something like three times the gravity he's used to.
    • In short: The red martians are a scientifically advanced Proud Warrior Race, the yellow martians are a scientifically advanced Proud Warrior Race, the black martians are a scientifically advanced Proud Warrior Race to an even greater degree, and the green martians are a rather scientifically backward (except for what they can scavenge) mostly nomadic Proud Warrior Race on steroids. If anybody gets an unsympathetic treatment, it's the white martians, who come across as something like Nazi Cannibals. Carter's superiority, such as it is, comes from being from Earth, not from being white.
  • And then, just to complete the Edgar Rice Burroughs set, there's Pellucidar...
    • We start with David Innes and Abner Perry using SCIENCE! to overthrow the reptilian overlords and free the humanoid natives, culminating in David being crowned emperor.
    • When David is lost through Pellucidar again, captured and made a slave, the chief's daughter wants him...

Chief: You can't marry a white man! It is beneath you!
David: How interesting! In my world, it is the white people who are superior.

  • The long-running pulp serial The Destroyer is predicated on a prophecy that a white man will become the greatest master of the phlebotinum-laden Korean martial art of Sinanju. Main character Remo Williams is not just the prophesied white Sinanju master, he's also the incarnation of the Hindu god Shiva.
  • Kylie Chan's Dark Heavens trilogy in which a young, white Australian nanny (one of the most Mary Sue characters in commercially published fiction) with no previous training develops superhuman martial-arts skills and magic qi powers in just a few years, beats up demons and generally proves herself an equal to to Chinese gods, never mind mere mortals. Then she gets upstaged by a half-American, half-Chinese six-year-old.
  • On the American frontier, from colonial times up to end of the frontier around 1900, a number of men of European and African descent joined Indian tribes and became proficient in the wilderness. The literature of the time treated most of them as morally degenerate "renegades." However, when someone thought to use them as heroes, they were marvels of stalking and tracking skill. The foremost example is Natty Bumpo, hero of James Fenimore Cooper's The Leatherstocking Tales, the most famous of which is The Last of the Mohicans
  • In Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, Lord Roxton becomes the best hunter in the native village he visits. There is some justification, as he was already a big game hunter, but the A&E miniseries, to be on the safe side, portrayed him as good enough to win the respect of the natives, but by no means the best. They also omitted Zambo.
  • Subverted in another portion of the book. At first it seems like the Challenger Expedition members are the only ones who can defeat the ape people who have been menacing the local Native American tribes. However, it turns out that the Native Americans could have won without them, the expedition members were just a Magic Feather.
  • H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines gives a surprisingly early aversion of this trope. The three English explorers find themselves caught up in an African civil war, and all of them do fairly well in battle, but only one of them (who is actually half-Danish) does anywhere near as well as the African chief. That one gets to kill the bad guy, but only because the chief isn't allowed to do it himself for ceremonial reasons.
    • It's only a partial aversion, in that the Dane immediately masters spear fighting and axe and shield combat, both of which are difficult fighting styles that require a large amount of training. The fact that the Mighty Whitey instantly masters forms of combat that the natives have been trained in since childhood, and the natives can't touch a point-and-click rifle without it exploding, keeps it from being a full aversion.
    • That is a bit of an exaggeration. Unless they are from a tribe cut off from outsiders they have a handy knowledge of how a rifle works as like as not (and if they do not understand concepts like concentrated combustion energy, it is not as if all white men who use rifles do). A lot of Africans do however prefer hand weapons. In any case it is rather absurd that the Dane would know how to fight with an ax just because his ancestors did. It would not have even been the same shape of ax.
      • Interestingly, Allan Quatermain himself is actually pretty modest about his own abilities, except when it comes to putting a bullet through somebody, and he leaves most of the Manly Derring-Do to Sir Henry Curtis.
  • H. Rider Haggard's She features an immortal white queen, "She Who Must Be Obeyed", who rules over a primitive tribe of Africans and has magical powers due to her ancient wisdom. She is of Egyptian origin, and the book implies that white people made up the oldest civilizations.
    • However, Haggard's "white" queen describes herself as "an Arab of the Arabs," so she is not supposed to be imagined as a blue-eyed blonde.
  • Both used and subverted in Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody mysteries. Amelia and her husband, son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren are all white, and regarded with awe, admiration, and dread by the Egyptians they work with, but one of the causes they champion is equal rights for Egyptians, and they cultivate some impressive Egyptian sidekicks (though none in their own league). In The Last Camel Died at Noon, Amelia and family visit a Lost World, where Amelia is irritated to discover that the heroic native prince believes in the Mighty Whitey trope.
  • Terry Pratchett's Jingo mentions this trope when some of the (overtly racist) Ankh-Morporkian generals refer to Klatchians as the finest soldiers in the world—provided they're led by white officers. (Jingo is an extended Lawrence of Arabia reference.) Then subverts it hard by making it clear that the Klatchian generals are far better at tactics and strategy than the Ankh-Morpork generals.
  • Olaf Stapledon's Odd John both subverts and plays this straight. Roughly half of the super-intelligent mutants are of East Asian descent and there seems to be no racial discrimination between them. However, the protagonist and de facto leader is still a white man of mixed European ancestry. Though it's made clear that there are several members of the mutant species/ race with powers and intelligence far in advance of Odd John, including a Tibetan and an Arab, and most of them think of John's venture as another Children's Crusade.
  • Subverted in the H. G. Wells story The Country of the Blind, where the outsider assumes his ability to see will automatically make him the ruler of a primitive blind tribe. But the blind villagers have adapted perfectly to their environment, and fail to see why they should do anything the newcomer says when their own ways make more sense. They have been blind for such a long time that they've forgotten what sight is, and think that the man is insane.
  • Present to a limited degree in The Sky People, the first of the Lords Of Creation series. Justified not only by Venus' lower gravity, but by the fact that the only Earthlings who make the cut to go to other planets are literally the best, brightest and strongest that Earth has to offer. Also contains Cynthia, who is perhaps the first Black example of this trope.
    • The second book in the series, In the Court of the Crimson Kings, subverts the trope. The Earthling who finds himself caught up in political intrigue on Mars is certainly heroic, and he's physically much stronger than the low-gravity Martian natives... but for most of the book, he's playing second fiddle to his native Martian girlfriend, who's better at most of the things he's good at, with the sole exception of brute muscle power.
    • He's stronger than -ordinary- Martians. The Thoughtful Grace, the ancient genetically engineered warrior caste, are just as strong as he is, if not stronger. And while on Earth he's a brilliant individual out at the right end of the bell curve, on Mars he's only in the top quarter or so.
  • Played mostly straight in The Blue Sword, although it takes place in a fantasy setting.
  • Played with in Dune. Paul Atreides, scion of galactic nobility, is cast into the desert, but befriends the noble (Arab-ish) Fremen. He becomes their leader and messiah and achieves final victory in the long struggle against the Harkonnen and later Sardaukar occupiers. Justified in the sense that while Paul is a newcomer to the ways of the desert, his Bene Gesserit training make him and his mother superior fighters to the Fremen (and everyone else). Additionally, what enables Paul to become the Fremen messiah are the prophecies that the Bene Gesserit planted in order to deliberately invoke this trope. Eventually deconstructed in The Sequel when it's shown that Paul's becoming The Messiah has sparked the Fremen to start a jihad (holy war) and as a result have become corrupt religious zealots who have now become assimilated to Paul's ways the same way he became assimilated to theirs.
    • Also, at least the original series never explicitly stated that Paul and the Fremen were of different races rather than different cultures.
  • Subverted in James Clavell's Shogun. While John Blackthorne does eventually integrate into Japanese society, he has a lot of difficulty learning the new ways, becomes only moderately competent, does not impress people, and is usually irrelevant, except as a Spanner in the Works who unwittingly derails everybody's schemes, save for Toranaga, who plays him like a fiddle.
  • Averted in John Dalmas' The Regiment: although reporter Varlik Lormagen gets called "the White T'swa" for his close association with a regiment from the planet Tyss,[1] nobody who really knows the facts (least of all Varlik) thinks he's up to T'swa standards, much less better than they are. They're just impressed he comes as close as he does — and the T'swa, who're very cheerful, friendly people and Cultured Warriors down to the lowest private, like him for giving it such a good try.
  • Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King plays this trope brazenly straight. Eugene Henderson is a disaffected middle-class American who goes to Africa and quickly impresses the local tribe enough for him to have the title honor bestowed upon him.
  • Subverted in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. While the Africans are universally depicted as violent savages, the European colonialists are universally depicted as even worse. The latter depiction is Truth in Television if Belgian colonialism in the Congo (cf. Adam Hochschild's King Leopold's Ghost) is anything to go by.
  • Solomon Kane, a paleface if ever there was one, spends an awful lot of time kicking around Darkest Africa all alone and straightening out the local tribesmen and righting wrongs as he sees them, which usually involves killing lots of people.
  • In Tortall Universe's The Woman Who Rides Like A Man when Prince Jonathan becomes the Voice of the Poeple to the Bazhir Tribesmen and Alanna becomes a respected shaman to the Bloody Hawk Tribe.
  • Peekay in The Power of One, who acquires a Cult of Personality with the black prisoners at Barberton Prison when he is still just a small kid - because of his multilingualism, boxing prowess and the sophistication of the smuggling system he helps to set up for the prisoners, they start to see him as some kind of saviour. Slightly subverted in that said cult of personality is mainly due to how prisoner Geel Piet keeps talking up & promoting him with the other prisoners, but the fact that the prisoners buy into it is a case of Mighty Whitey.
    • Also kinda subverted in the sequel Tandia where Peekay, now an adult, is embarrassed by his status and actually does something useful for South Africa's black population with his career as a civil-rights-advocating trial lawyer.
  • Shows up in Lost Horizon, which is notably progressive for featuring a modern Mighty Whitey in the 1930s, when the old-fashioned version was still in vogue. When a plane full of white passengers finds themselves in Shangri-La, the mostly Chinese and Tibetan monks there prove themselves to be wise, intelligent, competent, and well-rounded characters. However, the white Conway turns out to be better at being a monk than the best of the Tibetans, and it turns out that the founder and leader of the monastery is a European who arrived in the 15th century.
  • Madoc in A Swiftly Tilting Planet, though he has completely abandoned his Welsh homeland.
  • Madi in The Grimnoir Chronicles is a rare villainous example. Japanese Iron Guard are considered badass if they can survive taking up to five kanji brands. Madi, a white man, has thirteen and is second only to the Big Bad in power. That said, there are other Caucasians in the Iron Guard and none of them are as badass as Madi or the Japanese members.
  • Orson Scott Card's Hidden Empire spends pretty much 70% of its length dealing with well-meaning white Americans saving Africa from itself. There's even a scene where the male lead has to instruct Nigerian natives on how to treat an aggressive strain of cholera, which you'd think they'd know all about.
  • In The Mystery of Urulgan by Kir Bulychev, Douglas Robertson is a deconstruction of the Mighty Whitey. He can hunt well, but he is violent, rude, arrogant, racist, cowardly, vain, and responsible for a lot of trouble in the story.

Live-Action TV

  • Jeffery Sinclair goes back in time to become the Minbari version of Moses. Technically he is white but it is his humanity that is most noted so this is also Humans Are Special.
  • The Doctor may not fit this trope exactly as he's not technically human, but most of his companions are human and white. The early series definitely had it; for instance when Ian Chesterton, a science teacher, is forced to compete due to a misunderstanding for command of the armies of the Aztecs with the best soldier in the empire. Rather than realistically being portrayed as out of his league, he manages to beat the Aztec warrior with one thumb and later the Aztec has to resort to poisoning him to stand a chance of beating him.
    • New Who has arguably even more examples of the Doctor himself acting like this.
  • An early episode of Farscape does this to an extent - Crichton ends up stranded on a planet of happy dark-skinned (various different shades too) tribal people. He becomes great buddies with the chief, who shows him massive respect, and The Chief's Daughter falls for him. Then it gets mixed and matched with another stock 'Native' plot (a character is mistaken for a deity by the tribespeople and served with honor for the brief period of time before they decide to try and burn him.) The tongue missed the cheek here; it comes out more racist than funny.
  • Subverted in Heroes; when Hiro goes back in time and meets the great Japanese hero Takezo Kensei, he discovers that Kensei's actually a white man. He then goes on to discover that Kensei is not nearly the patron of bravery and honor that myth has made him into, and finds himself trying to hammer Kensei into the role that history has made for him. Kensei eventually undergoes a Face Heel Turn and it is Hiro who ends up inspiring the Takezo Kensei legend.
  • Subverted in Stargate SG-1. In one episode, Colonel Mitchell had his own Last Samurai moment: after being captured by the Sodan tribe ("the best Jaffa warriors ever", who also happen to be mostly dark-skinned humans in appearance), he's taught their fighting style prior to a ritualistic one-on-one deathmatch. Mitchell rapidly learns their fighting style, and even uses it in later episodes to easily dispatch Jaffa Mooks. However, both his teacher and Teal'c (who in addition to being non-human, also happens to have dark skin) still effortlessly beat him on multiple occasions. He was taught that style so he wouldn't be killed in the first minute of the combat. In the end, his skill with that style makes him better than people without martial arts training, but still no better than a child to the Sodan.
    • In that episode's climactic battle, Mitchell would have been killed except that he stole an idea from the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Amok Time"---I'm shocked, shocked, to see a Stargate series steal so....
    • Played straight, in a couple of other SG-1 episodes:
      • The first season episode, The First Commandment, had a rogue SG team set themselves up as gods to a primitive tribe on a world they had been sent to explore, exploiting the natives for their own benefit.
      • In the eighth season episode, It's Good To Be King, former NID agent—and thorn in SG-1's side—Harry Maybourne had been exiled to a remote planet. He used his knowledge of future events (from his ability to read the notes left behind by a time travelling Ancient) to elevate himself to command of the local population. He turned out to be a benevolent ruler who truly improved the lot of the people under his rule so much that when they found out about the con that had placed him in command, they chose to keep him.
  • 1984 TV series The Master: Lee Van Cleef plays a man who stayed in Japan after WW 2 to learn the ways of the ninja, and became the head of a ninja clan. He abandoned it to search the US for his daughter. Naturally the ninja clan thought his abandoning them was dishonorable, and sent his best student after him to exact revenge.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode Tattoo, Chakotay discovers a Native American symbol on an alien planet he recognizes from his own experiences in his youth on Earth. It's later told that a race of aliens with white skin and hair came to Earth in ancient times and saw that the people on it were hopelessly primitive, and so they genetically bonded with them to enhance their intelligence and give them a greater connection with the land. As succinctly put by SFDebris: "So, here's Star Trek's message: We have a great respect for the cultures of the Native Americans, and we do this by saying that they were backwards, language-less cave men until they were touched by white men from outer space. You're welcome."
  • Kung Fu is a borderline example - the half-white child (played by an all-white actor) is the one selected specially by the martial arts master, and as an adult he's stronger than all the Chinese mercenaries sent to recapture him. In each episode, he saves the Chinese being discriminated against by the Wild West's social problems, and leaves asking for nothing in return. However, he's half-Chinese, and he was brought up as a Chinese man, so the cultural appropriation issue isn't quite so bad.
    • Doubly so when you realize that the star position in the show was originally supposed to go to Bruce Lee, who was instrumental in the creation of the series to begin with, and that it was given to David Carradine, who (at the time) had no martial arts training whatsoever.
      • Caine wasn't picked to be a monk. He waited on the monastery's doorstep until the monks finally gave in and took him in to train him. All the other boys shown went home.
    • In one episode, though, Caine does run across a fellow Shaolin who used to kick his butt with contemptuous ease back when they were students together, so as good as he is, Caine is far from omnipotent.
  • Parodied in The Armstrong and Miller Show with the arrogant Dr Tia ("I live in Botswana, saving lives- do you?"). He sees himself as a much-loved figure among the Botswana natives and is oblivious to the fact that they all hate him.
  • The Cartoon Network live-action show Unnatural History features a teenage version, who has lived all over the world with his anthropologist parents, and seems to have excelled at every single native skill, from Asia to Africa.
    • The only points the show gets is that Henry (the main character) has no skills attached to people who live in Modern Day United States due to being raised in the wilderness. He can climb walls and fight ninjas, but he can't use the internet to save his life, confuses the dishwasher with the washing machine, and doesn't speak any slang. Which makes him slightly less mighty.
      • Henry states at least once that he is not nearly as good as his teachers. This comes up in the pilot at least once.
  • On The Office, Michael and Vikram talk about the latter's Worthless Foreign Degree from Pakistan, where he was a surgeon. Michael, not really understanding that trope, thinks he'd be Chief of Medicine there.


  • Lampshaded in The Firesign Theatre's 'High School Madness' movie-within-an-album Don't Touch That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers. After the school disappears, a bunch of Latino students arrive out of nowhere and ask Porgie for advice because he's a white man and will know exactly what to do. Porgie is beside himself, asking where all these Mexicans suddenly came from.


  • The outdoor drama Blue Jacket, performed every year in Ohio from 1981 to 2007, was based around the idea that the titular warchief was actually a white settler captured and adopted into the Shawnee tribe before rising to lead it against the early United States. The increasing amounts of historical evidence against this Mighty Whitey myth may have contributed to the eventual closure of the drama.

Video Games

  • Rock from the Soul Calibur series fits the trope in that he's a powerful warrior who started out as an English boy marooned in the New World. Justified in that it's mainly his sheer size that accounts for much of his fighting prowess. He was so strong that Astaroth himself was designed after him. Naturally, learning this was not a pleasant experience for him and he spent most of SC 3 trying to kill Rock.
    • Setsuka from the game series is a European woman who was raised in Japan. Somewhat subverted in that, while she is of European descent and has blond hair, she was raised by Japanese people, speaks and behaves like a native Japanese person, and has suffered discrimination for her European features (because Jidai Geki Japan did not like foreigners). Unlike Rock, however, she's an extremely powerful character, borderlining on Game Breaker status in the third installment.
  • Sub-Zero in the Mortal Kombat series is a white man (offically half Asian but you wouldn't know it by looking at him) that was born and raised in Minnesota. He moved to China with his father after his parents divorced when he was a teenager, and became leader of the Lin Kuei; he even moved the ancient tribe to America after they were discovered, instead of just relocating somewhere in China.
    • He was portrayed by an Asian actor in his ending in Mortal Kombat II though, but he was masked for the rest of the game.
  • Subverted in Jade Empire, with Sir Roderick Ponce von Fontlebottom the Magnificent Bastard. "Mighty Whitey" is his mantra, and he's a card-carrying supremacist through and through...but if your Asian hero can out-debate him, actually fighting him isn't that hard.
    • Providing the fight doesn't glitch up, at least.
    • The reward for fighting him is his Tactical Manual, a treatise on the art of warfare which gives you a bonus to your fighting ability. By teaching you what not to do. Another "reward" is a manual on Trepanation (google it), which has your character noting that this goes against every known medical practice in the land, and so must be metaphorical.
      • Or his gun, one of the best weapons in the game once upgraded.
  • In Turok (2008 game), General Roland Kane is such a master of the ancient warrior ways of the American Indians that he ends up teaching them to Turok, a Native American marine. Somewhat justified in not everyone studies their own history extensively; simply being of Native American descent wouldn't automatically grant him in-depth knowledge, and Kane had actually researched the subject. Turok also ultimately proves to be a superior warrior to Kane when he defeats him in a knife fight, after Kane turns out to be an evil Broken Pedestal.
  • X: Beyond the Frontier (and pretty much the entire X series, for that matter) takes this trope and Humans Are Special and runs with it. In the first game, displaced human Kyle Brennan (a white man) is stranded in the X universe and, over the course of the series, contributes to the near-defeat of a race of genocidal robot ships, builds up a massive and influential R&D company in the hopes of finding a way back to Earth, uncovers the true nature of the Kha'ak, and through his actions eventually sets in motion the reunion between Earth and the rest of the universe. Terran Conflict plays this trope in a mechanical sense in that Terran ships, which're often faster, better shielded, and more destructive than anything else in the X universe, range from a bright polished platinum color to near-pure white.
  • From BlazBlue, we have a deconstruction, a subversion and an inversion.
  • Deconstructed in Fallout: New Vegas DLC Honest Hearts, which features two Mormon missionaries as tribal leaders, who state that they only took over in order to help protect the tribes from another, much more violent tribe. They are personally quite uncomfortable with the idea of being so involved with the tribes but have no other way of actually dealing with the problem. This is also the reason why they allow the player to solve most of their problems.
    • It also gets played with a little further in Lonesome Road, where it's revealed that Ulysses, a member of Caesar's Legion with knowledge of warfare and Pre-War technology, taught the White Legs (the enemy tribe from Honest Hearts) how to effectively fight other tribes. When the White Legs adopt his mannerisms, his language and even Ulysses' tribe's custom of braiding their hair to reflect their history, he freaks out, and ends up leaving.

Web Original

  • Roxton A. Colchester III, though an orange Lutari in Neopets, is a character created based on this trope - a bold mighty white adventurer accompanied by a white chick and a short Asian sidekick. The Atlas of the Ancients plot even went so far as to say that their adventure is essential to saving the world of Neopia.
  • This Listverse entry that purports to highlight the ten most "intellectual" rappers. Fewer than 25% of the artists mentioned are people of color, while people of color make up somewhat more than 25% of all rap artists.

Western Animation

  • Parodied in the South Park episode "Last of the Meheecans" where Butters, dressed up a a Mexican for a game with Cartman, unintentionally inspires and leads hundreds of immigated Mexicans-Americans back into their home country to the point where America loses its propserity to Mexico.
  • Parodied in the American Dad! episode "Home Adrone." Stan Smith rides a Predator drone disguised as a dragon in a Chinese New Year's parade. An old Chinese man cries "The prophecy has been fulfilled! The Great Dragon awakens!" A young Chinese American woman sarcastically replies, "Oh, and with a white guy riding him. Awesome."
  • Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos plays the trope straight. The series is full of Asian martial artists, but the greatest of them all is... guess who?
  • Hal Jordan has always been pretty Mighty Whitey, but Green Lantern First Flight takes it Up to Eleven by having him outsmart and outperform every single other Green Lantern on the roster... on his first day.

Non-White Examples

Anime and Manga

  • Domon Kasshu in G Gundam.
    • Hell, pick just about any Real Robot Humongous Mecha series you can think of. The Super Robot Wars series really tends to point it out: For so many supposedly international organizations, there sure are a hell of a lot of Japanese people compared to any other ethnicity.
      • Because Tokyo Is the Center of the Universe, naturally. Although you could make the case that Amuro Ray of Mobile Suit Gundam is actually But Not Too Foreign...
      • And they sometimes double up on it, with a large percentage of the non-Japanese characters being American. Some games in the series, such as Alpha and Compact 2/Impact, will pair the two together.
      • Super Robot Wars is making a habit of making the "better" Original Generation pilots be German as well. Sanger Zonvolt and Ratsel FeinschmeckerElzam V. Branstein come to mind. Fridge Brilliance can also elevate Elzam's brother Raidese to this level as well. See also Arado and Seolla.
      • Not to mention Latooni (... well, Latun, as a proper romanization of the way her name is written), who is one of the best pilots in the game (can easily compete with Raidiese for 'ace of the younger generation') - she's Russian. Or at least her name is, since her backstory makes it rather hard to figure out her ethnicity and nationality...
  • Often subverted and ridiculed in Nangoku Shounen Papuwakun, a series in which Shintarou, the Number One most competent warrior in the Ganma army, is marooned on an island in the southern seas. Although Shintarou often tries to introduce elements of his own culture, it usually either goes terribly wrong or is revealed to have already existed in some way on the island. Shintarou, throughout the story, is also relegated to the role of housekeeper for Papuwa, the only other human on the island at his arrival, who is a young boy...and much stronger than Shintarou.
  • In a rather odd example, Osamu Tezuka's Phoenix: Sun is about a Korean soldier who flees to Japan after his kingdom is deafeated by the Tang Dynasty forces & eventually becomes a feudal lord & a major player in the historical Jinshin War. In a bit of a subversion, he is also invited to join a tribe of Noble Savage Shinto wolf-spirits (because his face was cut off by the Chinese & replaced with a wolf's), but declines because he feels he'd be a burden to them, having no supernatural powers of his own.
  • A manga version of the old Romance of the Three Kingdoms story, Destiny Of An Emperor (which was also made into a Dragon Quest knockoff RPG for the NES, which bizarrely enough managed to cross the Pacific), posits that historical warlord Lu Bu was in fact a blond European who had taken a Chinese name, thus explaining his historically-documented freakish height and strength. Hilariously, when applied to Lu Bu of all people it becomes a brutal subversion of the trope, as Lu Bu was a lecher, a murderer, and betrayed everyone he ever met. He died alone and utterly ruined.
  • In Anatolia Story, the girl who carries on the story of the Hittite Empire... is Yuri Suzuki, who is a full-blooded Japanese.

Comic Books

  • Oddly enough, Superman may be the earliest example of a superhero playing to a variation of this trope, except that the "mighty whitey" is actually an alien, and the entire human race are the natives who he joins (in contrast to the more common Sci-fi variant of the trope where the opposite would be the case). Kal-el learns the ways of the primitive Earth folk and ultimately becomes their greatest champion while inspiring them to bring out the best in their culture, and even turns against the race he was born to when they try to molest his new home with their advanced strength and weapons.

Fan Works

Live-Action TV


  • The 13th Warrior features something of a reversal: the cultured Arab diplomat Ahmad ibn Fadlan leaves his country with some Vikings to go north. The Vikings don't expect him to be very useful, but he learns their language, fights alongside them, and amazes them with his literacy, though he does not surpass the Vikings in any of the skills they teach him. In fact, the Viking's treat him a bit like a child, calling him "Little Brother." He is ultimately a secondary figure in the big picture behind their leader Buliwyf. The story, taken from Michael Crichton's book The 13th Warrior, is very loosely based on the accounts of the real Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, spiced up with a nonmagical retelling of Beowulf.
  • The 2010 remake of The Karate Kid, where Dre Parker moves to China, and with a month or so of training, beats all the experienced bullies at the local kung fu tournament. Although to be fair, he did have Jackie Chan as his mentor.


Tabletop Games

  • Rules accompanying the Classic D&D game's Hollow World setting, which was largely inspired by works that use this trope, incorporate a Mighty Surface-Dweller element to adventures involving outer-world PCs. Most of the heavy-damage spell effects such as Fireball are unknown to the Hollow World's natives, ostensibly to evoke the feel of literature in which heroic explorers' use of firearms gives them a tactical advantage over indigenous peoples.
  1. Tyss is a decidedly hot world, even at the poles, and over twenty thousand years settled there have left the people very black