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And a White Man Shall Lead Them


Piggybacking on my earlier post, here is an encore presentation of an entry I wrote awhile back about white male saviors in cinema.

Re-watching bits of Avatar now has me seeing the flaws I missed when I was glamored by all the movie magic the first time I saw it in the theater.

First of all, it’s a beautiful film, and a monument to what cinema can achieve if the filmmaker dares to dream and has an unlimited budget. Avatar, if nothing else, is just a behemoth of showy–OMG! Look what we did!–neatness, and I appreciate it for that. But it’s also flawed, really, really flawed. The dialogue is clunky and lacks nuance. Every character is sort of a cartoon. And I tend to lose interest in the story when it becomes what is basically a war picture. I think that the film would have been much more interesting had it been about the discovery of Pandora and its landscape and inhabitants rather than moustache-twirling asshole Earthers vs. saintly (but savage!) natives. Maybe it’s just me. Space travel and the potential of finding alien life somewhere in the universe is something of an obsession for me, so there’s bias here. But I think focusing more on that sort of story, the story of mind-blowing, mind-expanding, history-changing discovery would have made the movie much more an exercise in beauty and art instead of what is basically a more attractive and interesting Transformers. (Um, I guess we’re Decepticons in this scenario…I dunno. Don’t overthink this, just go with me.)

I meant for this to be a quickie rumination on why I’m reevaluating Avatar now, so I’ll get to the point. I really, really, really hate the “White Guy Saves Everybody Because Everyone Else Is Too Dumb/Wimpy/Savage” meme in movies. It’s what almost ruined Sin City for me, though the middle–and offending– chunk is also its most forgettable. (Man those whores were tough, but–in the end–the White Dude saved them. ‘Scuse me while I puke up some internal organs.)

Caption: “I’m good at things like barely disguising my British accent and tonguing Rosario Dawson!”





The sad thing about “Avatar” was that I doubt that it was James Cameron’s intention to be condescending in his treatment of Pandora’s native people. But he was.

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