I was going to write about New Year’s resolutions but let’s be honest half of you have already fallen off the wagon anyway so there’s no use in wasting time and space here.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am critical of racial representation in popular media. I raise a lot of dust anytime I think people of color are represented in negative light. But apparently I failed as a Black person because I actually liked Avatar and had very few negative things to say about the film.
At this point, I have no expectations for Hollywood. It’s almost impossible to be let down when you don’t expect too much.
This post will contain spoilers. You’ve been warned.
First, to give credit where credit is due, the film was beautifully composed and some of the scenery blew me away. The story may have been told before but it is always nice to have a reminder of the ills of corporatism and imperialism. Also, the Na’vi had to be so “native” or “primitive” because they were a representation of nature and humans’ inability to commune with nature.
What did bother me about the film was the main character, John Smith Jake Sully. I agree with this article on the point that the movie may have been just as enriching, or maybe even more eye-opening if that character did not exist.
That the Na’vi are buckling under the sheer power of RDA before Jake Sully rides in on his white horse red bird/dinosaur to save them doesn’t bother me. It bothers me that Tsu’Tey could not be the character to rally the Na’vi and rise as a triumphant leader of the Omaticaya. (I mean damn, Jake Sully came in and got the girl, the flyest ride and became clan leader?!)
In order for the audience to side with the Na’vi, there had to be a Great White Medium. It’s easier to bond with a human that has compassion for the Na’vi and their culture than it is to muster up some compassion for the Na’vi. That Jake Sully had to exist speaks more to the lack of sympathy and compassion we have for nature than the destruction and ignorance of the humans in the film. Nature’s triumph might have been greater had the Omaticaya been portrayed as strong enough to unite and fight back without Jake Sully. But of course, mankind had to be redeemed somehow.
In the end, I liked the movie because as simplistic (unobtanium? Really?) as it was, it was also thought-provoking in a way. Plus I never saw Dances with Wolves or Fern Gully so I didn’t have a déjà vu moment. I can’t fault Avatar for falling back on the same clichés and characters that haunt storytellers these days. The bag of conceptual resources for films like Avatar is so limited that laziness in expression is almost expected.
Anyway, we all know that White Guilt is better in 3D.