Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Dusty Ayres, Dec 24, 2009.
I think he covered it:
Actually I think that Cameron has an Avatar Bible setting on his desk, and the reason is that I bought this on Saturday.
Avatar - An Activist Survival Guide
It's got a lot of back story.
Indeed. It's worth remembering that about Avatar: Whatever one thinks of the science, the story, or the lack of originality (a lot of which I'll agree with, mind) it's also clear that the film is the product of a long gestation period. Cameron's also made it clear he has a sequel in mind as a possiblity before the film even opened.
It may not be Babylon 5, but he's definitely given the matter some thought.
Also, it cannot be stressed enough that white guilt is a voluntary thing, and the white guilt fantasy is the white guy coming to terms with his guilt in a way that isn't all that flattering to those he's implicitly guilty to. Avatar and District 9 are films that in that sense have a very white perspective. This isn't Roots or anything, though I suppose you could argue for the whiteness of the TV miniseries and whatnot.
That much about white privilege being true, Avatar is not a movie about it. It is a movie about a paralyzed man who seizes the chance to fix his condition by earning money serving as a probe into another culture-the 'probe' in this case being that of an Avatar.
In this form, the handicapped man becomes capable of walking again, and doing all the things that he couldn't do anymore. So if anything, the movie's all about a handicapped man who becomes something more than what his disability allows, and then uses said new ability to fight for the rights of the culture he's now involved in not to be exploited by his own culture.
If anything, Avatar is a fictional version of the Bruno Manser story, in which a man from Western civilization ended up fighting for the rights of an indigenous culture (the Penan people of the Eastern Malaysian state of Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, near the Indonesian border of Kalimantan). That's what been forgotten in this article, simply because the filmmakers didn't cast Will Smith or Taye Diggs or any other person of color as the protagonist. All it takes is a little digging and research-the writer of this article at IO9 couldn't do it, but this person of colour (Afro-Canadian) was able to do so, and he wasn't offended as much as she was. Too bad for her that they couldn't see how good this movie was, but what else can or do you expect from a writer like Annalee Newitz?
Ah, so it IS just bad writing then.
Either that, or his encyclopedia is just full of entries on "blue people and rhino monsters".
As opposed to Elves, Venetians, and the Post-Colonial Nation (in space)?
Really Babylon 5's strength here is it's just better written. It could have used more hammerhead rhinos, in retrospect.
I've always thought that B5 was horribly written from a dialog perspective. Some the actors who had to recite the stuff didn't help either. Others actually improved it by their deleivery, but not by much.
Well comparing a 'B5 bible' to the 'Avatar bible' (or whatever Cameron would call it) is not a direct comparison.
A series bible like for B5 would naturally cover more character arcs and plotlines, whereas for Avatar more time was spent on developing the setting (the Pandora biosphere, the Na'vi language, Human technology). So it is a bit of apples and oranges.
Of course Cameron claims to have the Avatar 2 and 3 plot lines roughly sketched out, but that is far from the level of detail needed to lay the background for 20+ hours and more characters.
But that's the thing. WE didn't crap on anyone. So why should we be made to pay for something we didn't do?
I'm not denying that there are 'privileges', as such. But we didn't ask for that. It just happened. We are not responsible for the crimes of our ancestors. If somebody's born into a rich family, would you force them to surrender their wealth to the government? Is the current lineup of the Chicago White Sox responsible for this?
Now of course we should *always* work to make the world a better place - nobody's saying we shouldn't. But *all* people should do that, regardless of race. It's not a special obligation for 'whitey' to do it.
I'm assuming it's like Lost, where Cameron has some basic ideas down and now needs to make up the details as he goes along.
And all I can do in response to this is renew my previous objection. I started reading through the essay (only stopping when I noticed I was ranting to myself about it) and many of the things listed are not true for me if I replace "race" with "ethnic group" despite the fact that I am indeed white because I still belong to what is both an ethnic and cultural minority... a minoirty that has been frequently repressed and marginalized over history despite having more or less the same skin color as everyone else in Europe.
I do think that I understand the concept on an overall societal level and in that context I can accept it. What I can't accept is tying it to the color of skin because it seems to me that this significantly misses the diversity and historical conflict found in what we group under the term "caucasian".
I'm not ashamed to say that I don't feel a stitch of guilt over being white. Why the fuck should I? I didn't ask to be born a specific race. I am not a racist and have never oppressed anyone. And I am not chosen to speak for my race (no one is) and I'm not responsible for actions committed by anyone other than my own personal self. And I'm not gloating over any advantages I might have been given, either. I simply exist.
That being said, of course I should do my part to make the world better. I just said that. But when we do that, we should do it as part of a built-in *human* obligation to do so - it's something that EVERYONE should do. It's the responsibility of every human being in existence to do so. Past sins cannot be made up for (especially ones that we personally did not commit), but future ones can be prevented.
Since the original post was very much about 'white guilt' as it were, it doesn't seem like this thread has veered off that much.
"We" covers more than you and me. It's we as a people and a society. If you're working to right wrongs and make the world a better place you're covered.
No arguments that B5's writing isn't half as good as its most earnest acolytes would claim it is, but I still feel fairly confident in stating overall it's better written than Avatar.
The original article cited in the thread was down on the movie because it was racist against whites, but tried to pretend it was because it was patronizing to people of color. The crap about white guilt is just to denigrate the motives behind the movie. The Good Role Models for White People aspect of the movie is what they disliked.
I'd argue that the term "white people" is itself racist. It lumps a very large, very diverse group of people all in together based purely on the colour of their skin.
There are significant cultural differences between "white" people from the north and south of England, and that's just in the same country, all within a few hundred miles. Italians and Latvians aren't the same, Danes and Irish aren't the same.
Frankly, I don't care what the motives were behind this movie. I don't care what the motives are behind movies from black directors that portray every white character as a racist either.
Movies marketed towards a particular group always end up portraying everyone outside that group poorly.
The same can be said of every single racial classification - for Asians there are Koreans and Vietnamese, for blacks there are Nigerians and Kenyans, etc.
Avatar is marketed towards as large a net as possible, actually.
Separate names with a comma.