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. Count Zero

    Count Zero Says who? Moderator

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    I didn't think it was out of place. In Tanzania, where an extraordinary number of albinos are born every year, albinos get hunted and eaten because people believe their body parts have special powers. Children are more at risk because they're easier to hunt down. So if people do that with human children, it stands to reason that they would have even less scruples about doing that with aliens that have very little in common with them. I'm not sure how widespread this belief about albinos is in Africa, but to me the 'alien bodyparts have medicinal effects' thing made sense in that context.
     
  2. T'Baio

    T'Baio Admiral Admiral

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    You mean all Nigerians aren't evil, flesh eating gangsters!?!

    The movies lied to me again.
     
  3. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It's not a catalogue of insults, as the article quoted by the OP rather appropriately pointed out. They're white fantasies in reaction to the injustices perpetuated upon other races.

    More of a corrollary. They're both tropes which deal with racism from a fantastical, white perspective.
    Birth of a Nation lied to you too, but a glib quote isn't much of comeback. The Nigerians were rather indelicately handled as simplistic villain-types - though to be fair, District 9 had pretty much the same attitude towards the evil corporation, so this mostly reflects the film's didacticism.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2009
  4. Trent Roman

    Trent Roman Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The film is a sci-fi moral fable in the mode of classic Twilight Zone episodes, so didacticism doesn't feel out of place; I think my real problem with Nigerians is that they were foreigners, and that seemed to tacitly accept the anti-immigrant, xenophobic attitude towards other African ethnicities that we've seen growing in South Africa over the last fifteen years, with deadly demonstration in the 2008 riots. I don't know how much of the film might have been in the can already at that point, but it left a vague sense of unease nonetheless. It's easy to attack an obviously Afrikaner, white-privilege organization like MNU and all the apartheid implications it carries; it would have been bolder to speak against the popular scapegoating of African immigrants for South Africa's high crime rates instead of pandering to the belief. Oh well.

    Fictitiously yours, Trent Roman
     
  5. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Quite. Ironically there's a similar attitude towards Nigerians specifically here (with similar crime attitudes), which is why I may have particularly taken objection with it, consciously or otherwise.

    Besides, through our protagonist, District 9 gives the privileged Afrikaners something it doesn't give the Nigerians: A heart. der Merwe is far from a hero, but he's ultimately a likeable, sympathetic guy when the cards are down and the action sequences up the ante.
     
  6. dragunzng

    dragunzng Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    As a Nigerian when they popped up in District 9, your ears kind of perk up in shock and you shrink in your seat a bit in embarrassment. That said, I figure that's how Russians, Afghan's, Chinese etc, etc have felt over and over again in most American movies. Most action movies need a bad guy and they're often exaggerated. I don't personally know any cannibals or flesh eaters, but I don't doubt it probably goes on in some dark corners of the country.

    In truth I was just glad Blomkamp got the names and accents right for the majority of Nigerians in District 9, there was definitely a greater effort made than say in Wolverine, where "Lagos", was definitely not Lagos, and the Nigerians were obviously not Nigerians.

    Shame to know that Nigeria's still a hell-hole in the Avatar universes future.

    Ahem. To address the thread's original question though; it's just a fantasy that happens to be told with a white man as a lead actor. As a black comic book artist, I've written similar stories from a black characters point of view. The "white man atoning for his sins via racial integration" theme is only a theme because so many directors working in Hollywood happen to be white when.
     
  7. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  8. JacksonArcher

    JacksonArcher Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I agree that Tsotsi was a fantastic movie. When Gavin Hood, the director of that movie, was slated to helm Wolverine, I thought for sure it had a chance of being good. Then I saw Wolverine, and I was clearly wrong.
     
  9. Dusty Ayres

    Dusty Ayres Commodore

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    When I tried to bring up this very point at a certain blog about District 9, I got my ass handed to me in a bloody plastic bag-10 seconds flat(the name I posted under is Neville A. Ross, my real name.)

     
  10. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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. 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.

    The point remains, I think, that white guilt fantasies are not common enough to be called cliches. The otherwise dramatically pointless Black Friend whose presence validates the nonracism of the Hero is a cliche.

    Following the link, it is amusing to note that the article cites Dune, a novel, but omits Lawrence of Arabia, which is much more likely to be an influence on a filmmaker.

    Just saw District 9 last Thursday. 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. (As in, they show up to interfere with Wikus' recapture by the authorities.) 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.
     
  11. Good

    Good Commander Red Shirt

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    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.
     
  12. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It's possible for a fantasy to feel tired, no?
    That's because, obviously, these white guilt stories aren't everyone's fantasy and some are offended at the notion of white guilt.

    :vulcan:

    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.
     
  13. dragunzng

    dragunzng Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.

    Everyone in the movie was African though, and I'd argue that all the bad guys were kind of over-the-top evil.

    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.
     
  14. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    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).
     
  15. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  16. Hyperspace05

    Hyperspace05 Commodore Commodore

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

    That's what I want to know. :D
     
  17. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2009
  18. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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!:techman:
     
  19. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    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. :lol:
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
  20. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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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