Childhood returns

Avatar's Jake Skully is a man who goes native in a big way:

Is he the latest in a long line of Western cultural imperialists?



Die Zeit, Germany

Avatar: A Shameful Example of Western Cultural Imperialism


"Jake Skully is a White man, a 'White messiah' from a technological civilization who leads the natives to victory. ... As deep and precious as the metal in this film, slumbers a condescending, yes, even racist message. Cameron bows to the noble savages. However, he reduces them to dependents."


By Josef Joffe


Translated By Toni Root


January 17, 2010


Germany - Die Zeit - Original Article (German)

Film maker James Cameron: What is he trying to say with Avatar? It's a question being asked around the world.



BBC NEWS VIDEO: Glory for James Cameron's Avatar at Golden Globes, 00:02:43, Jan. 18 RealVideo

Josef Joffe, publisher-editor of Die Zeit, dons a pair of 3-D glasses and winds up seeing subliminal racism in 'Avatar.'


The 3-D Blockbuster, Avatar, which will no doubt oust Titanic as the biggest box office hit of all time, reminds us of our earlier heroes, Tarzan and Winnetou.


The story is age-old. It deals with "noble savages," something already well known to Dryden and Pope, Diderot and Rousseau. He is good, handsome, and unspoiled; our civilization is corrupt, cruel, and greedy. Tarzan lives among jungle animals that are actually more evolved than humans. Winnetou is the Apache warrior in a loincloth who is killed-off by White supremacists.


In Avatar, the noble ones are the "Blues" who live on the planet Pandora in harmony with, and worship nature as, their godhead, which is why the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano stingingly criticized the film as containing too much un-Christian pantheism. The evil ones are the money-hungry corporation and the manic Marine colonel (as in the Vietnam War epic, Apocalypse Now) who seek to annihilate the Blues with their machines of death. Because in no case do they intend to give up on the tree, below which is the precious substance "unobtainium.""Blood for oil."



The near-perfect computer animation will revolutionize film in the same way sound and color revolutionized earlier cinema. The message is absolutely correct: against racism, militarism, capitalism; for nature and cultural protection - and against dishonesty. Thomas Hobbes long ago castigated the natural state of man as being "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." The American Indians were in no way peaceful and noble; the barbarity of the Apache at war with other tribes was legendary. Tarzan's jungle was not a homey place; and nature, where one eats another, there is, as a basic principle, no haven for morality and decency.



Vedomosti, Russia: Krylatskiy Townspeople Treated Like Avatar Natives

Komsomolskaya Pravda: Communists Say Cameron 'Robbed' Soviet SciFi

BolPress, Bolivia: Jesus Christ and the Movie Avatar

China Daily, China: Twisting Avatar to Fit China's Paradigm

De Standaard, Belgium: What Does Avatar Mean to You?

Russia Today, Russia: Communists Demand 'Ban' on Movie Avatar

Jornal De Angola, Angola: Avatar Holds Out Hope for Something Better


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However, as David Brooks of The New York Times notes, the mendacity goes deeper. The Blue's savior, Jake Sully, like Tarzan and Old Shatterhand (see below) before him, is a White man, a "White messiah" from a technological civilization who leads the natives to victory. They need him and his instruments to fight the bad guys. Edgar Rice Burroughs and Karl May wrote in an era during which the "White man's supremacy" was an iron dogma. The over-correct director of Avatar, James Cameron, has become entangled in the same trap. Even Jake Sully is a cultural imperialist, merely a good one, without whom the Blues would be lost. Thank you, Bwana.


[Editor's Note: Old Shatterhand was a fictional character in the western novels of German writer Karl May. He's the German friend and blood brother of Winnetou, the fictional chief of the Mescalero tribe of the Apache. "Henry-Stutzen" was the name of Old Shatterhand's gun. It was a "special" weapon in that it contained 25 rounds of bullets. "Bwana" is the name used by the "natives" to refer to Tarzan].



So, as deep and precious as the metal in this film, slumbers a condescending, yes, even racist message. Cameron bows to the noble savages. However, he reduces them to dependents. Tarzan and Old Shatterhand consequently returned to their "higher" civilization, but Jake Sully is guaranteed to return. He and his princess, with her gorgeous yellow eyes, have already brought in $400 million. Through capitalism, more money will be made with the sequel than with Pandora's "unobtainium."


[As of January 25, Avatar has taken in $558,179,737 in the U.S., and foreign reciepts stand as $1,319,846,262, for a total of $1,878,025,999. It is now the leading film money-maker of all time].



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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US January 27, 10:09pm]



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