Avatar and White Guilt

28 Dec

I saw the movie “Avatar” tonight.  I was really interested in seeing it because I read an article on io9 about how it was another “white guilt” movie, where the priviliged WASPs take the basic story of European colonialism in the 19th century and change it around so that a white guy saves the day.  Dune, Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai, etc apparently fall into this category of “white guilt fantasy”.  And so does Avatar.

So, the burning question:  Did I think “Avatar” was a “white guilt fantasy”?

Hell if I know.  But it was certainly crap.

You have to give them credit for the awesome special effects; even if the 3D was monofocused and made my eyes bleed, it was still awesome to watch those flying lizard/dragon wanna-bes drop off of cliffs and high branches.

But the plot was cliche, the characters were stock, and the Na’vi acted like your stereotypical “Plains Indian” with blue skin and cat ears.  And a crazy tail thing that communicates with trees.  Wasn’t there a Star Wars novel with a living planet and symbiotic ecosystem?  I know I read it.

Anyway, the plot followed the general “white guy goes native” plot, including having the white guy (read: human) mary the chief’s daughter over her fiance’s head, and take the role of a mythical figure seen only “five times since the days of the first songs”.  Is there white guilt there?  Maybe.  Stereotypical fantasy fare?  Hell yeah.

In fact, this movie wasn’t science fiction but science fantasy.  Emotion wins the day, and tech is relegated to huge booms and some aliens.  It’s like Ewoks Pandora.  Kind of like NCIS LA.  Much as I love Sigourney Weaver (who plays the egg-head anthropologist to whoever’s scarred veteran merc), that’s just not enough to carry this deadweight.  Especially how brains with no neural patterns of their own can somehow support mature human minds without the neural connections that make a person who they are.  At least John Scalzi had his folks prepped.

So, in conclusion:

Watch it for the blue and boom, but not for the great story or creative science–or originality.


Posted by on December 28, 2009 in atsiko, Fantasy/Sci-fi, Reviews


Tags: , , ,

5 responses to “Avatar and White Guilt

  1. Bookewyrme

    December 29, 2009 at 2:47 PM

    Anne McCaffrey also wrote a series about a sentient planet, called the Petaybee series, with Elizabeth Scarborough. Still, I think Avatar was enough different in respect to its planet that it was alright. I quite like it, despite the plot flaws.

    • atsiko

      December 29, 2009 at 9:08 PM

      I have in fact read at least one book in that series. “The Powers that Be”? That part wasn’t a criticism, just a thought that popped into my head.

  2. meagansk

    January 4, 2010 at 8:57 AM

    On the subject of white guilt, I think it was pretty telling that all of the human characters were white, except for the one hispanic woman who was working for the aliens. For me, the pretty doesn’t make up for the fact that it was Pocahontas on steroids, though I think Sigourney Weaver and Sam Worthington both did an admirable job.

  3. atsiko

    January 4, 2010 at 6:56 PM

    Well, it was James Cameron, so it’s not like you went in expecting good writing. I went into it looking for the pretty and tried to cringe or cackle too hard every other minute.

    And no, the pretty wasn’t worth it.

  4. layma v

    September 17, 2011 at 8:16 PM

    Zonoma Sekot is the sentient planet of Star Wars, in case you were curious. 🙂


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