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Old December 28 2009, 07:16 AM   #91
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Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

DrummerBoy wrote: View Post
As a white person, I don't think I have anything to "feel sorry" for. Yeah, what white people did in the past was terrible and disgusting and I hate it. At the same time I haven't done any of it and neither did any of my direct ancestors. So I've nothing to feel guilty or sorry about.
My original post was a bit brief, so let me address this and a few other comments.

First, I'm not advocating reparations from living white people to living slave descendants. What DrummerBoy and others have said is essentially right. They haven't done anything themselves and don't "owe" anyone anything.

Yet growing up in the South, I've seen racism and what it does to it's victims. I've seen the local VFW shut down their swimming pool rather than allow blacks in. I've attended university classes in buildings built by slave labor. I've spoken to people who went to the segregated school in my community that was underfunded and falling apart. And as recently as last month , I've seen Klan symbols scrawled on the walls of a high school bathroom as a silent threat.

Do most white people do these things? Of course not. But I would seriously doubt the word of any American who says they don't have any direct ancestors who were racist or at least stood by quietly and allowed racism to flourish. Every day, I see things that remind me that the history, culture and economics and sometimes even the very buildings that I walk through were built by a system that singled out one group of people for exploitation because of the color of their skin. When that horrifying system was finally overthrown, many Americans, including some of my own ancestors as well as the ancestors of many of the people on this bbs, still spent the next 140 years trying desperately to keep parts of it alive.

Do I feel personal "guilt" over this. No. I had parents (and Trek episodes) that taught me to treat people as individuals, not as races. I've not always been perfect, but I've tried.

But I still feel the weight of history. By being born white and male, I started life with an unfair advantage. Because of that I feel it is my moral responsibility to fight against racism and to help others overcome it's legacy. That's what I mean when I say I "owe" something.
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Old December 28 2009, 03:53 PM   #92
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Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

stj wrote: View Post
Well, the OP quote said "But Avatar is just the latest scifi rehash of an old white guilt fantasy." Sure seems like it thinks white guilt is lame, as in old and tired.
It's possible for a fantasy to feel tired, no?
The numerous objections that this poster and that don't feel any white guilt (and are offended they should be expected to) seem to be regarded as pertinent comments, too.
That's because, obviously, these white guilt stories aren't everyone's fantasy and some are offended at the notion of white guilt.

The point remains, I think, that white guilt fantasies are not common enough to be called cliches.


There's an element of truth of that. Certainly, whenver someone complains Avatar's been done to death as a sci-fi film I sort of strain to remember how many planetary romances we've really had, and as far as the Dances With Wolves comparison go I myself can only name a handful of movies in the genre (The Last Samurai fits it to a tee, for example) and haven't seen many more batted about on the internet. Yet on the other hand Avatar and Dances With Wolves were two huge blockbusters, so their impact is a trifle disproportionate.
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Old December 28 2009, 10:28 PM   #93
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Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

Kegg wrote: View Post
Interesting, because I believe that movie (which I did not see) was done by the same guy who did the South African picture Tsotsi, which I, in all my total ignorance of whatever the hell it is like in Africa, thought was rather excellent.
I haven't seen Tsotsi, but I hear it's good. Gavin Hood is indeed South African, which made his somewhat ignorant portrayal of Lagos even more disappointing.

stj wrote: View Post
The Nigerians are indeed so ludicrous as to be repulsive. They are essentially the only African characters in the movie, but even they are gratuitous, save for nonsense plot mechanics.
Everyone in the movie was African though, and I'd argue that all the bad guys were kind of over-the-top evil.

stj wrote: View Post
But the story has the "tragic" ending of van der Merwe becoming alien. Which means the thuggish, technologically illiterate aliens who can't use their own mother ship. District 9 is quite mixed on its racial subtexts, which is to be expected to a novice who has less conscious control of his material.
I don't know that that's necessarily true, the manner in which the film was handled would seem to indicate that Blomkamp was indeed conscious of his material, it just may be that your interpretation isn't what he was intending to get across. I'm not saying your interpretation is incorrect, just that it isn't the only interpretation.
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Old December 28 2009, 10:42 PM   #94
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Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

Over-the-top evil corporate types and the reproduction of a classic racist fantasy of black Africans as subhuman cannibals hardly go hand in hand in my book. They aren't the only black African characters in the movie, but they're certainly the most prominent. In retrospect, I rather enjoyed District 9, but it is in spite of this rather serious flaw (not unlike my general like of Black Hawk Down, despite it's ahistorical and one-dimensional Somali villains).
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Old December 28 2009, 11:49 PM   #95
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Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

Shocking as it may seem, I'm not familiar enough with Afrikaner accents for van der Merwe to come across as African. Given the talking heads from around the world, he mostly felt like another foreigner come to work at the MNU. It never occurred to me that he should have other family than his wife to talk to, for instance. I must have unconsciously assumed the rest of his family was back in Holland or wherever.

To complete sounding like I was into the egg nog while watching the movie, I have to ask: What corporate types? I thought MNU was a UN set up NGO.
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Old December 28 2009, 11:52 PM   #96
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Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

When will people stop complaining about people making films like Avatar?

That's what I want to know.
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Old December 28 2009, 11:57 PM   #97
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Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

stj wrote: View Post
Shocking as it may seem, I'm not familiar enough with Afrikaner accents for van der Merwe to come across as African.
Neither am I, but I figured he was Afrikaner because of his Dutch-sounding surname. It never occurred to me he was anything other than African, oddly enough.
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Last edited by Kegg; December 29 2009 at 12:22 AM.
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Old December 29 2009, 12:05 AM   #98
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Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

Thinking van der Merwe was Afrikaner was the sensible thing of course. Upon reflection it occurs to me that I didn't get any feel for Johannesburg as a place or any real grasp of the size or layout of District 9 or how even how it is situated with respect to the mother ship or the city.

The power blackouts locally have been a huge strain in one way or another. Let's just pretend I was into the egg nog!
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Old December 29 2009, 01:22 AM   #99
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Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

The author of the piece in question is correct in every significant respect. As to when white folks will stop telling these stories...some generations, at least. The experience of being a minority population within the U.S. should have a salutory effect on white folks in Hollywood after a while.

Last edited by Admiral Buzzkill; December 29 2009 at 01:51 AM.
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Old December 29 2009, 02:49 AM   #100
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Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

stj wrote: View Post
But the basic story has a white antihero reluctantly helping an alien hero. But the story has the "tragic" ending of van der Merwe becoming alien. Which means the thuggish, technologically illiterate aliens who can't use their own mother ship. District 9 is quite mixed on its racial subtexts, which is to be expected to a novice who has less conscious control of his material.
The ending has van der Merwe, who was basically a total callous, clueless jerk at the start, becoming a better, even somewhat heroic person... after he's turned into an alien (not as a result of the biological change, but as a result of the social one - becoming the outsider, an "alien", an "other"). If there's something tragic there (though that's a stretch - I'd say it's sad, not tragic), it's because he can't be with his wife.

Of course, de Merwe would still love to be back to being human. But would the aliens really like to be turned into humans, if they could, even if it would give them a better social position? Somehow I don't really think so. I'd say it's natural for everyone to want to remain the same species that they have been for all of their life.
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Old December 29 2009, 02:51 AM   #101
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Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

Good wrote: View Post
Do most white people do these things? Of course not. But I would seriously doubt the word of any American who says they don't have any direct ancestors who were racist or at least stood by quietly and allowed racism to flourish. Every day, I see things that remind me that the history, culture and economics and sometimes even the very buildings that I walk through were built by a system that singled out one group of people for exploitation because of the color of their skin. When that horrifying system was finally overthrown, many Americans, including some of my own ancestors as well as the ancestors of many of the people on this bbs, still spent the next 140 years trying desperately to keep parts of it alive.
But this has nothing to do with being white.

I'm of Eastern European Jewish decent and am as pasty white as you can get. My ancestors were never singled out because of the color of their skin but as everyone is aware, that didn't stop us from being singled out. And therefore, I find the very term "white guilt" itself to make several offensive implications. I am very aware that people like were harshly oppressed and that there are people even now who would be happy to do it again. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the color of either mine nor anyone else's skin.

I feel the weight of history too. I am acutely aware that if I was born a mere 40 years earlier and across an ocean things would not be so rosey and that the color of my skin has little to do with that. And I find the implication that because my skin is of a most pasty complexion that I must therefore have no personal or direct experience as to what it's like to be an oppressed minority fairly distressing.

OTOH, I know that this is not anyone's intent. Certainly no one in this thread or the author of the original article. But the term itself uses a level of granularity so huge as to miss the complexity involved in humans oppressing other humans throughout history. And by doing so, I feel it misses the point greatly. Could there be something akin to "imperialism guilt" on a societal level? I could buy that, I suppose... but none of it is caused by virtue of skin color which is practically incidental.
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Old December 29 2009, 02:57 AM   #102
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Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

ElfEars wrote: View Post
The ending has van der Merwe, who was basically a total callous, clueless jerk at the start, becoming a better, even somewhat heroic person... after he's turned into an alien (not as a result of the biological change, but as a result of the social one - becoming the outsider, an "alien", an "other"). If there's something tragic there (though that's a stretch - I'd say it's sad, not tragic), it's because he can't be with his wife.
No, it's definitely a bad change for him. He's grown as a person, but he's also lost everything and is now living in a lousy slum that is supposedly even worse than before. Even ignoring him turning into an alien this is a pretty abysmal place for him to remain in.

Of course, de Merwe would still love to be back to being human. But would the aliens really like to be turned into humans, if they could, even if it would give them a better social position? Somehow I don't really think so. I'd say it's natural for everyone to want to remain the same species that they have been for all of their life.
...funny, because that ties directly into Avatar, doesn't it?



I guess on one level this comes from the idea that the Na'vi life is awesome, since they're pre-colonial natives living the Noble Savage dream, and the prawn life sucks, because they're a post-colonial underclass. Or basically, white society is about to screw over the Na'vi, but by the time we've reached the prawn level, it's already happened. Am I reading too much into this to generalise self-importantly? I believe so, yes.
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Old December 29 2009, 03:42 AM   #103
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Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

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To complete sounding like I was into the egg nog while watching the movie, I have to ask: What corporate types? I thought MNU was a UN set up NGO.
I don't know. It stands for "Multi-National United," which sounds pretty corporate to me. This Slate article identifies it as a private corporation with a government contract, which was my impression when I saw the movie. But the film might have said otherwise. I got the Blu-Ray for Christmas, so I'll pay closer attention when I rewatch it.
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Old December 29 2009, 04:03 AM   #104
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Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

Harvey wrote: View Post
stj wrote: View Post
To complete sounding like I was into the egg nog while watching the movie, I have to ask: What corporate types? I thought MNU was a UN set up NGO.
I don't know. It stands for "Multi-National United," which sounds pretty corporate to me. This Slate article identifies it as a private corporation with a government contract, which was my impression when I saw the movie. But the film might have said otherwise.
MNU is a multinational corporation with its hands in a bunch of different fields, and the troops are part of a private military contractor subsidiary of theirs (though for the sake of simplicity they just call everything MNU in the movie).

http://multinationalunited.com/

Think of the larger corporation as being like Halliburton, and the relocation administrative/construction service Wikus works for and private military contractor Venter (the bald guy) runs as being like their subsidiary KBR and you'll have the basic idea.
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Old December 29 2009, 05:10 AM   #105
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Re: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

Yeah, MNU is definitely a corporation, and is also identified in the film as the worlds largest arms manufacturer.
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