RSS iconTwitter iconFacebook icon

The Trek BBS title image

The Trek BBS statistics

Threads: 141,564
Posts: 5,514,181
Members: 25,147
Currently online: 444
Newest member: Wolfspaw

TrekToday headlines

Two New Starships Collection Ships
By: T'Bonz on Dec 26

Captain Kirk’s Boldest Missions
By: T'Bonz on Dec 25

Trek Paper Clips
By: T'Bonz on Dec 24

Sargent Passes
By: T'Bonz on Dec 23

QMx Trek Insignia Badges
By: T'Bonz on Dec 23

And The New Director Of Star Trek 3 Is…
By: T'Bonz on Dec 23

TV Alert: Pine On Tonight Show
By: T'Bonz on Dec 22

Retro Review: The Emperor’s New Cloak
By: Michelle on Dec 20

Star Trek Opera
By: T'Bonz on Dec 19

New Abrams Project
By: T'Bonz on Dec 18


Welcome! The Trek BBS is the number one place to chat about Star Trek with like-minded fans. Please login to see our full range of forums as well as the ability to send and receive private messages, track your favourite topics and of course join in the discussions.

If you are a new visitor, join us for free. If you are an existing member please login below. Note: for members who joined under our old messageboard system, please login with your display name not your login name.


Go Back   The Trek BBS > Entertainment & Interests > Science Fiction & Fantasy

Science Fiction & Fantasy Farscape, Babylon 5, Star Wars, Firefly, vampires, genre books and film.

Closed Thread
 
Thread Tools
Old December 24 2009, 03:42 PM   #1
Dusty Ayres
Commodore
 
Location: ANS Yamato, Sector 5, Sol System
When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

Critics have called alien epic Avatar a version of Dances With Wolves because it's about a white guy going native and becoming a great leader. But Avatar is just the latest scifi rehash of an old white guilt fantasy. Spoilers...

Whether Avatar is racist is a matter for debate. Regardless of where you come down on that question, it's undeniable that the film - like alien apartheid flick District 9, released earlier this year - is emphatically a fantasy about race. Specifically, it's a fantasy about race told from the point of view of white people. Avatar and scifi films like it give us the opportunity to answer the question: What do white people fantasize about when they fantasize about racial identity?

Avatar imaginatively revisits the crime scene of white America's foundational act of genocide, in which entire native tribes and civilizations were wiped out by European immigrants to the American continent. In the film, a group of soldiers and scientists have set up shop on the verdant moon Pandora, whose landscapes look like a cross between Northern California's redwood cathedrals and Brazil's tropical rainforest. The moon's inhabitants, the Na'vi, are blue, catlike versions of native people: They wear feathers in their hair, worship nature gods, paint their faces for war, use bows and arrows, and live in tribes. Watching the movie, there is really no mistake that these are alien versions of stereotypical native peoples that we've seen in Hollywood movies for decades.

And Pandora is clearly supposed to be the rich, beautiful land America could still be if white people hadn't paved it over with concrete and strip malls. In Avatar, our white hero Jake Sully (sully - get it?) explains that Earth is basically a war-torn wasteland with no greenery or natural resources left. The humans started to colonize Pandora in order to mine a mineral called unobtainium that can serve as a mega-energy source. But a few of these humans don't want to crush the natives with tanks and bombs, so they wire their brains into the bodies of Na'vi avatars and try to win the natives' trust. Jake is one of the team of avatar pilots, and he discovers to his surprise that he loves his life as a Na'vi warrior far more than he ever did his life as a human marine.
When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?
Dusty Ayres is offline  
Old December 24 2009, 04:04 PM   #2
Kegg
Rear Admiral
 
Kegg's Avatar
 
Location: Ireland.
Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

By the end of the film you're left wondering why the film needed the Jake Sully character at all. The film could have done just as well by focusing on an actual Na'vi native who comes into contact with crazy humans who have no respect for the environment.
This would be true of any film dealing with a real race. When these comparisons come up, I love to observe (pointlessly, no doubt) that the original idea for Battle of Algiers is that it was going to be about a French paratrooper, played by Paul Newman, who becomes disillusioned with the French occupation and switches sides. Thankfully that didn't come to pass.

The Na'vi, however, have two problems. The first is that being an alien fictive culture they are inherently less relatable than a human character (though the human character of course need not be white, even if he almost always is). We are the outsiders, and we need this culture and its logic explained to us - through a similarly ignorant main character is as good a way as anyway.

The second problem is that they're CGI. The plot device of a real actor slipping into a CGI performance is a way to gently lead us into a film where the protagonist spends whole stretches of the film as a CGI creation.

Anyway, an interesting read. I'd agree that District 9 had a more interesting spin on these tropes than Avatar did, also. Also, can I use this thread to vent once more my long enduring hatred for The Last King of Scotland? Because everything about the McAvoy character in that film is terrible.
__________________
'Spock is always right, even when he's wrong. It's the tone of voice, the supernatural reasonability; this is not a man like us; this is a god.'
- Philip K. Dick
Kegg is offline  
Old December 24 2009, 04:26 PM   #3
MeanJoePhaser
Admiral
 
Location: Missile Command
Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

White people aren't the only ones making these movies? What about WHITE CHICKS? What about that shit?
MeanJoePhaser is offline  
Old December 24 2009, 04:29 PM   #4
Dusty Ayres
Commodore
 
Location: ANS Yamato, Sector 5, Sol System
Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

MeanJoePhaser wrote: View Post
White people aren't the only ones making these movies? What about WHITE CHICKS? What about that shit?
What about White Chicks? That was a comedy about people who don't really have any problems in society as bad as those of people of colour.
Dusty Ayres is offline  
Old December 24 2009, 04:39 PM   #5
Dusty Ayres
Commodore
 
Location: ANS Yamato, Sector 5, Sol System
Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

Kegg wrote: View Post
By the end of the film you're left wondering why the film needed the Jake Sully character at all. The film could have done just as well by focusing on an actual Na'vi native who comes into contact with crazy humans who have no respect for the environment.
This would be true of any film dealing with a real race. When these comparisons come up, I love to observe (pointlessly, no doubt) that the original idea for Battle of Algiers is that it was going to be about a French paratrooper, played by Paul Newman, who becomes disillusioned with the French occupation and switches sides. Thankfully that didn't come to pass.

The Na'vi, however, have two problems. The first is that being an alien fictive culture they are inherently less relatable than a human character (though the human character of course need not be white, even if he almost always is). We are the outsiders, and we need this culture and its logic explained to us - through a similarly ignorant main character is as good a way as anyway.

The second problem is that they're CGI. The plot device of a real actor slipping into a CGI performance is a way to gently lead us into a film where the protagonist spends whole stretches of the film as a CGI creation.

Anyway, an interesting read. I'd agree that District 9 had a more interesting spin on these tropes than Avatar did, also. Also, can I use this thread to vent once more my long enduring hatred for The Last King of Scotland? Because everything about the McAvoy character in that film is terrible.

As I said here yesterday:

To you Avatar's story is overdone; actually, it's a timeless classic tale that has meaning now in the real world with what's happening in Indonesia to the Penan people and the Sarawak rainforests; the character of Jake Sully can be considered a version of the real life activist Bruno Manser who fought for the Penan people much like Jake does for the Na'vi in the movie.
So what she said is a load of bull.
Dusty Ayres is offline  
Old December 24 2009, 05:05 PM   #6
Seventh White Boomer
Rear Admiral
 
Seventh White Boomer's Avatar
 
Location: Jono
Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

Probably when white people stop making crap loads of money from these types of movies.

The only thing she didn't mention in that piece was the clichéd stranger seduces hottest native chick, who initially hates him. They have sex and he teaches her about love and 'saves' her from an arranged marriage.
Seventh White Boomer is offline  
Old December 24 2009, 05:15 PM   #7
LaxScrutiny
Commodore
 
Location: Toronto, Canada
Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

There's a kernal of truth here, but also a manufactored truth that's there because the author wants to see it.

Whites write about whites because we're whites. If we write about blacks then Spike Lee tells us we've got it all wrong, or we're accused of cultural appropriation, or whatever. We're white, we write about whites and there's nothing wrong with that.

This leaves you with two basic storylines, as far as alien or foreign cultures go: White goes foreign, or foreign comes to white. At which point the white culture is either friendly and accepting or it's aggressive, challenging and overwhelming.

The friendly co-existance doesn't lend itself to much drama, it doesn't challenge our self perception. So we're left with primarily story of cultural clash.

Whites aren't always the bad guys. In Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the white culture is safe, structured and civil, and the alien, foreign world is scary and dangerous and borders on evil. Many stories came from that throughout the 20th century, to the point that it got pretty predicatable. Storytelling broke out in the 60's, primarily with growing questioning over Viet Nam which challenged our indoctrination that walking in and "civilizing" a nation, putting a layer of our culture over top of whatever we found, wasn't necessarily beneficial, much less ethical.

It's a common theme because through the 19th and first half of the 20th century there was a lot of indoctrination within storytelling that promoted the idea of white cultural and ethical supremacy and the benefits of colonization and paternalism. Take a good look at Narnia for an example.

Whites aren't any better or worse in their behaviour. Native American tribes committed genocide and practiced slavery before whites set foot here. The Japanese committed horrible atrocities on Chinese, and the Chinese committed the same on other neighbours. Blacks were captured and sold in Africa by blacks to whites for shipment to America. People aren't nice. It's not about colour.

But what it is about is that whites are writing stories for whites and some of those stories are intended to challenge our perceptions about ourselves. I think Avatar a bit childish and obvious in it's theme and story, it's just a tale that has been told elsewhere in a more compelling way. It's overly simplistic. The natives are "nice", they don't rape each other, or commit atrocities or damage the environment and the walk away to another plot of land. The way Native Amercans did before the white man came. We don't see that, what we see is clear good/bad dichotomy. So it's simple storytelling, a simple message.

What should be the compelling part of such a story is the journey of the protagonist away from his world into the foreign world, the transformation of his outlook and personality, so that the indoctrination we all have from our culture is shattered. It's not about (or shouldn't be about) our culture being "bad", it's about culture itself being bad, about it limiting us, controlling us, shaping us, imprisoning us. The journey of the protagonist in Avatar, Dances with Wolves, Last Samurai, etc, should be about breaking the mold.

It's presented to us in the format we usually see, the format of military, of clashing of cultures, because for many the indoctrination of love of military and love of country and love of our culture and society and values and belief that we are the "best" is not only so strong, it is so dangerous. It is practicly a fetish, and witness the popularity and outright drooling over the military in popular shows like Battlestar Galactica. The idea is to challenge and break this mold.

The question shouldn't be "when are white people going to stop telling stories like this" but when will humanity finally break away completely from the chains of all forms of cultural indoctrination. When that happens, we won't see stories like Avatar because they will just be quaint relics of past generations. Maybe in another couple thousand years.
LaxScrutiny is offline  
Old December 24 2009, 06:25 PM   #8
exodus
Fleet Admiral
 
Location: The Digital Garden
Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

White guilt fantasy?


I think when we stop viewing the oppression of a people/race and/or culture as a fantasy and start understanding this stuff is real and happens in places all around the world everyday, even in your own backyard. When we all unite and activily take a stance against it, then maybe we can move foward.

It's sad when you have to talk down to people by creating fictional blue "elves" as victims to get a message of social & environmental injustice accross.
__________________
A Tiger doesn't loose sleep over the opinion of sheep.
exodus is offline  
Old December 24 2009, 06:37 PM   #9
Solstice
Sexy Wizard
 
Solstice's Avatar
 
Location: I'm so lost T_T
View Solstice's Twitter Profile Send a message via ICQ to Solstice Send a message via AIM to Solstice Send a message via Windows Live Messenger to Solstice Send a message via Yahoo to Solstice
Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

exodus wrote: View Post
White guilt fantasy?


I think when we stop viewing the oppression of a people/race and/or culture as a fantasy and start understanding this stuff is real and happens in places all around the world everyday, even in your own backyard. When we all unite and activily take a stance against it, then maybe we can move foward.

It's sad when you have to talk down to people by creating fictional blue "elves" as victims to get a message of social & environmental injustice accross.
Then how on Earth do you enjoy Star Trek, which is at least as allegorical as Avatar on race relations issues?
__________________
Robert Maxwell
I has a blag.
I put on my robe and wizard hat...
Solstice is offline  
Old December 24 2009, 06:45 PM   #10
exodus
Fleet Admiral
 
Location: The Digital Garden
Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

Robert Maxwell wrote: View Post
exodus wrote: View Post
White guilt fantasy?


I think when we stop viewing the oppression of a people/race and/or culture as a fantasy and start understanding this stuff is real and happens in places all around the world everyday, even in your own backyard. When we all unite and activily take a stance against it, then maybe we can move foward.

It's sad when you have to talk down to people by creating fictional blue "elves" as victims to get a message of social & environmental injustice accross.
Then how on Earth do you enjoy Star Trek, which is at least as allegorical as Avatar on race relations issues?
Trek is still fiction.
Suddenly we are a people united, that ended hunger, poverty, prejudice & war....................with no solution or clue to how we did it. They want us to believe Vulcans came down & we didn't try to kill them & steal their technology after the 3rd world war left us living in tents and wearing clothes made from animal skins.

So either you're made to feel guilty about how the world is or you sweep it all under the rug and make it magically disappear.
__________________
A Tiger doesn't loose sleep over the opinion of sheep.
exodus is offline  
Old December 24 2009, 07:00 PM   #11
Solstice
Sexy Wizard
 
Solstice's Avatar
 
Location: I'm so lost T_T
View Solstice's Twitter Profile Send a message via ICQ to Solstice Send a message via AIM to Solstice Send a message via Windows Live Messenger to Solstice Send a message via Yahoo to Solstice
Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

exodus wrote: View Post
Robert Maxwell wrote: View Post
exodus wrote: View Post
White guilt fantasy?


I think when we stop viewing the oppression of a people/race and/or culture as a fantasy and start understanding this stuff is real and happens in places all around the world everyday, even in your own backyard. When we all unite and activily take a stance against it, then maybe we can move foward.

It's sad when you have to talk down to people by creating fictional blue "elves" as victims to get a message of social & environmental injustice accross.
Then how on Earth do you enjoy Star Trek, which is at least as allegorical as Avatar on race relations issues?
Trek is still fiction.
Suddenly we are a people united, that ended hunger, poverty, prejudice & war....................with no solution or clue to how we did it. They want us to believe Vulcans came down & we didn't try to kill them & steal their technology after the 3rd world war left us living in tents and wearing clothes made from animal skins.

So either you're made to feel guilty about how the world is or you sweep it all under the rug and make it magically disappear.
I guess I am missing your point here. Is there anyone of any significance who really believes this kind of oppression didn't and doesn't happen? I don't think Avatar was trying to push any kind of persuasive message. People who agree with its basic premise aren't going to learn anything new from it. People who are pissed that the military and corporate types were portrayed as the bad guys will just roll their eyes and move on. The most you could get from Avatar is that displacing an indigenous population to make a buck is wrong. Insurrection had more or less the same plot. It's not new, and here it wasn't done in such a way as to be subtle or insidious. It's right in your face. Anyone who disagrees with it probably wouldn't go see it in the first place, or would walk out.

I think this is less a case of a movie beating people over the head with its message and more that pretty much everyone already buys into and acknowledges the message, so the story is just window dressing for the special effects (which quite a few have argued.)
__________________
Robert Maxwell
I has a blag.
I put on my robe and wizard hat...
Solstice is offline  
Old December 24 2009, 07:06 PM   #12
Santa Kang
Fleet Admiral
 
Santa Kang's Avatar
 
Location: North Pole,Qo'noS
Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

Seems to me there were some flare ups after the Vulcans landed. Also aren't the Vulcans the "white man" in that first contact senerio?
__________________
Nerys Myk
Santa Kang is offline  
Old December 24 2009, 07:07 PM   #13
Starbreaker
Fleet Admiral
 
Starbreaker's Avatar
 
Location: Chattanooga, TN
View Starbreaker's Twitter Profile
Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

When Armond White likes Avatar.
__________________
Currently Reading: The Martian by Andy Weir
Currently Watching: The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, CSI, Criminal Minds, NCIS, NCIS:NO, Law & Order: SVU, Stalker, American Horror Story, and Bones
Starbreaker is offline  
Old December 24 2009, 07:34 PM   #14
Merry Christmas
Vice Admiral
 
Merry Christmas's Avatar
 
Location: tantalizing t'girl's techno temenos
Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

Whether Avatar is racist is a matter for debate. Regardless of where you come down on that question, it's undeniable that the film - like alien apartheid flick District 9, released earlier this year - is emphatically a fantasy about race. Specifically, it's a fantasy about race told from the point of view of white people. Avatar and scifi films like it give us the opportunity to answer the question: What do white people fantasize about when they fantasize about racial identity?
It would have been innovative and interesting if James Cameron had made the same film with no white actors. Want to talk about racism? How loud would the screaming have been if the actors had been exclusively East Asia or sub-saharan African? It is doubtful if Cameron could of obtained financing for the film unless he cast whites as the main villians.

It was perfectly fine for Hollywood to cast asians as the evil heavies during the thirties and forties, now it's the turn of the whites. And it's equally racist.
Merry Christmas is offline  
Old December 24 2009, 07:38 PM   #15
Lt. Trull
Fleet Captain
 
Lt. Trull's Avatar
 
Location: Mining colony Sol Asteroid belt, Sol System
Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

how about around 2050 when white people stop being the majority and become the minority and then start to get taken advantage of...
__________________
Either: Christianity. Erradicting more interesting Religions for more than 2000 years! - or -
Knowledge is Power! Power Corrupts!
Study Hard! Be Evil!
Lt. Trull is offline  
Closed Thread

Bookmarks

Tags
current issues, district 9

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump



All times are GMT +1. The time now is 08:10 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.6
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
FireFox 2+ or Internet Explorer 7+ highly recommended.