Avatar

I am worried because for the first time white people are calling things as racist, and I'm giving a pass. I read this article, which states that Avatar is nothing but a white fantasy about race intended to alleviate their guilt. After reading this, I watched to see for myself. I was blown away. Perhaps it's the sci-fi lover in me or maybe my own philosophies about life distorting my impressions, but I was not rolling my eyes through this film but actually loved it.

A big objection that I hear is that the main character is white. He plays a major role in the resolution of the conflict, and therefore we have the "white man is savior" complex all over again. This year has been overrun with movies like this; however, I do not see this particular movie this way. The white guy, Jake, betrayed and used the Na'vi, and just because he had a heart and fought against his race doesn't make him a savior. He was worng, saw the light, and was redeemed, and there is nothing wrong with that in my mind. I don't like that he was leading the people to battle with the biggest dragon, but in all fareness it wasn't all about him either. The writers did balance the different elements in the story so that it wasn't just the white man's battle. The Na'vi's goddess, Eywa had a substantial part in winning the battle by turning all of the animals against the whites, and Neytiri saves him twice at the end. Another objection is that by having Jake as the main character, the writers are making the story white centered rather than devoting the focus to the aliens. This may be cliche, but it is the writer's prerogative. I see nothing objectionable in it.


After being flooded with movies like the Blindside and Precious, this is one of the most racially honest films this year. Instead of being shown as infallible beacons of light, whites are greedy, lusting creatures who have no sense of what is sacred. They believe in destroying anything and anyone for more money and power. Jake comes into Pandora in with this attitude having no respect for natural life until he meets the Na'vi who teach him differently. Besides a few, most whites see the Na'vi and their world as primitive and worthless, and therefore deride it as such (as we hear them do in real life all the time). However, we learn with Jake that they are more than that as they have their own culture that surpasses the whites' in some areas, and that the whites are barbaric in their own ways as. In short, we learned to appreciate "primitive" societies. This was very refreshing as we are always bombarded with images that "primitives" are just animals, with no brain, mind, or cultures of their own to be respected, and that the "advanced" societies are pure and perfect. A perfect example of this is Star Trek, mostly TNG and later. (Even though I like it, I can point out it's flaws.) Throughout Star Trek, species with greater technology, especially the federation, are portrayed flawlessly. Those who are not as technologically advanced are labeled "inferior species" and "unworthy of assimilation," and basically portrayed in a clumsy, stupid way. We are always left with the impression that species must develop as the federation did, and that is the peak of their perfection. At worse, twice on TNG, Picard let two planets filled with people to die because they had not developed warp drive. Because they were not "advanced" they were are not people, and we can morally justify letting them all die. When you pay attention to the plots of these films and shows, bigotry is evident.


Avatar puts this in reverse. It does not equate technology to true advancement. People can look at the Na'vi without feeling "those are pitiful barbarians in need of a white savior" because they are thriving. They have a society where everyone supports each other and lives in harmony. The idea of destroying the world for wealth as the whites have is deplorable to them. Avatar illuminates that Western culture is not the peak of superiority as it was built on the destruction of life. Contrary to shows like Star Trek, the West has many kinks in its shining armor.


Okay, maybe I may not be entirely fair here. Perhaps I'm giving Avatar too much credit. I watched Avatar with my prejudices and experiences. Someone else may not get this message. However, the life of the Na'vi appealed to me, so for now, this will be a favorite.

3 comments:

Afrika said...

I have to respectfully disagree with certain points. While I didn't find Avatar to be racist, it utilized the age-old cliche of white savior which is seriously redundant. Yes! the Na'vi are thriving but who assumes the position of leader? who leads the fight against tht invaders? who is the central character? jake, jake and jake.

My opposition to Avatar is simply due to the fact that it's a plagiarized script. The story is not original and the screenplay is weak. Avatar is basically Pocahontas in space or The Last Samurai in space or Dances with wolves in space or the list goes on. It's the same old story of the white man coming to the tribe with evil intentions, the white man falling in love with the tribes woman, the white man undergoing a change of heart, the white man becoming the leader of the tribe , the white man leading the opposition against his fellow white men, the white man denouncing civilization and the white man living happily ever after with his loyal tribes woman.

p.s
how convenient that the Na'vi speak English with a forced African/Carribean accent? lord knows what the Americans would have done if they went to space and found out that space creatures do not speak English. ;-)

mizChartreuse said...

To add to the comment above, the Na'vi are mainly (from what I noticed) played by black actors and all have those beautiful features such as fuller lips and braided hair.

I agree with the comment above, but I also agree with the blog's points in that I did not feel like it was overtly racist while I was watching the film; I was busy being consumed by the wonderful visuals. My personal stance is somewhere in the middle.

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