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."
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.