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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 07:15 pm (UTC) - Re: Just My POV
ok, you have a point there...the whole stinks of bad writing and lack of diversity among the main characters. Face it Hollywood couldn't sell a black hero unless the movie was aimed for a black audience. Hollywood like their heroes white and their stories as repetitive as the nightly news.

17th-Nov-2009 07:20 pm (UTC) - Re: Just My POV
Face it Hollywood couldn't sell a black hero unless the movie was aimed for a black audience.

That, I disagree with - look at Will Smith and Denzel Washington's box office records!

I think that with a nonwhite hero and some reflections on the colonization parallels that would then exist, this could be a much better movie. But that's not Cameron's type of movie, I suppose.
17th-Nov-2009 07:25 pm (UTC) - Re: Just My POV
Will Smith and Denzel Washington

That is a whole ball of wax unto it self. Their record come in high with the token white actor attached to it for them to play off.

as for Cameron's movie, he's just trying to relive the glory days of Aliens.
17th-Nov-2009 07:21 pm (UTC) - Re: Just My POV
Face it Hollywood couldn't sell a black hero unless the movie was aimed for a black audience.

I call that an excuse.
17th-Nov-2009 07:22 pm (UTC) - Re: Just My POV
I call it a cop-out
17th-Nov-2009 09:34 pm (UTC) - Re: Just My POV
Hollywood wouldn't what they could sell with a black male lead in SF/F since they refuse to try, but Will Smith isn't exactly doing poorly with his action flicks like Bad Boys and Bad Boys 2.

Edited at 2009-11-17 09:34 pm (UTC)
17th-Nov-2009 09:44 pm (UTC) - Re: Just My POV
sci-fi has always been a sticky topic in hollywood. They balance on the edge of telling a story or just jump to the cop-out of making an action flick.
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 07:31 pm (UTC) - Re: 2009: The Fail Never Ends
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!*

Disagree on the grounds that means every story ever supports its villain.
17th-Nov-2009 07:38 pm (UTC) - Re: 2009: The Fail Never Ends
That's an interesting point; I would counter that the purpose of the villain is to act as foil to the hero (and the reader/viewer). A truly depraved villain forces the hero, and the reader and the writer and those otherwise involved to deal with depravity. Villains are bad. They may be complex, even sympathetic, but villainy is defined by evil intention and/or evil action. Reader/viewer isn't meant to look at the villain and say "hey, that's me." If they are doing that, that's not the villain, that's the hero, and I would argue that antiheroes and evil heroes are totally on their creator's conscience.
17th-Nov-2009 07:40 pm (UTC) - Re: 2009: The Fail Never Ends
and I would argue that antiheroes and evil heroes are
totally on their creator's conscience.


No argument with that, but will still argue that while it is impossible to show something without in some way endorsing/glamorizing it, it is possible for the writer to be ambivalent about a character's motivations.

You wrote it, you think it is awesome doesn't hold up, IMHO.
17th-Nov-2009 07:53 pm (UTC) - Re: 2009: The Fail Never Ends
Can't speak for cucumberseed, but he may have been referring specifically to GateFail, where the problematic actions are taken by the good guys.
17th-Nov-2009 08:25 pm (UTC) - Re: 2009: The Fail Never Ends
Ahh, possibly.

The funny thing for me, glancing at GateFail! is that since it is supposed to be a "dark" and "edgy" show, if you actually showed the consequences of these decisions as bad things, you could write an interesting and deeply ambiguous story.

But this is Stargate, and that won't happen.
17th-Nov-2009 08:31 pm (UTC) - Re: 2009: The Fail Never Ends
Exactly. I'm not opposed to writing about those issues - if you're going to confront them realistically and show consequences. That could be fascinating. But you're right, Stargate won't.
17th-Nov-2009 07:59 pm (UTC) - Re: 2009: The Fail Never Ends
You wrote it, you think it is awesome doesn't hold up, IMHO.
In that construction, no, it doesn't always, and I really hate to argue semantics, but I don't think I was clear when I made the initial statement. You don't write something unless you think it's awesome before and when you're writing it.

Once it hits open air it can filth up the place and you can hate it, but before execution, it looks awesome in your head. If it doesn't, why would you bother?

(If you're working to spec for someone else's idea, that just shifts the responsibility to them.)

I don't buy that the show's writers wrote that episode out of selfless devotion to the muse. I never buy that, but I'm not going to come out with very little evidence and accuse them of what I think they were doing (along the lines of "we should totally have this character and that character have sex, because it will be hot, but we want that scene to have no narrative consequences [unless we decide later to throw them in]."). Instead, I'm saying that you don't write down anything that you think is going to be a bad idea before you even put fingers to keys.
17th-Nov-2009 08:31 pm (UTC) - Re: 2009: The Fail Never Ends
You don't write something unless you think it's awesome before and when you're writing it.

We're going to have to agree to disagree on this, as I really don't think some of the people I know who have written rape scenes wrote them because they thought they were awesome.

I don't buy that the show's writers wrote that episode out of selfless devotion to the muse.

It's Stargate, of course not. ^_^

I never buy that, but I'm not going to come out with very little evidence and accuse them of what I think they were doing (along the lines of "we should totally have this character and that character have sex, because it will be hot, but we want that scene to have no narrative consequences [unless we decide later to throw them in].").

I have no trouble believing that's what they were thinking.

Instead, I'm saying that you don't write down anything that you think is going to be a bad idea before you even put fingers to keys.

Ahhh... I think we've found the root of our disagreement. I took you're "you write it, you think it is awesome" to mean "you write an action, you endorse the action" while this sounds more like you are saying "you put a scene in, it's because you think the scene is important/awesome/powerful/cool from a storytelling standpoint".

Not, "I'll have her dog get eaten because I think torturing puppies is awesome!" but rather "I'll have her dog get eaten because that will totally blow people's minds and show how horrible her vampire boyfriend is!"

Is that more what you're saying here?
17th-Nov-2009 08:46 pm (UTC) - Re: 2009: The Fail Never Ends
Not, "I'll have her dog get eaten because I think torturing puppies is awesome!" but rather "I'll have her dog get eaten because that will totally blow people's minds and show how horrible her vampire boyfriend is!"

Pretty much, but I am going a little further in saying that, if you put something in like that, you deserve the blame that comes your way if you don't ever manage to communicate the point of that scene (not to say it has to be allegorical or you have to do Hawthorne shout-outs, but if you don't put some kind of significance on puppy-eating, then, I mean, it's not wrong to assume that, in absence of any evidence to the contrary, that you didn't put that in there because something about it looked cool. Now if you take puppy-eating, and turn it into rape...).
17th-Nov-2009 08:56 pm (UTC) - Re: 2009: The Fail Never Ends
I've got no argument here. Agree completely.
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 07:07 pm (UTC)
The interesting thing is that Zora Neale Hurston wrote about a lot of these same issues in 1950 and nothing has really changed.
17th-Nov-2009 08:09 pm (UTC)
Squeee! Can I play?

I'm so disappointed to think this is the same guy who gave us Ripley v. 2.0. James, Jimmy, Seamus. You egotistical shitstain. How far you've fallen.
17th-Nov-2009 07:19 pm (UTC)
I would love to see that.
17th-Nov-2009 07:31 pm (UTC)
Would love to see that, too.
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 10:27 pm (UTC)
and how everyone emphasized this thing has been in his head since 1995, so the visual similarities with Zangarmarsh in WoW are purely coincindental.

I know jack-all about World of Warcraft. I can tell you that Cameron did come to my employer circa 1996 1995 or earlier (my husband recalls Avatar shirts at the company around 1995) with a treatment for Avatar already in the can, asking if the effects could be pulled off at the time with the technology available. My employer told him no, after reading the already-written treatment and viewing the already-extant concept art (which my husband says had tall blue Na'Vi then).

You're mistaking Cameron for his art department (which, shit, I don't have time to go through IMDB to figure out which ones of the Avatar artists might've ever worked at Blizzard, but it's entirely possible-- the Wachowskis, back in the day, handed their artists copies of The Invisibles and told them to make The Matrix look like that), and Cameron for Fox's marketing people in terms of whether he's Jim or James.

Edited at 2009-11-17 10:43 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 09:15 pm (UTC)
Kind of "Ferngully" gone extra bad.

If by "extra bad", you mean "doesn't have any Tim Curry" - I'm totally with you. Otherwise...eh.. Not sure how a pseudo animated aesop(p)y film could be a lot more wrong than Ferngully.

Which is not to denegrate the original argument. I wasn't planning on seeing this from the start, and I ain't gonna miss it now either.
17th-Nov-2009 09:22 pm (UTC)
Yeah... I guess you've got me there about Ferngully. They're both all kinds of cringeworthy.
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.)
12th-Dec-2009 04:38 am (UTC)
I dunno if you wanted to look or found it yet but here is the link:

http://community.livejournal.com/racebending/129218.html?view=3960002

P.S. I'm on temporary probation for stuff I shall name, so that is why I'm not the main topic starter. =P
12th-Dec-2009 04:39 am (UTC)
Oh and I fudged up my topic! It should have read:

I felt like a weirdo because I felt that I was the only one who saw the same thing you did.

*headdesk*
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