Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Dusty Ayres, Dec 24, 2009.
When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?
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.
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.
As I said here yesterday:
So what she said is a load of bull.
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.
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.
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.)
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?
When Armond White likes Avatar.
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.
how about around 2050 when white people stop being the majority and become the minority and then start to get taken advantage of...
I wondered if this film was yet another Magic Whitey story, like Forbidden Kingdom, Last Samurai, and the Transformer films, in that the most important heroes in the film aren't the most powerful or the most skilled or the most knowledgeable, but it's a white kid who for some reason has a certain something that Asians or even giant alien Robots don't possess.
However, with Avatar, I think a somewhat legit case could be made against that. Jake Sully still fails to really excel at the Na'vi's culture, skills, and abilities, even by the end. This is in some ways a total reversal to Last Samurai, where somehow Tom Cruise not only adopts the ways of the samurai, but actually improves upon it to the point where he's one of the last surviving characters.
But... it's still kind of disturbing in that in order for Jake to be truly a part of their civilization, he has to switch bodies. There's a concept of Racist Love, in that some people will go to extremes in order to appease their racial fetishes (ie, a white person dating only Asians, an Asian dating only Latinos, etc. etc) and compound that with having a home filled with nothing but an Asian motif, but I'm quite sure there are those with Racist Love who would just love to switch minds with a minority just to be that much closer, a sort of either cultural envy or cultural self-disgust.
Regardless, however, this is a very complex discussion from all sides and I don't think anyone really has a right or wrong answer thus far in the thread.
District 9 was a great film, even better than Avatar.
^yeah but D9 had its own problems too. MNU were just as OTT & one dimensionally "evil" as the military in Avatar.
I'm more curious as to when this author might get over herself.
Ironic that you say that, the Cameron film's namesake 'Avatar, the Last Airbender' was a fantasy about 4 Asian "tribes" which were based on Japanese, Chinese, Tibetan and Inuit cultures. The Japanese were war mongers and committed torture and genocide.
To add to the irony, the live action film of Last Airbender is apparently going to use white actors in all the roles.
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