Going Native

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Going Native

Feel like you've heard Avatar's story before? You don't know the half of it.

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Nice retrospective on this sort of story and its origins. Well done!

One of the things that appeals to me about Avatar's take on it is the unapologetic way in which the humans are depicted - as total dicks.

BlueInkAlchemist:
One of the things that appeals to me about Avatar's take on it is the unapologetic way in which the humans are depicted - as total dicks.

have you seen us? we are. I love how the developed man is always wrong in fiction... And yet, in general we don't like/appreciate nature the way that we should.

stupid law of the land...

its nice to learn why everyone is so angry about avatar.. or are there other reasons?
i havent really cared enough to learn since i really want to see this film.

nice job, movie bob!

Bobs right at the end, i'd rather be with the evil military imperialists, mainly because I want my future career to be part of that same evil military imperialist machine. That and I wouldnt suit being turned blue

Right at the start is this article one book popped into my head, and that was Frank Herbert's Dune. I was a little disappointed it did not get a mention, but with a trope as prevalent as this one I guess listing all the stories that had "going native" in them would be a daunting task.

Great article and great review as always Bob.

Another less sinister reason for having a white imperialist switch sides is that it allows for an easier flow of exposition. When someone new enters a society it makes it easier for audience to identify with the protagonist because the audience also knows nothing about the society.

Great article and great ending.

MovieBob:
Sure... just keep telling yourself that.

So you're saying you can comfortably judge me without ever having met me? Or are you saying white people are uniquely pre-disposed to racism? After spending so much time viewing movies are you suddenly taking a turn as a projectionist?

Good as always, up until that last line, which seemed to engage in the very sort of sloppy thinking you'd just so eloquently demolished.

EDIT: After re-reading my own comment: Wow. This came off as WAY more snarky than I intended. I was just trying to do a funny little, "NO U!" for the ending. I loved the article, much love, etc.

I have never taken anybody's land, nor have any of my ancestors in the last 10 generations. We have never owned slaves either.

White guilt does not apply to me.

But, I have no problem ironically and un-ironically celebrating Thanksgiving and acknowledging that early Americans screwed the indians over a lot. And my thoughts on that:

"Should have fought harder, pussies."

Colonialism happened. It was sucky for the people we 'colonialized', but why should we be sorry about that? It happened. It ended. Reparations are worthless, because unless we just get up and leave and let the indians have their land back, nothing we give them is going to make up for it. AND WE ARE NEVER GOING TO GIVE THEM THE LAND BACK.

But they can start taking it back, one mortgage at a time with all their nifty casinoes.

I liked that film, Cameron retains his ability to take a bunch of cliches, mix them up and come out with originality.

Pseudonym2:
Another less sinister reason for having a white imperialist switch sides is that it allows for an easier flow of exposition. When someone new enters a society it makes it easier for audience to identify with the protagonist because the audience also knows nothing about the society.

Great article and great ending.

I think it would be possible to make a much more compelling story by not having to show both sides like that altho it would definatly be harder. You would have to make it a bit more of a mystery or even horror story and there is so much you could screw up there to just eff up the whole thing its not funny.

I would like to say about "negative marketing" Or something that is bad, there is a saying that if any thing gets "Negative", "Hate", "Banned" by a Gov or Religion, equals someone will go see it. The other part of me still thinks the part of yes I will side with the part of the native people, with it depends. While Colonialism part of the movie and social and biological warfare(think smallpox and blankets). The problem I find is that technology is stolen form one culture to the other. While I have yet to see the movie. The part that gets me is why the natives do not steal the SMGs and so on. Native Americans did not have horses until the Colonialism times and then it became part of there world. As well as rifles and so on. Most of the time the real world is a two way street unless one side cant take advantage of technology or knowledge. Oh well hears to Colonialism the and the many many ways it forms.

"Last of the Mohicans" - with Daniel Day Lewis as Hawkeye - is damn-near required viewing and one of the best action movies ever made.

Copied for truth...

The film is, of course, highly notable for its unabashed sympathy for the native plight, and its portrayal of the conquest of the Native Americans as a wholly-despicable tragedy, but isn't it odd how it feels it needs to make its main "native" hero/spokesperson a white man in order to do so?

Fow a worst offender how about Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai!

Anyways, anyone remember the 1996 PC sci-fi RPG Albion? It's considered abandonware now and can be downloaded legally. A few slight differences, rather than space marines your a scout pilot who's sent ahead of the corporate colony/mining mother ship to the supposedly resource rich but barren world, only to crashland and discover its lush with life and home of indigenous 'mystically in-tun with nature' cat-like people. The screenshots in the link pretty much tells it all.

I'm not bashing Cameron here just saying even in sci-fi it's been done before, and fairly recently.

Ah yet another movie where we can say 'thank god there was a white guy to save us'.

When I first got the gist of Avatar's plot my first thought was of FernGully. I guess that means I should probably check out some of those other movies. lol

And how emotionally and morally convenient for the Western/European-descended members of the audience, who get to be on the good team without the discomfort of having to fully see themselves (or their own history) in the bad team

Excuse me? The faults of people who just happened to inhabit the same area as I do, centuries ago, have nothing to do with me. I don't feel ashamed when I see someone with the same ethnicity as me do something bad, because descent doesn't have anything to do with it. Please keep your racism to yourself.

Shamus Young:

So you're saying you can comfortably judge me without ever having met me? Or are you saying white people are uniquely pre-disposed to racism? After spending so much time viewing movies are you suddenly taking a turn as a projectionist?

Good as always, up until that last line, which seemed to engage in the very sort of sloppy thinking you'd just so eloquently demolished.

EDIT: After re-reading my own comment: Wow. This came off as WAY more snarky than I intended. I was just trying to do a funny little, "NO U!" for the ending. I loved the article, much love, etc.

You do have a fair point, although I realize your intent; it's not always the best idea to attack your audience ("YOU keep thinking that, I'M above it all" =P). And if it ever is a good idea, it must be done very well or else, yeah, unsatisfactory.

However, it still really doesn't change what came before, and what came before was good stuff. I enjoy it when other people (No! I'm doing it now!) are educated, and of course it's obviously true in the light of what MovieBob said that Avatar is not hackneyed (well, it might be, but you can't say that just on the face of things); it is part of a tradition exploring this concept. Although perhaps 'exploring' might be a bit too strong a word for James Cameron, but at least making a pass at it. Personally I disagree with whitewashing colonialism as civilizing savages more than I disagree with painting all of humanity or western civilization as poopieheads, but not too much more. Both are incredibly annoying (at their core; the story and characters surrounding often more than make up the lost ground).

Ravek:

And how emotionally and morally convenient for the Western/European-descended members of the audience, who get to be on the good team without the discomfort of having to fully see themselves (or their own history) in the bad team

Excuse me? The faults of people who just happened to inhabit the same area as I do, centuries ago, have nothing to do with me. I don't feel ashamed when I see someone with the same ethnicity as me do something bad, because descent doesn't have anything to do with it. Please keep your racism to yourself.

I think he is referring to the endless Avatar-like resource grabs that are currently happening all over the globe. Whether it be diamonds, oil, coal, lumber, etc, there are cultures all over the world being destroyed to fuel our own. And nobody is doing anything about it.

Or at least that was my assumption. Movie Bob can correct me if I am wrong.

Pyode:
When I first got the gist of Avatar's plot my first thought was of FernGully. I guess that means I should probably check out some of those other movies. lol

I got the Fern Gully vibe from this movie too, my young sister watched the vhs of it 40 or 50 times a day, as young kids do. Maybe Cameron's kids did the same thing and elements of the movie bled into his vision?

From what I understand there are no musical numbers in this live action version.

I almost think it is more racist to say the Native Americans we weak, unintelligent, taken advantage of, and were "conquered" so easily, and then imply that it required the benevolence and assistance of "rogue" conquerors to allow them to survive.

History of Conflict = Economics: Rationing of finite resources. The way we tend to ration these resources is war.

Killing and conquering has been part of civilization since, well, it started. Two warring groups of people would fight each other over something; whoever won got it. None of them were "fair" fights between equal forces, but not always did the strongest and largest win. It is how all the "great" ancient empires were built, and most "modern" nations in Europe and Asia formed. The Native Americans were doing the same thing across the pond; costal natives had a very well defined concept of property ownership/territory. Europeans arrive and the saga continues on an intercontinental scale; and the Europeans won.

"The moment the intangible "meh"-ing of Avatar's pre-release crystallized was with the debut of its trailers, which brought with them the revelation that the film's top-secret plot seemed disappointingly conventional."

REVELATION??????

1) The Avatar treatment has been on the net SINCE BEFORE WE USHERED IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

2) Avatar made list after list of "Best Movies Never Made".

3) Fans have been waiting for this movie for YEARS, DESPITE knowing it back to front.

4 If Avatar's shortcomings is all you see, there really is no hope for you. Feel free to dive into traffic.

5) Just in case you weren't aware of this crucial bit of trivia -- mankind IS a pack of malevolent cocks. Today, right now, as we speak -- the age of "liberty" and "reason" -- there is more slavery going on in the world than ever before. EVER.

The world is because of what the colonization nations did.

I think the world and our civilization is amazing and am happy to say that my family, generations ago, decided to help with the conquest of Canada and North America.

Movies like this just piss me off really and are better left with the bleeding heart left... which is obviously who it was written for. Because after watching this movie the only good thing I got from it was the cool effects. I felt that I had sat through a 2 hour lecture about how I and people like me are bad.

Wow, this article was fantastic; even movies which appear to show sympathy for the plight of indigenous peoples still have a slight undercurrent of racism - what a profound idea, I never thought of it that way.

But..but...but I LIKE being an imperialist!!!

Shamus Young:
So you're saying you can comfortably judge me without ever having met me? Or are you saying white people are uniquely pre-disposed to racism? After spending so much time viewing movies are you suddenly taking a turn as a projectionist?

Good as always, up until that last line, which seemed to engage in the very sort of sloppy thinking you'd just so eloquently demolished.

EDIT: After re-reading my own comment: Wow. This came off as WAY more snarky than I intended. I was just trying to do a funny little, "NO U!" for the ending. I loved the article, much love, etc.

I did want to second this, because it depends on the context. One of the reasons that stuff happened in history is because the common populace didn't know any better, the leaders were looking to profit and the soldiers were afraid to go back against orders (if we're going to be as broad in our generalizations as possible). Yet look what happened in Vietnam simply due to the television broadcasts. Look at how many people criticized Bush for going into Iraq.

While the extent of what citizens will do may or may not have an effect on things (I can never remember which school it was during Vietnam where the protesters were shot and baaaaad joojoo went down, which created a lot of political backlash; whereas today no one does anything more radical than marching down streets and holding dumb looking signs), the fact of the matter is we are more aware than citizens had been in the past.

The difference is, where is our awareness focused? It's not broad. As someone mentioned earlier, there's a bunch of bad stuff going on in the world that we don't know because it doesn't generate views or profit for the news media.

And from here I could keep going on to make more and more statements, but you get the idea. However, with how things are in America as they are currently, I don't see too many people being willing to die for another race.

Plus, once you put space travel into the equation, well, broadcasts and news reporting becomes a little less frequent, so who knows if we'd revert back to earlier days of colonization or not.

Also, someone brought up The Last Samurai, which I have always linked to Shogun (which I've never fully read or seen but has similar concepts). Japan, though, was sort of an interesting real world example where a nation's closing itself off put it technologically behind the rest of the world, and in a desperate attempt to keep up and be a major military power they started abandoning a lot of their traditions. It's a twist on an old fiction, except it happened in real life.

I do also wonder if making protagonists white by default is really a bad thing. Whenever I come up with a story of some sort it's what I do, but that's because I don't even think about it. I'm not black, I'm not Asian, I'm just plain white boy. Maybe it's just that other nationalities aren't joining in on the band wagon? Or something else? Yet another topic that could go on for pages of pages of discussion (and let's face it, well beyond the education of most of this forum's members).

Great article as always Bob, fantastic reading. And also, i agree, that 'dances with smurfs' thing is so worn out and stupid i think people miss the fact that it was made in jest, not as a serious criticism. It's a shame that south park's social-sometimes-philosophical examination on human condition is watched mostly by douchebags for whom the point goes straight over their collective heads.

Can't wait to see this film tho. I'm a technology nut, so really i'm only going to see the latest technology hollywood is implementing in CG these days (which is why i really like Final Fantasy: Spirits Within, for which people give me weird looks...). But thankyou for the analysis on the actual story/themes/tropes within the film, a very though examination.

MovieBob:

Feel like you've heard Avatar's story before? You don't know the half of it.

Ok...

I'm going to put out a feeler here.

Could this story be equally placed to the Declaration of Independence?

Let's face it, the basic story of Race A gets transported to new world, makes friends with Race B and then fights against Race A could be quite easily seen as that...

And I know the irony of saying that from a Race A to a Race B.

Or could we also say the Roman occupation of England, or...most touchy-feely films back to Ferngully.

Oh white guilt, will you ever cease to amuse me and bum me out at the same time?

I find I frequently have to tell myself, over and over again, that "I didn't do it. Not my fault. Just remember to not be a dick to people because they're different, and everything will be fine."

As for the "white man saves the natives" story evolution, there's something similar but not quite like that in U.S. history.

Twice (that I can think of) civilized men have allied with and fought bravely alongside different native people, to the survival, if only temporary, of said native peoples.

The first occurred in the south with the Seminole Indians - black men who escaped slavery often found themselves joining local tribes and bringing agricultural technology, new ideas, and, for lack of a better word, new blood to the tribes, with many of them advancing to lead war bands and to become chieftains themselves against their former owners. As all Marines are NOT taught (the Corps only teaches us that we went south to kill the Indians) we lost the war and many tribes got to keep their land.

The second occurred in the Philippines shortly after the Spanish-American War. We had seized the Philippines from Spain and were in the process of killing lots of people in Luzon to secure our position when, once again, some black men (conscripted and sent to fight) left our side to join the natives against us. One man even gained some notoriety in fighting his former masters, and if I remember correctly, his surname is Fagan. This one did not work out quite so happily since we had more of a technological edge (gun lovers will know this is when the M1911 came into existence) and better naval support.

But in both cases, it is interesting to note that it's not often white men who will turn and fight for the locals, although you can certainly find historical cases of white frontiersmen fighting the good fight, but rather those men who are most disenfranchised from the cause of the colonizing nation who develop the kind of moral bravery that we now sing of.

My Great Great Great Grandmother walked the Trail of Tears... and my Grandfather was so shamed to be native American that he destroyed all pictures with any family member dressed as an Native American. My mother foundthis out when she was doing genological research on my Dad's side of the family.

Technically speaking: I am 1/16 Native AMerican, and the rest is Scottish, English and German...every one there before the Revolutionary War and I am sure there was a slave owner in the mix. As for "shoulda fought harder," comment, little hard when what is fair play and civilized to you, is not the same of others. I won't even get into the inbalance of weaponary and equipment.

Do I condon the treatment of Native Americans in the past? no. BUt it is the past and it should NEVER be forgot. Besides, the Indians are making sure the desenants of those who got ran off their land are paying it back with gambling. Natives that have problems now? Ask the Alaskian and Hawai'ian...they didn't get the same deal.

This is all neither here or there. TO the OP...I thought the plot looked familiar... and Mr. Costner and Mr. Greene are far better actors.

Shamus Young:

MovieBob:
Sure... just keep telling yourself that.

So you're saying you can comfortably judge me without ever having met me? Or are you saying white people are uniquely pre-disposed to racism? After spending so much time viewing movies are you suddenly taking a turn as a projectionist?

Good as always, up until that last line, which seemed to engage in the very sort of sloppy thinking you'd just so eloquently demolished.

Although I laughed at the final line in Bob's article, I get Shamus's (Shamuses) reaction to it.

Though I don't think Bob meant to say that caucasians have a genetic tendency to be racist, there's definetely something to say about how the ratio between white-man-turned-native hero and the native-freedom-fighter one is quite disproportionate.

What I wonna know is why do I suddenly have to feel bad for being white? Because some other white people, long ago, did bad things and because some white people are doing bad things now? What the fuck did *I* do that I should feel guilty of...anything?

(Hell I'm not even from the States. So no "lol indians" argument works either)

well funny story, avatar didn't copy anything, james cameron already had the script of avatar before making the titanic, so it ain't no copy of anything, its the other way around, it has been copied (no not really really copied because nobody knew 'bout the script exapt james cameron and is film crew of 15 years back ,but still)

in this case, mecha-piloting space marines versus blue-skinned aliens

"Ah, see? I'd never be with those mean, colonizing, indigenous-displacing bad guys... I'd be that one guy who fights with the natives!"

Wait, "mecha-piloting"?

Yeah, screw the natives. I'm siding with the team that gets mechs. :P

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