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Avatar Overload and the “Anti” Agenda

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Avatar.

That's all I'm seeing lately. A close-up of a blue face with a yellow cat-like eye staring at me from every bus stop, and 1,001 versions of newspaper advertisements and television commercials extolling the apparently overwhelming need for your own DVD or Blu-ray copy of what has been declared mankind's all-time motion picture achievement. It's Avatar overload. I don't think I've ever witnessed such fawning saturation of the market for any film before this one.

If Avatar had stuck purely to its message of respect for the environment and people's rights, then fine, I might be willing to watch it and perhaps even agree with the sentiment. I have no love or respect for corporations who plunder and ruin the environment for no other good reason than profit, but director James Cameron takes things much further.

Uncle Sam had to get up to his devilish ways and try to destroy everything and everyone on the Avatar planet in order to fulfill a thirsty desire for a rare mineral found there. This storyline is every bit as puerile as it is predictable.

Cameron, like most self-styled Left-wing heroes, conveniently ignores the fact that the United States is to be reckoned with in respect to environmental technology and that the majority of Americans approve of conservation. If Cameron's message was that America was being controlled by some sinister lobby which ensured that the film's fictional administration had to provide the mineral at all costs, that would be one thing. A stretch, but at least some sort of excuse. Instead, Cameron gets all Michael Moore on us, gleefully informing worldwide audiences that America, through its rock-solid belief in capitalism and its armed forces, is always reckless and dangerous.

As one sentinent critic observes: "James Cameron believes that the way forward is to tear down the factories, to tear down the cities, and give up on all mod cons."

Then there's the charge of racism as it pertains to Avatar. That one of the leading human characters, a white researcher, defends the Avatarians, enforces the notion that a fictional race of other people of color should need and rely on white assistance in order to defeat a threat to their way of life.

As this review makes clear, in Avatar, "the narcissistic fantasy of the white hero who leads people of another color in a struggle of liberation presents whites a pleasing images of themselves as saviors rather than oppressors. The racial masquerade is another fantasy solution to white guilt in which the white hero crosses over and pretends to be black or native American."

Gee, let's all smile and hold hands, shall we? This fantasy is very adept at perpetuating the notion that Caucasians — especially Anglo-Saxon ones — are deeply suspect, sinister, and even evil unless they turn their backs on and reject their fellow war-like, rampaging whites. Whoever coined the phrase "blue-eyed devil" was a natural at PR, and Cameron was only too eager to extrapolate on this theme.

Again, this very conveniently ignores the fact the great majority of environmentalists are, and have been, whites. When you think of a member of Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, or Friends of the Earth, what's the first image that pops into your head to define the look of the average member? That's right: I'm thinking Shaggy from Scooby-Doo myself.

(Besides, let's not forget that Avatar's director is the same man who was happy to see several domesticated rats drown in the attempt to perfect a scene in an earlier film of his, The Abyss. Some nature-lover.)

If racism and civil rights is what you're concerned about, you only have to look at the way most Americans have reacted with horror to Arizona's tough anti-illegal immigration law to know that the nation's civil-rights consciousness is stronger than ever. (A completely misguided sense of civil rights outrage, mind you, but surely admirable in the eyes of Cameron clones nonetheless.)

In other words, I'm sick to practically the point of death — surely a good thing according to whackjobs like Cameron on account of my being white — of Avatar due to its only-too-predictable anti-Western, anti-American, anti-white, anti-capitalist bias. There is nothing "pro-" about this film. It has "anti-" written all throughout its screamingly obvious agenda.

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About Nightdragon

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Avatar is basically Dances with Wolves in space.

    It’s great to look at and the biology and technology of Cameron’s imagined world is fascinating, but as a story it’s utterly predictable.

    As sociopolitical commentary, I’m not inclined to take it at all seriously and neither should you.

  • Lee Mallabar

    So… has the author of this piece even seen the movie? It would be pretty pathetic to write such negative things without even watching it.

  • e-paladin

    Does nobody see how this story is only mildly altered to our history with the American Indian, changed only to give a fuzzy feeling at the end?

  • Gail Vernon

    Avatar gave a whole new impression to the word “3D”. Cameron took it to a whole new level. It created a huge impact that other 3D movies doesn’t even come close.

    P.S. My daughter’s facebook profile is a picture of her but with blue skin complete with those whiskers thingie on her face…

  • zingzing

    dr dreadful–it’s obviously pocahontus.

    mark–it’s james cameron. that should be your first clue that it’s a dumb piece of crap. don’t waste your time taking it seriously. what next, the rich white guy in titanic was too obviously going to be the villain, and you knew the boat was going to sink?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    I didn’t see Pocahontas. But the parallels with Dances with Wolves are obvious and I’m by no means the first to have noticed them.

    Costner’s film, however, has greater integrity because it’s bound by historical reality. We know that the indigenous Americans did not win their wars against the white man and that there was no happy ending.

    So, even though the tribe outwits the soldiers and remains free at the end of that movie, it’s a pyrrhic victory.

  • zingzing

    doc, go here, read that, laugh.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Looks like the author is yet another disgruntled white guy who can’t see past his own limited reach. Mr. Manning, when it comes to race, all races are indeed guilty…BUT we who are white should not be so insecure when it comes to observations about racism. After all, we whites are presently on top of the heap and have been so since China turned inward about halfway during the last millennium.

    If I hear a non-white complain about the racism of whites, I’ll see first whether they’re telling the truth – and if they are, I’ll agree with them. Why? Because neither you nor I can ever really understand how it feels to be hated and downtrodden because of the color of our skin. Perhaps you’ve traveled enough to see how you are protected and/or preferred because of your white skin…often even by non-whites.

    So NO, you cannot know how they feel. Instead, I recommend to you that you get over yourself, see your own insecurity for what it is, and learn that there are hardships that others have faced that you cannot understand as they do.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    I just don’t get it. I’m inclined to agree that Avatar is, indeed, a so-called “message” movie. That being said, I think it’s was a rip off of Frank Herbert’s Dune. Cameron’s incarnation is about mining unobtainium. Herbert’s vision was about mining the spice melange. Though it is an artistic masterpiece, it does not hold a candle to David Lynch’s Dune.

    So all you disenfranchised white folks can just chill out. It’s a movie for goodness sake.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    zing: LOL. But you could probably do the same thing with a plot summary of DWW.

    Silas: If it was a ripoff, it was a singularly inept one. Herbert’s novel, and Lynch’s movie, are light years more complex and subtle than Avatar.

  • zingzing

    doc, that’s prolly true. either way, cameron remains a hack.

    i hate dune. it’s ugly, pretentious and it’s got fucking sting in it. it’s also boring. sometimes, lynch gets away with it, sometimes, it gets away from lynch. dune is an example of the latter.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    True dat, zing. Anyway, Herbert’s novel is vastly superior to the movie.

  • zingzing

    i’ve never read it, but i have incredibly little patience for sci-fi. my brother’s huge into it, and i like to piss him off by calling it “fantasy” and sending him used copies of twilight books. he calls me up and asks me why i send him such things and i say “i thought you were into fantasy” and he starts yelling and i hang up and laugh.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    You are inherently evil and hilarious, Zing.

    Avatar ain’t deep, but it is incredibly riveting while you’re watching it. Cameron may possibly want to see himself as an intellectual or a visionary. He’s certainly not, but he is a great pop entertainer.

    Dances with Wolves?? Sheesh. Wotta large hunka phony ham. What was it Pauline Kael said — “Kevin Costner has feathers in his hair and feathers in his head.”

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    Dune, the book, is far superior than both Dune movies, ’tis true. Every character is a metaphor for something or someone. I’d sure like a hit of melange as I read the Orange Catholic Bible on my space folding journey to Arrakis. Everyone else can keep Pandora, I wanna ride me a worm.

  • zingzing

    “I wanna ride me a worm.”

    oh, silas… the puns, the puns.

    handy: “Avatar ain’t deep, but it is incredibly riveting while you’re watching it.”

    it was for the first hour or so, when he’s just exploring the world, but in the second half, when the plot takes over… not so riveting.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    Dang, zing, I never even gave that a second thought! I was actually thinking about taking the book of the shelf and reading it once more. On a side note, I always thought Sting would have made a better Lestat and Tom Cruise should have been Feyd.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    And, as far as last year’s sci-fi picks go, I still think Star Trek best and Avatar comes in second.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Dune takes on additional layers of meaning in the post-9/11 world: Rebels with Islamic-sounding language and religion battling the great Evil Empire, hmmm?

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    There is yet another adaptation of Dune on its way, from the auteur of that great intellectual classic, Taken.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Welcome back, Silas. Roger has missed you.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Yes, you’re right, Handy. But I do appreciate taking a sabbatical from the political, which no doubt Silas has done.

    I hope to do likewise.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “has the author of this piece even seen the movie?”

    Considering he refers to “Avatarians” of which there is no such thing in the movie, I doubt it.

    “And, as far as last year’s sci-fi picks go…”

    what about District 9?

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    I’ve taken a couple of ‘sabbaticals’ myself. Sometimes it’s been because the comments get too nasty on here [mostly from the right]. But lately, with fewer articles and less substantive discussions, the problem is closer to being boredom.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    District 9 is, as they say, awesome.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I appreciate what you’re saying. Still, we’ve got philosophical differences to resolve. In due time, perhaps.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    On a side note, I always thought Sting would have made a better Lestat and Tom Cruise should have been Feyd.

    Nah, having read the books, I thought Tom Cruise was perfect as Lestat. I actually have a great deal of respect for Cruise as an actor, for all that he comes off as a complete moron as soon as someone shouts ‘cut’.

    And Sting? He’s a musician. Not many of those can effectively make the transition. (Apropos of not much, Bjork did, and how – Dancer in the Dark, IMHO, may well be the greatest screen performance by a rock musician in the history of the two media.)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Re: #24

    Just occurred to me, Handy. One reason why you find your debates with people of different persuasion uniquely unproductive may well be that you’re staying too much on a surface level.

    Gotta dig deeper!!!

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    @8, Glen -I may have never been “hated and downtrodden because of the color of [my] skin” BUT I have been hated and downtrodden by my own color because of my choice of clothing(or lack of pricey,trendy clothing), my choice of music and my previous home town from where I moved.

    Plus, it’s seems to me,from your mindset, that if you have traveled the world that you only visited the resorts in those countries because outside of the love for our money the few countries I’ve been to don’t really like the color white. Nor do they cater to our “culture” or language.

  • zingzing

    brian… that second paragraph is pretty ridiculous. why would they cater to your culture or language? you go there to find out about their culture, not the other way around. and “they don’t like the color white?” where’d you go?

    and that first paragraph sounds like high school. most everyone goes through that, but it only lasts a few years.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    Ah, District 9. I forgot about that. That just dropped Avatar down to #3. I still advocate for Star Trek. The actors were brilliant. The effects fun. The “camp” best in years of Star Trek incarnations.

    It’s nice to be missed. I have taken a sabbatical from the body politic these last few weeks. I’ve spent some time concentrating on other projects and contributed my first piece to the Culture section of this great site. Like Herpes, I’ve returned.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    zing…did you actually read Glen’s comment?
    I meant that while I have no idea what it is like to be a Christian in Turkey, that I don’t know of any countries that bend over backwards for the “Whites”.

    As for the first, it wasn’t just in High School, but the rest is on a “Need to Know” basis, and well, you don’t rate.

  • zingzing

    i thought district 9 kinda sucked. there were so many places that the basic story could have gone, but they chose the old buddy cops schtick? it could have been a subtle exploration of south africa’s past and mankind’s continued ability to horribly discriminate against people, but no…. it was just another schlocky piece of “i must save my son,” “i must get back to my girl,” “let’s team up!” nonsense. and that last shot? oh my god… i think i farted a block of cheese at that exact moment. fucking gooey-ass soft cheese.

    sci-fi… ugh.

  • zingzing

    “zing…did you actually read Glen’s comment?”

    yes… did you?

    “I meant that while I have no idea what it is like to be a Christian in Turkey, that I don’t know of any countries that bend over backwards for the “Whites”. ”

    alright, that’s a little better… the way you put it originally was pretty terrible. i’ve been to turkey and it was beautiful and fascinating. it’s also a secular nation, as far as governance goes. the nightlife was pretty spectacular. in the cosmopolitan areas, my european looks did me no special favors, but get out in the country a little bit and you’ll notice a difference. same thing in china.

    “As for the first, it wasn’t just in High School, but the rest is on a “Need to Know” basis, and well, you don’t rate.”

    well, then it will have to remain high school in my mind. and i shall never know.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Unfortunately, they like to kill Christians(if they still do).

    Yea, I visited Venezuela for 3 months and besides Margarita Island and some “Rain Forest” type of farmland that I visited, the City of Caracas is a mess.

    “well, then it will have to remain high school in my mind. and i shall never know.”

    Yup… it’s kinda like what they say about computers & security.”If you want your data to be secure then DON’T put it on a computer.”

  • zingzing

    “Unfortunately, they like to kill Christians(if they still do).”

    who? turkey? you know as well as i do that that’s nothing more than religious intolerance from a few nut jobs. it’s like saying america hates black people because of what white supremacists do.

  • zingzing

    “Yea, I visited Venezuela for 3 months and besides Margarita Island and some “Rain Forest” type of farmland that I visited, the City of Caracas is a mess.”

    and?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Brian –

    In addition to owning a home in the Philippines, I’ve been to Thailand, Japan, China, Hong Kong (before and after the turnover), Indonesia, Mexico, Canada, Australia, South Korea, U.A.E., Bahrain, and Kenya. I’ve yet to go to ANY resorts (enlisted sailors normally couldn’t afford such). The only place that seemed not to like white guys was Japan – and the reason for this is not only WWII, but also their centuries of having a completely closed society…and their personal cleanliness. We’re seen as not as personally clean as we should be…and it’s not only Japan who sees us that way.

    Now, how can I possibly state that I was treated better because of the color of my skin? Because almost without exception among the Asian ports, I heard black sailors tell stories of how no one wanted to speak to them or do business with them…when those same people were more than happy to deal with me.

    When I worked at immigration, one of our district adjudicating officers once told me the saddest story he saw was a young half-black, half-Vietnamese man. Apparently, he was seen among the blacks as “not really black”, but they would tolerate him. The Vietnamese, on the other hand, would reject him outright.

    Brian, there’s racism everywhere. You know this. But you must also realize that we whites are quite lucky and we’re more likely than anyone else to get a break because of the color of our skin. The reason for this is because of the worldwide perception that we (1) have more money, and (2) can generally be trusted. While neither of those is really true, that is the perception. That’s why a lot of foreign women tend to look for white men…and particularly American/European/Australian white men.

    Perhaps this will help – in the 80’s, there were a lot of white girls who were winding up in Japan. Why? Because that was where the money was. The Japanese men were seen as being moneyed, and as a result they attracted the girls.

    The point? Whichever race had had several centuries of being the most powerful and richest race on earth would have in the position that whites are today, of being in many ways the ‘preferred’ race. That is a disgusting statement…but it is at least to some extent quite true.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Glen, don’t ever misconstrue the love of your money for the love of your color. I just don’t agree that in this day & age that being white gives me more opportunities than any other color. Sure, there is racism but I tend to agree with zing that it is usually only the nut job extremists that project that mentality.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “and?”

    Ummm, I don’t know, I was just kinda reminiscing / kinda trying to connect with you about traveling and remembered this is zing I’m talking to.*Smirk* Really, I just got a little side tracked with memories. My experience with my color in Caracas was a lot of staring & a lot of my girlfriend at the time explaining that it really isn’t that safe for me there…

  • zingzing

    fair enough. i got a lot of stares in china as well… i’d be buying a pack of cigarettes (so cheap! so nasty!) and i’d look down to count out some money and there’d be this tiny kid at my leg giving the peace sign to his mother, who is snapping a picture. creepy.

  • zingzing

    “Glen, don’t ever misconstrue the love of your money for the love of your color.”

    hrm. like i said above, the chinese were fascinated with me (because of the color of my skin). the most common chinese word for a white foreigner translates as “old foreigner,” for whatever reason. some people consider it a pejorative. by contrast, the most common word for a foreigner of african descent translates as “black person,” or “black devil.” most people consider it a pejorative, for obvious reasons.

    one of my friends here went over to china a couple summers ago to take part in an art exhibit, met a girl over there, brought her back here, and married her. the chinese are a strange people, and their outright hatred of the japanese is something they feel is justified. they also hate black people with a pretty ridiculous openness. my friend’s wife is just now getting to the point where she doesn’t flinch if she sees a black man in the street. she’s a nice person, and i can tell she’s working on it, but it’s ingrained in her.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I’m not doubting what you say, zing, I just feel that fascination & curiosity doesn’t necessarily equate to better opportunities. Plus, I’m not qualified to say whether the Chinese don’t like black people for the same reasons as the ignorant Americans of the 50’s or maybe due to the atrocities that have happened in Africa. I’m not sure how that particular race has affected their part of the world.

    I do know that it is wrong to judge many over the actions of a few but when those few may have created such an enormous amount of negativity(violence,etc)it can be hard to separate the bad from the good.

    I have had my fair share of bad experiences with black people based purely on my color and I’m Italian. My people had nothing to do with their plight,but, I get lumped in because I’m (mostly) white.

    BUT, I don’t wanna turn this into a racism based comment. As much as people might want to believe that it is lopsided towards the white people, I feel that nowadays it is pretty equal. I mean we do have a Black President, for fucks sake!

  • zingzing

    “i’m not doubting what you say, zing, I just feel that fascination & curiosity doesn’t necessarily equate to better opportunities.”

    either way, it’s certainly better than the negativity other races (including non-chinese asians) get.

    “Plus, I’m not qualified to say whether the Chinese don’t like black people for the same reasons as the ignorant Americans of the 50’s or maybe due to the atrocities that have happened in Africa. I’m not sure how that particular race has affected their part of the world.”

    they think they’re all drug dealers. to be fair, many of them, especially in southern china and especially the nigerians, happen to be drug dealers. still, it’s a fairly pervasive attitude. (and god knows dealing drugs in china isn’t the cushiest life. resthpect.)

    “I mean we do have a Black President, for fucks sake!”

    that is true. i’m not sure it’s a completely level playing field at this point, but it is moving that way.

  • jamminsue

    I found Avatar to be “Fern Gully.” The idea of Dune didn’t enter my mind, but I agree. I agree Lynch did not do justice to Herbert. The idea of manifest destiny rides high in this story, and the fact the human had to “have his insanity cured” before he could be of assistance to the “natives” sort of undoes the idea it was an anglo saxon who saved the race.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Brian –

    If you go to the Philippines, you’ll see 50-foot billboards advertising something quite different from what we see in America: Skin Whitening. You’ll see this in other areas of Asia as well. In fact, look at their movie stars, their politicians – sometimes you’ll see a dark-skinned star or politician, but the vast majority of the time, they’re quite light-skinned. Part of this is because someone who is dark is seen as being “from the province” – someone who works the fields – whereas someone who has money spends less time in the sun, and is more likely to be light-skinned. But this in and of itself cannot explain why, for instance, there are stories from Zimbabwe where the whites (even after being persecuted by the Mugabe government) could safely walk the streets while the blacks would hunt each other in political violence.

    Bear that in mind while answering why American blacks in the military are usually less welcome than are American whites when we visit overseas ports.

    Brian, I’ve experienced reverse racism as well – it cost me a really nice position as the shipboard equivalent of the chief of police – but I’ve seen and done enough to realize just how much better white people are treated (generally speaking).

    Again, if (instead of whites) brown people had had the same advantages we did – worldwide money and power – they would be treated better than the whites…even by the whites themselves.

    Brian, this is all a matter of general human psychology when it comes to the big picture.