When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Dusty Ayres, Dec 24, 2009.

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  1. I dont know, filmmakers seem to love the whole "white guy comes into different culture, kicks ass, and ends up being their leader" schtick. For something that's supposedly "white guilt" (according to some people here), it's amusing how the white guy still ends up being the one they all look up to :lol:
     
  2. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Might have more to do with the Noble Savage, Back to nature and Purity of the Primitive myths that pervade our culture.
     
  3. john titor

    john titor Captain

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    District 9 is in my opinion not racist, it show the reality of societies across races and species, no one is perfect, each species has its problems and positive aspects. This is good, it turns stereotypes on their heads and offers no simple answers. Contrast this with Avatar. But...Avatar is fictive fun, the navi are the protagonists. It is a condemnation of Western colonialism but yes it does portray its metaphorical victims are technophobes and I can see how that can be construed as racism. Just as Fairhaven or the bringlodi episodes are bit ridiculous to Irish people. So in conclusion, the film can be interpreted to be insulting but its just fiction with blue cat people ultimately.
     
  4. AnyStar

    AnyStar Captain Captain

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    can you imagine the uproar this film would have caused if instead of White Chicks, it had been Black Chicks? with white women in black-face?
     
  5. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Ever see Soul Man?
     
  6. USS KG5

    USS KG5 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I'd say that Avatar is simply a classic story, and that race is the least of its themes.

    Principly it has a strong environmental message, a few sly jabs about the Iraq War and as usual in Cameron's movies a few jabs at mega-corps and their lack of morals in conducting their business.
     
  7. Kaijima

    Kaijima Captain Captain

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    This is all that really needs to be said. However simplistic or not you feel the movie tells its messages, it is largely about two things, neither of them race:

    The first is its specific environmental message. More than just "don't do bad things to nature" its specific message is that industrialized civilization dismisses nature as an obstacle in the way of its own perception of expansion, progress, and especially in a capitalistic society, profits. In a particular moment in the film, a scientist tries to explain what is happening with Pandora's unusual biosphere and that it's not "pagan nonsense" but real science. The corporate exec listening interrupts and blurts out "what are you people smoking? They're just trees!"

    There is a statement here on human beings being willfully blind to facts that are inconvenient to themselves and while this kind of thinking impacts every facet of life, humanity's interaction with the natural world has been especially impacted. There's no way you'll ever be able to talk about such ideas without causing some people a kneejerk reaction against "noble savage" tropes or "the simple pure life" stereotypes. But just because something is a trope or a stereotype doesn't necessarily mean there isn't a kernel of truth in it.

    A lot of people with loathe this movie because it goes big to make its point and that will seem too simplistic. However, to give James Cameron some credit, there are some key moments he gets right in making his point. The afformentioned dialog points out the difference between reacting with stereotypical dismissal towards vague new age nature worship" - a popular thing for people to do, and an attractive straw man argument -and confusing it respect for the environment backed up by rationalism and science. For all the movie may be cartoonish - not necessarily a bad thing in transmitting a message, however much many folks hate that - its hung on a few solid principles.

    Secondly, the corporate, government, and money messages are themes Cameron has been on about for years. In Terminator, Skynet came about because of military-industrial complex collusion. Skynet then attacked humanity because it instantly concluded that the human organizations that created it could not be trusted. Ironically, Skynet had a point even if nuking the Earth flat was a bit of an overreaction. In The Abyss, military men are sent to investigate potential alien contact armed with nukes and orders to take them out just to be sure. In Titanic, the rich and wealthy, the backbone investors of governments who help keep regimes in power, are shown to be trite and decadent, concerned with triviality, image, and prestige over basic human needs.

    On another note, it's pretty clear that another of the filmmakers' aims with Avatar was to help the message by making people fall in love with the alien world. For all it is harsh and dangerous - which in a way, defuses protests that the story romanticizes nature in a simplistic way - it is also beautiful and strings are tugged to make the viewer feel terrible when parts of it are bulldozed for no reason other than carelessness. The intentional simplicity of the story aids this goal. Making the Na'vi "flawed" in the same way that real life peoples that have been oppressed were flawed, would have been "complex and realistic" but also would have shifted the viewer's attention onto the sociopolitical drama and away from just plain feeling awful when the corporate bastards started kicking alien puppies.

    Also, I do have to wonder - do people who think the movie is unrealistically simplistic also think that, given the opportunity, the scenario the movie outlines would never happen? I mean, really. The flip side of the simplification coin is that while, say, the native american peoples may have done bad things on their own terms, that doesn't make it any less bad what colonials did to them. I find it interesting when some people seem to try and distract attention from core messages by focusing on complications that may not be relevant to the point at hand.

    Some have even called Avatar more of a kid's movie. That's interesting too. If it is partially a kid's movie - sure is violent for a kid's movie, but I digress - then its very simplicity and broad strokes will do a good job of imparting its message on kids. I'm not entirely clear on how the basic message of "don't be a dick and burn down people's crap because you can make money off it" is bad.

    In the end it could just be that such topics are inherently too contentious in the present social climate where it seems everyone is on a razor's edge about issues such as environmentalism, corporatism, and the like. And those issues have been heavily politicized. I wonder how films that are cited as being superior with the same themes Avatar uses would be received if released today - and what viewers would read in that wasn't there.

    Hell, District 9, which now that we have this movie to compare it to, was initially slammed by lots of kneejerks because of all sorts of simplistic and "racist" overtones in in. Funny enough, now I'm seeing tons of people holding up District 9 as the "right way" to do it compared to Avatar.

    "LOL."
     
  8. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The film gets to have its cake here and eat it, too, though. In the world of Pandora, new age nature worship is validated by science - there's a scientifically observable and explainable balance of nature. People can be quite literally in tune with the beasts and birds, they can jack in like it's a port. Our technological interaction with nature is here quite literally alien, and the living planet - acting like a forest god with a vague 'science' veneer - can rise up to stop that.

    Cameron's basically loading the whole deck for its argument and letting any internal contradictions be erased by the story logic. Fair enough, but we can't really say it's valuing rationalism instead of a new age attitude - really, it's both, if that. Or to be less fair rationalism is made to back up new age attitudes and is subordinate to them.

    Depends how vaguely you define it. Reduced to the barebones of the story - natives attacked by advanced culture who screw up their ecology - it already has happened, to a point. Once we wonder off into noble savage tropes, and more specifically, interstellar travel, it gets a mite more implausible.

    I never slammed it as that. The only racist overtone I wasn't comfortable with, really, was the evil Nigerian flesh-eaters. You know what? Still not cool with that.
     
  9. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    No, it would have to be white men in black-face and drag. Hey, Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell. Could work...

    Just kidding! :rommie: :p
     
  10. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Fleet Admiral Admiral

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  11. USS KG5

    USS KG5 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Yes but that is exactly what sci-fi IS. You can change the conditions of a story and therefore tell it in a different way, making your point differently.

    In the case of Avatar the point is that even with conclusive proof that you are destroying something beautiful and unique big business would STILL destroy it in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

    We all know on some level this is true, and while Cameron has a corporate shithead on-scene (just like Buerk in Aliens) to personify this, he simply is doing what corportae shitheads do.

    It is hard, for example to blame the military colonel for his actions. He is a warrior and is given a war and the task to win it. The film goes out of its way to show how devoted he is to that goal, blind to everything else. He is, to the last, a perfect soldier, he is, while the antagonist, not really a villain.

    Actually it is pretty hard to blame corporate shithead for his actions. For all his massive lack of compassion (hardly a rare flaw) he simply pushes ahead doing his job, strip mining this beautiful natural paradise in service to the almighty dollar.

    Basically, despite its simplicity, my natural dislike of such an outright liberal message and the fact the film uses lots of cinematic tricks to tug the heartstrings (well, it is a film) in some ways the environmental message has never been put across so successfully. There is only so long we can all keep carrying on doing exactly what we do, because it is what we do, before it bites us on the ass.

    Somewhere, sometime, whether it is climate change, the end of the rainforests, the melting of the polar ice caps, the death of the last Tiger or the drilling of Antarctica, we will all turn around and look at what we have done and consider what we have lost. Climate change is NOT going to wipe out mankind, we are not going to destroy all life through burning oil. What we will do however is change a lot of things in ways we might not like. I'd miss the polar bears and the ice caps, heck I might even miss Norwich.

    How much are we willing to lose? How much natural beauty that we take for granted in the same way that the humans in Avatar take Pandora for granted are we losing, and will we ever look back and regret it?

    It is easy to be polarised on the environmental debate but it is also easy to forget most people if wel led and educated will be happy to change for the better, without completely giving up cars to keep the tree huggers happy and without completely going down the free market, might is right, money is power route.

    We need a third way, Avatar is a film that adds to the debate in an interesting if simplistic way, as well as cinematically being probably the best thing on the big screen since ROTK. Good on Cameron I say.
     
  12. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Naturally. But I don't think one can claim that the film is rejecting or not advocating a new age-type viewpoint because it's rational in that universe.

    Beyond sci-fi and fantasy in general, any work with an agenda will show its agenda as rational and/or scientific. Such is the way of things.

    Naw, he's a villain. 'It'll be very humane,' he says at one point. Drinking that cup of coppa while nuking Hometree, deciding he's got to descreate their shrine, and so on. It's actually the corporate sleazebag who is given a slightly more sympathetic viewpoint in that he seems slightly recitent, and even that's pushing it. He's contemptuous towards the natives, the science of Grace Augustine, and similarly feckless in his attitude.

    If you want to say he has a viewpoint, fine, because he does, if you want to say he has layers - that's debateable at best, but I'll give you can make an argument for it. But not the villain? Heck no. He's like everything us Europeans find scary about American patriotism wrapped into one super-masculine package. 'Hoo-Rah! 'MURICA!' would probably be the extent of his defence of his actions.

    In terms of sheer scope of epic spectacle (as well as being a watchable, entertaining movie), I completely agree with this statement.
     
  13. USS KG5

    USS KG5 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Well I'd object to the term "new age" in that context. Again the point has sort of been made by yourself that the Na'Vi really CAN talk to Ey'Wa and they really CAN commune with trees, which is a very different kind of thing to many "new age" practitioners, who lets face it are often massive wankers, to use an Eglish phrase.

    I don't want to split that too thin, so im happy to declare the point moot if you are!

    I don't think Avatar has an agenda in the same way as, for example, Farenheit 9/11. It clearly has a MESSAGE about environmentalism but I think agenda really is thoroughly the wrong word.

    But even assuming the Americans at their worst are exactly like the colonel (and lets face it, they are) does that make those types outright bad? They serve a purpose and thats that, and when let loose are extremely formidable.

    You see a villain I see a professional US soldier, now it is quite possible that it is merely a matter of perspective. I might have a bit too much time for people who are professional, dedicated and detached at the expense of their humanity.

    Oh that was how I meant it. Cinema should sometimes be a spectacle you simply cannot replicate on your TV at home.
     
  14. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Foe me there will always be movies that you have to see in the theater and those that are fine on TV. Avatar is the former.
     
  15. Checkmate

    Checkmate Commodore

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    Yeah, I never understood any of that crap.

    If you go by those fanatics, slavery apparently didn't exist until Europeans came to the Americas. Nevermind all the African tribes that warred against one another, enslaved one another, and sold those slaves to the Europeans in the first place. Nevermind the Romans or every other single culture of old whose cultures basically revolved around them.

    Also, devastating a local culture was a brand new concept made by the same Europeans. At no other point in history did one people oppress, slaughter, exploit, or cheat another people. It was a brand new concept introduced by the Europeans when they came to the Americas.

    :rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:

    By the way, how's Tibet doing these days? :rolleyes:
     
  16. USS KG5

    USS KG5 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The human race is often pretty shitty to each other, there are no out-and-out good guys in history or in the present.
     
  17. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Yeah, but this is the sort of thing you'd expect in a new age fantasy, no? That's the essence of my point, really. Of course new agers can't really talk to the whales via whalesong, but damn it, if they're writing their own fantasies they might literalise their mystical assumptions like that. Hey, maybe extraterrestials speak to whales with their space probes (to reference this other movie.)

    But yeah, I guess I'll leave 'at be.
    You may be right there. I'm not trying to suggest Avatar's message is a bad one, anyway, but I think we can all agree there is a message.

    I don't see those as an either/or. He's a professional and he' also a villain. He's pretty much the archetype of the evil American general, much like America getting stymied in a jungle war Quadritch seems to have shades of Vietnam in him (unsurprising, given this is Cameron we're talking about).

    I mean, he's basically rather cartoonish in his villainy. I thought he was a lot of fun but I do find it sort of perplexing anyone would find him deep at all.
     
  18. USS KG5

    USS KG5 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I would not go as far as to say I found him deep, merely more interesting as a character than a lot of similar characters in other movies.
     
  19. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Haven't seen the movie yet, but the presumption that yet another tiresome screed harping on white guilt is so offensive needs justification. Once you've mentioned Dances with Wolves, Little Big Man, Soldier Blue, some versions of Pocahontas, you've already mentioned most all of this supposedly vast catalog of insults to White People. Doesn't this thread rather confuse a pin prick with a decapitation?

    Charges of racism rather get lost in that nonsense, I think. Is it more the Magic Negro trope in reverse? Or, Role Models For White People?
     
  20. Lt. Trull

    Lt. Trull Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    If you've not seen the movie then I suggest you do.... every one of these turds when they left the movie theatre enjoyed the movie... it was not until their analytical mind got a hold of what they saw when they convinced themselves they didn't like it...
     
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