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It’s The Last Samurai in a new Avatar.
Ex-Marine from “jar-head clan” finds himself in a lush and rich planet called Pandora, falls in love with an exotic ‘native’ and becomes one with the ‘good indigenous people’ after warding off the evil humans trying to drill the planet for X natural resource. It all sounds eerily familiar.
Jack Sully, the lead antagonizing protagonist, is just like his surname. Hollywood-esque, most of the characters are reduced to mere caricatures. The scientist is the anti-imperialist, anti-corporate liberal do-gooder whereas the military official takes pleasure in blowing up things and the corporate honchos are only worried about PR and profits.
While perceived as anti-colonial, the entire narrative is still colonial, still about doing the right thing for “those people” from our point of view. The movie can be summed down to good white people vs. bad white people. Why the beautiful Na’vi princess, given all the stereotypical traits of human females, would ever choose to mate with the dull and dud white marine officer escapes all logic. The indigenous population is either put on a pedestal or reduced to some helpless aliens who cannot fight back humans without the heroic, liberal white male yearning to belong somewhere, given his own physical and mental incapacity. Whitey not only assimilates; he becomes their leader! It’s the ultimate white fantasy about race relations. The colonialism continues albeit it is neo-colonialism of white guilt in sci-fi terms.
Still, the movie gives us solid, entertainment value after spending some $300 million. I do wonder how the Na’vi would react to this narrative about them, told from the eyes of someone else.
Now we await the second-life video games enabling us to pick our own Avatars, fall in love with an exotic princess, and escape the horrendous conditions that human beings have created in the world around us. Whiteness is the ultimate privilege here, with the power to construct and refine good and bad, the power to choose sides, and the ultimate power to emerge as the victor.
And while we are at it, capitalism is having a good time as well with the cash registers running.