Admittedly, I am not a big sci-fi buff. I have not gone much further than Octavia Butler, but after watching an interview with James Cameron, seeing his passion, a reported budget totaling $400 million, a breakthrough in technology, all with 3-D glasses, I gave myself to the mania.
Avatar is truly a beautiful and spectacular film, for the eyes, but I was actually angered and incensed by the story. The technology reflects the price tag of the monies spent, but the story, less so. For a story set in the 22nd century, when will white people cease to cast themselves as the savior to the colored world, even crippled in a wheel chair? Let me begin with issues in this story that I think keeps us from being truly diverse and open in our thinking.
1. Many of our world conflicts are at the hands of men, white and colored, who cannot come to some agreement or some humility in the way they communicate. We are not served by a love story between Jake Sully and Neytiri. Why not a “love story” or a story of brotherhood between Jake Sully and Tsu ‘Tey, the new young leader of the Omaticaya.
2. Really, why would Neytiri choose Jake Sully over Tsu’Tey, after three months of knowing Jake? She is a princess, prized in her community – a warrior! She knows what it cost her to choose Jake over her own fine and beautiful Tsu ‘Tey. She is royalty, the direct line; she risks the life of her people, by marrying Jake. Yes, there are lots of mixed marriages, but these choices are not made lightly, especially when the future of a people is at stake.
3. Why does Jake assemble thousands of Na’vi from other clans and NOT Tsu ‘Tey. Tsu ‘Tey merely translates for Jake, WITHOUT prior discussion. And we wonder why we are sitting in Iraq and Afghanistan, not making progress. Why are we speaking for others? We need to learn how to have more discussion. Part of being a leader and hero is taking a back seat and allowing someone else to be the front man – to carry the torch. This is Empowerment and Anatomy of a Leader 101!
4. Again, why does Jake Sully tame the Toruk (a powerful flying beast that ONLY five Na'vi have ever tamed) and not Tsu ‘Tey? Another opportunity to show Jake’s heroism and leadership… to say to Tsu ‘Tey “…I think you can do this! Drop down, right on the back of the Toruk, and let’s begin our fight…even if it’s to our death!”
5. We are in the 22nd century and the Omaticaya have in their midst the sacred Tree of Souls that heals and is the sustenance for their spirit and life. Do you really think they are afraid of any white man!? I think, even in fear, they will fight with their arrows to the death. (You better believe that in the 22nd century, even deep in the rainforest, they will have more than arrows.) They KNOW that Eywa is on their side. They do not need an outsider telling them that. We forget that people will die for their God. The movie would of ended 30 minutes early. Instead, we watch in the last 30 minutes, white people fighting over their guilt and trying to redeem themselves.
6. I would hope by the 22nd century, men are still not being asked to choose a woman and women expecting to be chosen.
7. Sam Worthington is a wonderful actor. How would the story be different, if the lead actor was of color?
My fear is, that our young white men will leave the theatre, feeling yet again, entitled to be the hero, win the prized colored princess, ride the famed trooper bird, and lead the struggling nation to victory. How is that different than the story we are playing out in Iraq or Afghanistan?
The one thing I did love in the story was that Neytiri still loved Jake even after seeing him for who he really was – a human with frailties.
Great job James Cameron! Sandra A. Daley is riled up and inspired to write!
Jake Sully: I dreamed I was a soldier who could bring peace. But eventually, you always have to wake up.