12 January 2010 941 Views

Is Avatar Racist?

by Dan Koelsch

The political and social message of James Cameron’s Avatar is not exactly subtle. The premise of a big corporation (or government) willing to kill natives (or invade a weaker country) for a natural resource has been used in many films before, and the Internet has been a buzz for months about this unoriginal story. This has been one of this film’s few criticisms, with it going as far as some right wing conservatives saying it’s anti-American, but there have been some other outlandish arguments since the film has been released.


You may remember that a few weeks back someone actually claimed Avatar was homophobic, though the argument was thin at best and absurd at worst. While that blogger continues to make that point, the more recent and popular concern has been whether the film is actually racist, as mentioned in a Telegraph article. Is this argument any more reasonable?





The detractors say that the Na’vi are portrayed as helpless, dumb, religious folks who need a white male savior to rescue them. Again, this is a very common theme in movies for decades (Pocahontas, The Last Samurai, and Dances with Wolves are given as prime examples), and a stereotype racial activists have been fighting against for just as long. What makes this argument stronger is that the main Na’vi actors (including Zoe Saldana and Laz Alsono) are black. Many are arguing that someone should make a movie where the natives/minorities can actually save themselves without the white man.


What does Cameron have to say about all of this? Here’s his quote in the Telegraph.

Cameron strongly denied any racist intent. He said that his film “asks us to open our eyes and truly see others, respecting them even though they are different, in the hope that we may find a way to prevent conflict and live more harmoniously on this world. I hardly think that is a racist message.”



What do you think? Is this story racist or just unoriginal? Let us know in the comments below.



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