Naima "Nai" Ramos-Chapman is the Associate Editor at Campus Progress, a dancer with Taurus Broadhurst Dance in D.C., and an aspiring visual artist (she doodles). Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Naimaramchap.
  • Wow…fascinating. Under the topic regarding “Machete” I mentioned how character’s like Machete or Dolemite are like avatars for Mexicans and blacks respectively. As I wrote that comment I thought about James Cameron’s blockbuster and how the Jake Sully character was an avatar representing the majority. While characters like Machete represent a minority’s struggle against the majority carried out in an over-the-top fantastical manner, Jake Sully represents the majority’s innate desire to conquer new lands and these films evoke an almost biblical-sense of importance due to their epic scope. But something interesting happens in these stories–the avatar character turns on “his own.” In essence he reconnects with his soul via the “tragic awe-inspiring race” and thus realizes the errors of his people’s ways. His fighting for the “tragics” is a way of apologizing…a reparation of sorts. He is a sacrificial character in this way…sacrificing himself for the sins of his people. It’s a story we’ve been telling since the “beginning” of our time because it’s the story of hope. A hope for a change. “There’s gotta be something better than this.”

    What is incredibly telling about “Avatar” is the fact that it takes place on another planet–not Africa, colonial America or India. Hmmmmmm…. 😉

  • quadmoniker

    Yeah, I just started to watch Avatar a few weeks ago and I only got through about 40 minutes. I was a little surprised at how old-school racist it was, and surprised it had been so revered. I get that it’s a criticism of American military might, but it does it in the wrong way.

  • Kaname Tōusen

    very funny.
    Although I must say that I don’t think avatar is as bad as all that.
    Most of the other movies in that video yes,
    but do those films portray most of the white and/or American characters as blood thirsty, tree munching, genocidal twots?
    And the humans who do end up helping the native population as a motley crew composed of the historically oppressed (women, the disabled and downtrodden, latin and other brown people,)?
    I think not, (well maybe a tiny bit in the constant gardener)


    I remember watching Avatar in the US and yeah the na’vi are presented as somewhat fantastical etc in the beginning but by the end of the film they
    are the ones humanised and the humans (except the few who help the na’vi) are the monsters.
    I remember everyone in the cinema cheering like I’ve never seen when the human troops (and all that they represent symbolically) were getting their proverbial’s ruined in all sorts of creative ways by the na’vi and the animals of Pandora.
    I can’t remember such a scene or such a reaction to it in all my years of going to watch films.
    I think that makes more than a bit of a difference.
    Also I don’t think that most readings of the film note that it is not the white guy who saves the na’vi.
    Yeah he sort of gets to be sort of like the leader for a bit (only until the humans have gone)
    but they are loosing the battle at the end and the spirit of nature/or whoever it is breaks out all the four winged pterodactyls/things from nausicaa, giant dungbeetle-rhinos and fish-lizard-wolves and whatever other hyphenated animals it can muster and saves the day and then at the end he gets personally saved again by his na’vi girlfriend.
    The fact that he gets to be the sort of leader I think that has a bit to do with the narrative structure of the film (that ends up with the hero/audience seeing humans from the other end of the gun ) and a lot to do with present popular film storytelling conventions which dictate that the hero be all triumphant at the end, as well as all the stuff mentioned above.

    I think people are missing a bit of the point here,
    The main metaphor is clearly one of European/US colonialism now and in the past especially at a time when our terrible history of laying waste to the world and it’s people is being whitewashed
    I am form the UK and I cannot remember a film, or at least a popular one, which has dealt with colonialism and imperialism in this way
    Almost all the people from the uk who I’ve spoken to said they came out of it crying like babies with our dark history on their minds.
    This review
    (by maybe one of the top 5 journalists in Britain)
    basically sums all that up.

    For that I’ll let the slightly clunky way its told and white guy as saviour bit slide. at the very least it’s the best in the white guy goes to… films, much better than the last samurai or tears of the sun.
    Oh and in the last king of Scotland the white guy saves precisely nobody (though a discussion of who put Idi Amin in power would have been nice)
    I apologise for the randomness of this post. Great site keep up the good work.