…the film is racist. Its fundamental narrative logic is racist: it transposes the cultural politics of Westerns (in which the Native Americans are animists who belong to a more primitive race) onto an interplanetary conflict and then assuages the white guilt that accompanies acts of racial and cultural genocide by having a white man save the noble savages (who are also racists)
This is true but there are redeeming qualities worth noting. For example, in the end …. the very very end … it is not the caucasowesternonormative macho male who saves the day. It is the native female lead character. She is the one that defeats the evil bad guy with her own strength and skills. Indeed, one could argue that SEK, in ignoring this very important fact, is simply trying to eaern anti-racist cred points at the expense of the repressed blue people!!11!!
(This is, in fact, why I note elsewhere that all movies are easily labeled as racist and/or sexist.)
Having said that, SEK’s analysis is essentially valid, in my view, and you should read it.
SEK also links to a site where we see a lot of criticism for the film’s negative attitude towards the military. I noted that as well in my review (in a positive light) and noted that back in 2002 it would have been impossible, or at least very difficult, to turn a film like this out of mainstream Hollywood. I urge you to read SEK’s discussion of the treatment of military and mercenaries, and to also consider that the line between the two is more vague than most upstanding American citizens would like to admit.
And it is not just Blackwater in Iraq, where administrative security was provided almost exclusively by mercenaries (mercenaries guarding generals, essentially). All around the world mercenary units are used by the US government. We have conducted entire wars with only mercenaries. In fact, since World War II there have been relatively few conflicts that the US has been involved in which did not involve mercenaries in some way or another. In the case of our ground war with Libya (did you even know we had a ground war with Libya?) in the 1980s, when Libya invaded Chad, every single anti-Libyan soldier in the conflict was bought and paid for by the US government, and every single on the ground soldier was an African, most regular military in the Zairian army. But the fact that they were paid for and under orders of the US but not even US citizens, let alone US military, made them 100% mercenaries.
And, let’s not even get started on Latin America. I mean really. The average US based mercenary speaks fluent Latin these days.
My point is that regular army vs. military has generally been, for centuries, an administrative question. That it is not is a fiction underwritten by the depiction of military in popular culture.
Getting back to the racist nature of Avitar… I essentially agree with SEK’s point made at the outset of this post, but as I said, there are mitigating circumstances. The natives are strong and they win not because of the intervening whites, but because of the big herbivores, carnivores, and flying thingies the natives are transductivly linked to, who attack the mercenaries, and because of the strong female native lead blue girl. However, it is true that the Marine turned Blue Guy is the one who made the appeal to the earth god to not just sit this one out. Over and over again in the action scenes in the last third of the film, the plot has “white man save the noble savages” thing going. And one white girl. Who I believe may have been Hispanic (again, the racist critique is oversimplified but substantially true).
SEK has a second post which is a total mind fuck. Go read it here. Many (most) of the key named Na’vi roles (the blue people) are non white (mostly black) actors. Isn’t that interesting? Meantime, the missionaries, oops, I mean scientists and soldiers, are either primarily white or cleanly stereotyped non-whites (the tough-guy Latina girl soldier, the South Asian geeky scientist, etc.).
Go read the post.