Avatar romanticizes and essentializes Ewoks: I mean Native Americans. It shows positive images of less materialistic and more environmentally-balanced culture, and it suggests modern America could learn from it. Obviously reductive, stereotype-reinforcing and racist.
Now, in all seriousness I’m not one to complain about petty things or to shove PC culture down people’s throats, but when I saw Avatar I was outraged: The blue-skinned, yellow-eyed , 9-foot, elf-eared people lived in rain forests like Native Americans and hissed like Native Americans. They organized into tribes, had hands, wore jewelry and connected biochemically to trees. Just like Native Americans. When I see an alien race, and they all have high cheek bones, I know there’s social injustice occurring somehow; Cameron’s insidious and destructive invocation of familiar phenotypes threatens to tarnish White America’s outstanding relations with indigenous populations across the globe.
The fact that the hero had to unlearn his whiteness to reject militarized colonialism doesn’t begin to make up for the massive, overwhelming phenotypical racism.
The movie was also trite. I mean really, the plot is just “Fern Gully” (“Love the forest!”) meets “Dune” (spice? unobtanium? going native?) meets “Dances With Wolves” (“Fall in love on the frontier!”) meets “Eragon” (“Free us oh-dragon-rider!”) meets “Planet Earth” (“Ooh, look! Bioluminescence!”), meets the “Matrix” (“Plug me in”), meets “Waking Life” (What’s real? What’s a dream? How can we know?), meets “The Last Samurai” (washed-up white soldier falls in love with the people he’s supposed to colonize) meets Baudrillard, Harroway and [insert post-colonial, anti-imperialist philosopher]. I’m pretty sure there’s also some “Jumanji” and “Rambo” in the mix somewhere. And those walking mechs? TOTALLY a rip-off of “Aliens” (along with Sigourney Weaver).
With so much of the movie pre-packaged, I can’t believe it took Cameron, what, 16 years to write and produce? I mean, really, how could I have not known from the beginning that the good guy would be caught up in the local culture and used to fight Whitey? I miss Cameron’s days of Titanic where a movie’s plot wasn’t so straight-forward.
– David Mathews ’10