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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
Why I don't intend to see "Avatar" 
17th-Nov-2009 01:35 pm
Boondock/can't believe
James Cameron's Avatar. Not Avatar: the Last Airbender, which I'm not seeing for tangentially similar reasons.

I first saw the full trailer for Avatar before Boondock Saints 2. I took issue with certain aspects of it right away, and when Adam and Elayna and I saw it on TV, I seized the opportunity to discuss. I had Adam pause the TiVo, and said "I have problems with this trailer and this movie. See if you can spot them."* And then we watched the trailer.

I said, "Okay, first off. Did you notice anything about race in that trailer?"

Elayna pondered and looked a bit helpless.

"All but one of the dozen or so human characters are white. There's one Latina character. No black or Asian or Indian or anything-else characters."

Elayna: "Ohhh. Yeah."

Me: "And did you notice anything about the culture of the Na'vi as portrayed here?"

Elayna: "They have sort of a primitive tribal thing?"

Me: "That would be the Noble Savage trope. And all of the Na'vi voice actors are people of color."

Elayna: "OH."

Me: "And they get saved by the white people; white is clearly the default human in this movie."

Elayna agrees that this is messed up.

Adam thinks Cameron may be setting that up to turn it on its head. I was not so sure. And now I'm really not.

In an interview, Cameron says, "Right from the beginning I said, "She's got to have tits," even though that makes no sense because her race, the Na'vi, aren't placental mammals." And the animator who designed the Na'vi revealed Cameron's priorities further: "Well, he wanted them to be very beautiful. And I do believe that, at some point, he said something to the effect of...the audience has to want to f*ck her."

Which has nothing to do with race issues, true - I mention it to illustrate that this is not a man who wants to do a complex and nuanced exploration of race and colonialism, but a man who wants to fuck "exotic" alien chicks.

For bonus oh please stop, the lead character is a wheelchair user whose only motive is To Walk Again, to have his legs restored. Because OMG being disabled is The Worst Thing Ever. Guys? Can we please have some stories where the disabled character has a plot arc other than being magically healed? And yes, I am aware of GateFail, which has bonus!rape (and I hear the show's possibly gotten rapey already, but I haven't seen that episode, and anyway that's a whole 'nother post).

So yeah. I'm not seeing Avatar. The animation looks pretty. But everything behind it looks pretty ugly.



* For those coming here from other people's posts - Elayna is my 14-year-old daughter, and we have these conversations regularly. Not just "this is why this sucks," but "I think this sucks - why do you think that is?" She was delighted when my husband brought Justine Larbalestier's Liar home from the library, not just because she loves books, but because "it has the right cover!" She didn't need any nudging from me to see why the original US cover was made of fail.
Comments 
17th-Nov-2009 06:45 pm (UTC) - Just My POV
Yeah the lack of race thing sucks...and yes the white human is poor excuse for hero/villain.
It makes use look like we live a flat rock rather then a globe.

however: "For bonus oh please stop, the lead character is a wheelchair user whose only motive is To Walk Again, to have his legs restored. Because OMG being disabled is The Worst Thing Ever."

Remember the character is ex-army. Being in a wheelchair is hell for him, and the higher ups knows this. It's simply a carrot they dangle in front of his face to get what they want.
17th-Nov-2009 07:07 pm (UTC) - Re: Just My POV
Remember the character is ex-army. Being in a wheelchair is hell for him, and the higher ups knows this. It's simply a carrot they dangle in front of his face to get what they want.

I understand that. But this doesn't happen in a vacuum.
17th-Nov-2009 06:54 pm (UTC)
I'm with you. This looks like fail to me.
17th-Nov-2009 07:17 pm (UTC) - 2009: The Fail Never Ends
Ugh.

Darren Sumner's editorial further argued that "Depiction Does Not Mean Endorsement":

Have we forgotten the value of the science fiction genre and dramatic story-telling as a whole? Good television asks hard questions, and sci-fi in particular is good about studying the human condition and engaging tough issues.


Calling bullshit on this one. You don't write it down if you don't think its cool. Hell, you don't write it down if you don't think it's *awesome!*
17th-Nov-2009 07:01 pm (UTC) - Haven't seen the trailer...
But it's basically The Pathfinder in space? Crap.
17th-Nov-2009 07:03 pm (UTC) - Re: Haven't seen the trailer...
That was my first thought when I saw the promos.
17th-Nov-2009 07:05 pm (UTC)
I keep meaning to make a list of Sf/F tropes filled with fail so I can help with the bingo card project.
17th-Nov-2009 07:06 pm (UTC)
I like this idea.
17th-Nov-2009 07:12 pm (UTC)
I'm not all that excited about the tits and fuckability factor.
17th-Nov-2009 07:17 pm (UTC)
You would think that if they had the technology to put his consciousness into an alien body and have it magically appear on a planet far below, they could f*%^@ fix whatever causes his legs not to work.

I was amused by James now being "Jim" and how everyone emphasized this thing has been in his head since 1995, so the visual similarities with Zangarmarsh in WoW are purely coincindental.

Bah.
17th-Nov-2009 08:20 pm (UTC)
Point of order: back around Titanic, he was Jim to his crew, and has pretty much always been Jim informally, even on the Avatar set.

Edited at 2009-11-17 08:21 pm (UTC)
17th-Nov-2009 07:45 pm (UTC)
Can we please have some stories where the disabled character has a plot arc other than being magically healed?

Yes. This. This is something I promise I will continue to work on as I grow and improve as a writer.
17th-Nov-2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
Here via cucumberseed.

Yeah, I *cringed* when I saw the trailer on TV. Kind of "Ferngully" gone extra bad. Bad in so many ways. The white-male-saving-the-day thing was *painful*

But so were the extra beautiful fairylike aliens. What if they'd been intelligent and ugly? Then would be okay to exploit the hell out of them?? And come on, really... the opening premise seems to be that the gov't/army/whatever is going to destroy the "savages" to get their cool rocks? Okay, yes, this happens all the time, but the bad guys generally dress it up a leeeetle more--like, we're going to offer you guys some cool beads and Christianity in return, so, like, do we have a deal? The idea that here the bad guys just want to totally destroy the noble savages from day one seems to make them kind of overly simplistically bad. I mean: beautiful, fairylike, in-tune-with-nature aliens versus big evil grasping military? Gee, I'm not sure who I should root for....

17th-Nov-2009 08:55 pm (UTC)
Kind of "Ferngully" gone extra bad.

Ha! Hadn't even thought of that...

What if they'd been intelligent and ugly? Then would be okay to exploit the hell out of them??

Yes, this. Wouldn't have happened, though, because Cameron wants his wet dream...

And come on, really... the opening premise seems to be that the gov't/army/whatever is going to destroy the "savages" to get their cool rocks? Okay, yes, this happens all the time, but the bad guys generally dress it up a leeeetle more--like, we're going to offer you guys some cool beads and Christianity in return, so, like, do we have a deal? The idea that here the bad guys just want to totally destroy the noble savages from day one seems to make them kind of overly simplistically bad.

*nods* Seriously hamhanded. I like my viewing pleasure to be a bit more subtle. And intelligent. And, y'know, not racist.
17th-Nov-2009 09:46 pm (UTC)
1) That was pretty much my reaction. Plus, I don't get excited by CGI.

2) http://copperbadge.livejournal.com/2902944.html
On the journal entry, Sam links to a download to a book about living well without gluten. I can't vouch for the quality, but I generally trust Sam, and a free book can't hurt. Since I've not cooked gluten-free before, I can't really offer any recipes or advice myself. Sorry.
17th-Nov-2009 11:44 pm (UTC)
I think the convo with Elayna was cool. Doesn't really affect whether I'm going to see the movie, mainly because movies rarely make my to-do list in the first place.
18th-Nov-2009 04:30 am (UTC)
I can't really get behind requiring my movie entertainment to meet a racial profile. Looking at IMDB, I do see hispanic, indian, and black people playing human roles. I do see that most of the aliens are black, but how can you tell by voice?

If a movie shows me a character who has recently lost the use of his legs through traumatic injury, and is ok with that, I will have a hard time suspending disbelief.

It's James Cameron, stuff will blow up and fly around and a nuke will go off 3/4 of the way through the movie. I'm not looking for a lot of depth there, but I think ninja assassin is higher on my priority list, and I don't get out to see a lot of movies.
12th-Dec-2009 12:05 am (UTC)
Yea, except they are all background characters minus the pilot.
19th-Nov-2009 09:25 am (UTC)
Anonymous
Well, voltbang, I'll leave other better informed commentators to respond to your defense of Cameron's Avatar.

As for Ninja Assassin, that's a whole 'nother can of worms. Besides the sheer inanity of the title, the very existence of this movie shows how limited much of Hollywood is in their worldview.

The star of the movie is a native Korean who portrays a somewhat stereotypical revenge-driven ninja. Kudos to Rain for his Hollywood debut, but if you know anything about East Asian history, there is a slightly galling element about this. Imagine an Algerian playing a heroic French gendarmerie, or an Iraqi portraying one of the Founding Fathers, or a Congolese citizen cast as TinTin in the live action version.

Yeah, that last one is a bit out there. But I still find it surrealistic that Rain is playing a ninja. Yet another example of blurring and conflating totally different East Asian cultures together.
12th-Dec-2009 12:08 am (UTC)
Erm, I will say this about the movie.

The Assassin Family kidnaps children around the world to do their bidding. Also, at no time in the film does Rain ever state to try to be Japanese.

That was one of the things I did like about the film, before I was worried but since it was explained I felt better.

The thing I am mad about is I totally wanted an interracial romance but it did not happen, even though I heard in the early versions of the script it did. -,-;
12th-Dec-2009 12:09 am (UTC)
Hay, I'm from Racebending.com

And I want to say THANK YOU! I felt like a weirdo because I did not know if I saw the same thing you did. We made a post about it on our LJ recently. =D
12th-Dec-2009 03:10 am (UTC)
Oh, it really jumped out at me! I sat there in the theater going "UM."

(I love that this post is still going around, btw! Discussion about this is awesome.)
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