Recent Criticism of the Box-Office Hit Avatar States The Film Exploits Racist Themes

- By Bossip Staff

Some critics think the film Avatar is glorifying ‘the white man’ and has racist undertones:

Near the end of the hit film “Avatar,” the villain snarls at the hero, “How does it feel to betray your own race?” Both men are white — although the hero is inhabiting a blue-skinned, 9-foot-tall, long-tailed alien.

Strange as it may seem for a film that pits greedy, immoral humans against noble denizens of a faraway moon, “Avatar” is being criticized by a small but vocal group of people who allege it contains racist themes — the white hero once again saving the primitive natives.

Since the film opened to widespread critical acclaim three weeks ago, hundreds of blog posts, newspaper articles, tweets and YouTube videos have said things such as the film is “a fantasy about race told from the point of view of white people” and that it reinforces “the white Messiah fable.”

The film’s writer and director, James Cameron, says the real theme is about respecting others’ differences.

In the film (read no further if you don’t want the plot spoiled for you) a white, paralyzed Marine, Jake Sully, is mentally linked to an alien’s body and set loose on the planet Pandora. His mission: persuade the mystic, nature-loving Na’vi to make way for humans to mine their land for unobtanium, worth $20 million per kilo back home. Writer/director Cameron, who is white, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that his film “asks us to open our eyes and truly see others, respecting them even though they are different, in the hope that we may find a way to prevent conflict and live more harmoniously on this world. I hardly think that is a racist message.”

There are many ways to interpret the art that is “Avatar.”

What does it mean that in the final, sequel-begging scene, Sully abandons his human body and transforms into one of the Na’vi for good? Is Saldana’s Na’vi character the real heroine because she, not Sully, kills the arch-villain? Does it matter that many conservatives are riled by what they call liberal environmental and anti-military messages?

Is Cameron actually exposing the historical evils of white colonizers? Does the existence of an alien species expose the reality that all humans are actually one race?

“Can’t people just enjoy movies any more?” a person named Michelle posted on the Web site for Essence, the magazine for black women, which had 371 comments on a story debating the issue.

Although the “Avatar” debate springs from Hollywood’s historical difficulties with race, Will Smith recently saved the planet in “I Am Legend,” and Denzel Washington appears ready to do the same in the forthcoming “Book of Eli.”

Discuss…

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