The thought that went through my head mostly during the film was what a friend of mine had posted on her Facebook when she went to see it. She said she had read a review that said: “Why do white people keep making these films?” I can see where the reviewer got it from.
Now despite the fact that Avatar is sci-fi/fantasy, I still felt the director wanted to make some real parallels to actual humanity. And that is where I start to itch. We had humans in their starring role was Greedy Westerners (because they represent humanity in most films), and we had Na’vi in a rendition of Exotica with sure signs of African features and cultural aspects, a Balinese kecak (a.k.a. ‘monkey dance’) set-up (but with harmonic singing), and some Asian influences as well.
The whole storyline, such as it was, was immensely black and white, with the blue people as the good guys who are so close to nature and in touch with their spiritual selves, while the human people were greedy aggressive bastards. Except for a few of course but they wanted to be like the blue people.
Ah! The blue people! Or Na’vi as they were called. With idealized physiques (so strong! so flexible! slim waists! big eyes!) and distinctly African facial features, they represent the perfect being. They also have a perfect community. And they connect, as a community, with the natural and spiritual world.
Somehow I cannot help thinking of that late nineteenth century notion of the ‘noble savage’. I remember an exhibition with pictures of native Americans from that age: all proud indians on proud stallions, both of them gazing off into the distance, so wholly in touch with… well, everything! How the photographer at the time had portrayed them was as icons. As images. Things. And as such, they were not acknowledged really as people. They were different, see?
This is probably what irked me most about this film: the notion of the noble savage coupled with the obvious parallels to the situation on earth. Other than that I really don’t like watching war films and I had not expected this to be one but violence was definitely presented as something wonderful. I also felt a deep annoyance about how the main character naturally became the leader of the Na’vi people, despite him having been with them for only three months, because hey! he was trained as a marine! Marines are widely known for their cultural sensitivity, right? Right. And researchers are geeks with little to no knowledge of the real world.
Top that off with that “but it is only a film!” can be countered with the notion that something similar to what happened on Pandora is actually a regular occurence in earth’s Amazonia, but without the flying dragons… Bad taste in mouth.
Oh look, I’m not the only one: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/willheaven/100020488/james-camerons-avatar-is-a-stylish-film-marred-by-its-racist-subtext/
The 3D was stunning.