White Dog is a "blunt, highly cinematic parable about race relations" that questions whether racism is a curable mental illness or learned behavior, or if it is an untreatable disease. The unnamed white German Shepherd is the metaphor of racism, with his radically contrasting moments of innocent, typical dog behavior when not around black persons, and his snarling viciousness when he sees a target. Paul Winfield's character Keys, who believes he can help the dog unlearn this behavior, represents the view that racism can be unlearned. Keys's attempts to reprogram the dog become a "bold literalization of the race war," and as the film progresses Keys becomes obsessed with the idea that he can cure the dog. Much like Captain Ahab, he declares that if he fails with this dog, he will find another and another until he succeeds. Keys's counterpart, Carruthers, a white trainer, believes the dog is irredeemable and should be killed, representing the view that racism cannot be cured.
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