Seriously people, “Avatar” is not that sweet.
Actually, it left me quite bitter after leaving the theater. Sure, the visual imagery of the film was stunning, the computer animation top notch, but the story, the racial paternalism and the white savior mentality that permeated the film left me feeling a bit let down.
Overall, “Avatar” has a troubling racial subtext, which ultimately overshadows its epic 3-D effect. Let me explain (spoilers ahead so read with caution).
The Na’vi are depicted as tall blue people with Native American-like war paint and exotic braids, beads and feathers (most of whom are played by actors of color) in contrast to the humans in the film who are primarily played by white actors (Ironic … or not?)
The plot is basically stolen from a mix of “Dances With Wolves” and “Pocahontas” (throw in a little “Fern Gully” and you’re set, basically.)
The story has been one we’ve heard over and over. In “Avatar” we just have another variation of a plot in which a tribe of people depend on a heroic, white male protagonist who has “befriended the natives” to save them from their ugly oppressors.
It’s a continuation of Hollywood’s racialized tradition, one which glorifies racial whiteness at the expense of a crude, unimaginative depiction of non-white peoples.
Even if you want to insist that the movie is not racist, you would still have to concede that it is racially uninventive and dumb.
It keeps us stuck in a plot that gets us nowhere, reifying conceptions of the colonized, “primitive” native versus the white, technologically advanced savior.
This only further perpetuates ideas that sustain a racist society. “Avatar” is a film about race, but ultimately one told by the perspective of the dominant race.
There’s something suspicious about this. When will we have a story told by the perspective of the Na’vi?
Simply stated, Cameron’s movie lacked imagination. His lazy racial stereotyping provided a story we’ve seen and heard for ages, one of the heroic white guy saving a bunch of poor “savages” after he realizes his (and his race’s) faults.
For once, I’d like to see a film where the non-white peoples save themselves. Now that would be creative.
Desiree Valentine is a senior in the College of Communication