Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Hollywood Goes Native
A reviewer from "Mail Online" called it Dances with Smurfs. I've read a lot of commentaries in the past few days concerning Avatar; people taking shots at James Cameron; complaining about everything from how expensive the film is, to how flimsy and cliche' the story is. I think that there are many valid points to be made about what's bad about the film; cliche', sure; flimsy plot line, OK; $450 mil production costs, that's the producers problem not yours; this is the most visually stunning film since LOTR; money well spent says my artistic sensibilities. But, the commentary about how racist the film is, is too much even for my radical ass.
The criticism goes like this; you've got a white, male protagonist who goes "native", hooks up with the tribe's princess and becomes the "great white hope," saving all the natives from the evil that is upon them. There is some discussion as to whether this film is just another white fantasy flick, in which centuries of oppression are dealt with by placing a white person, in the role of savior to an entire race or tribe, such as in Dances With Wolves. I agree that there are many similarities and it is valid to ask the question, "why another white male in the position of hero and savior to an indigenous population, when there is clearly no basis in reality for such a role"; history has white folk pegged as oppressors (sorry, take it up with your ancestors not me).
Now, to clarify, I understand where the criticism is coming from and certainly some of it is quite valid in many ways; but this is Science Fiction, people! It's not supposed to reflect reality.
Calling Avatar another example of Hollywood's racist agenda is not seeing the forest for the trees. First off, our white, male protagonist is not just a white dude; he's white, yes, but he's also a vet, disabled and he's poor. Except for Coming Home (1978) I don't recall ever seeing a protagonist that hit all three of these diverse categories of "shit out of luck." This, my friends, is diversity and insisting that since he's white the character is not fit for the role of hero to these people, is denying these other facts concerning the character and makes me wonder why they would be ignored in the first place by some of these critics.
The women in this film are all in powerful roles. Sigourney Weaver is a ball busting, brilliant scientist (smartest person in the film) and I should point out that the character, like the actress, is pushing 70; lest we forget that diversity also applies to age. Zoe Saldana as the leader of these aliens (actually she becomes leader later in the film, sorry about the spoiler, but it becomes obvious early on she's going to take charge anyways) is a courageous warrior, who holds her own against the males in her tribe. She doesn't fall for "avatar", Jake Sully, preferring to keep their relationship professional, until of course the two fall in love, which by my observation is a mutual affair (no rape, force or clubbing and dragging into a cave takes place). She is fierce, intelligent and deeply spiritual; another trifecta of shit women are not supposed to be in films. Lastly, Michelle Rodriguez's character, our fourth hero (notice: three heroic figures out of four are female) and clearly a woman of color; sacrifices herself in an incredibly valiant and unselfish act and not to mention is the only character on screen during a battle scene to reject violence and turns her back on the horror she sees. She is also, incidentally, the savior of this film, without her, forget the third act.
OK, so here we have it. Let's get this out in the open. As an aspiring film maker, screenwriter, what have you, I have a little bit of insight into how the system works and let me assure you that Hollywood only gives a fuck about one color; GREEN! They don't give a shit about our color, age, religion, political beliefs, struggles or whether you like Asian lady-boys for breakfast. They want your ass in the seat and they want you to bring a couple of friends and this movie is proof of that. 77 mil last week and 75 this week; guess what? It's a blockbuster and there is no denying that regardless of the criticisms it's going to go down in history as a smashing success and that is all that Hollywood gives a shit about. Everything else is incidental and instead of criticizing Cameron for the white male protagonist we should be recognizing him for getting a diversity of characters in positive roles.
Still not convinced? Well, then let me ask you this; the evil, racist, antagonists who were trying to destroy the natives without any consideration for their humanity, who were solely on the planet for the purpose of destroying everything in their paths and depriving the natives of any share of the wealth they were entitled to, weren't they rich, powerful, white males?
I think the only ones who should be bitching about this film's portrayal of power, gender and racial roles are those assholes on FOX and talk radio. Considering they have all but ignored this movie means they are either not going to the movies these days or our side is winning.