Thursday, January 14, 2010


With a few weeks of hindsight, I think the worst thing about Avatar is probably the Na'vi themselves. There have been many volumes written about the West's construction of the Other with respect to our writings and films about Eastern and other unfamiliar cultures, and while creating Aliens doesn't free us from the responsibility of a dominant culture, it does offer an opportunity: the opportunity to portray a culture other than ours in a narrative without doing violence to/misusing a culture that actually exists.

I'll skip quickly over the aesthetic opportunity arguably missed by making these new lifeforms basically elongated smurfs and get down to the narrative one. I'm not saying Cameron had the responsibility to create a race with all brand new features and ideologies never before glimpsed by the human race, far from it. We're all for Syncretism here at YMD, we'd just prefer it was poignant, interesting, or FUN. In the Na'vi, Cameron has given us an incredibly boring melange of essentialist stereotypes of Native American and African belief systems. I honestly don't remember if the actual phrase "one with nature" was uttered at any point in Avatar but it doesn't really matter. Clichés, clichés are no fun.

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