The AVATAR Movies… Obvious Racism???

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Disclaimer: This may be an uncomfortable article for those sensitive or oblivious on issues of race and reality. In that case, you may not want to continue reading.
Okay, so last night I was coaxed into seeing James Cameron’s Avatar. Why coaxed, well because I never planned to see it, for some reason or another the movie never interested me, but my friend had an extra ticket and wanted to go with someone. I watched the movie at an imax theater, so I must say it looked absolutely amazing. But let me get to the meat of why I’m making this random posting. Well, I hate to have to go here, but, okay how can I put this in a “PC” way…. the movie Avatar by James Cameron, has “twisted diversity” (you guys can interpret that how you want). Nah, I think that doesn’t give the proper gist of what I’m trying to say, Avatar has “backwards/ignorant diversity” which made the movie completely wack in my opinion (and that’s putting it mildly).

Avatar consists of “humans” and “aliens/natives”. The native people, as you can see from the movie trailer, are blue. I guess the movie is placed sometime in the far future because the humans are very advanced. What riddled me though, was the fact that all the natives were african-american, hispanic, or native-american… and when I say all I mean ALL. While on the opposite end all of the humans, all of whom were scientist or in the army, were european-american (aka caucasion). And that, that was extremely perplexing. I caught on to this about 30 or so minutes into the movie when the main native girl Netyiri, played by Zoe Saldana, brought the main human Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington, to see all the other natives. I honestly don’t want to drag this on and on, but let’s just ask the obvious questions– James Cameron, are you seriously telling me you couldn’t have any main human characters be african-american, asian, hispanic, etc? a main asian scientist? you couldn’t have a main african-american army guy? or vice versa? You couldn’t have one european-american native/alien? Are you really telling me these things?
Okay, now if I had to play devil’s advocate I’d say well, maybe it is okay that the natives were people of african or native-american/indian type descent, because typically the people being called “natives” in a country are. Places like Africa, South America (pre it being called America), and North America (mainly the US, pre it being called America, pre 1492) are all places that are extremely wealthy and rich in resources. The people originally from these places had no need to “search for resources” because they had it all. When you are wealthy and have all the natural resources anyone could ever need or want, for food, clothing, medicine, jewelry etc (ie. the many crops, animals, minerals such as gold, etc) you don’t need to take from other people. So in some sense, maybe this was okay…

Oh yeah, except for the fact that these were people on a different planet, lol, so do the “natives” on all planets look the same? in terms of facial features and speech, with the same accents/cadences? According to James Cameron, they do. Why could not the aliens/natives include people of all races, James? Then to analyze the humans… for the humans, who were obviously Americans, modern Americans at that (I don’t know what year it was supposed to be, but let’s just say the year 2500), for it to be the year 2,500 and there not be a diverse cast of scientist and army people was quite perplexing.

But that isn’t even the cake-topper, for me, the cake topper was the fact that the “savior” of the native people was of course one of the humans. AND he gets the girl, who was technically supposed to be “betrothed” to one of the main native men. Now don’t get me wrong Sam Worthington is hot, but could they not have gotten a mixed person to play his role just so that we can stop with the overwhelming cliches’? Is Zoe S. the Pocahontas, and is Sam W. the John Smith? This movie is full I mean FULL of cliches…. and that’s why this movie is extremely sub-par. Why would a 2009 movie (almost 2010 movie), directed/produced/etc by this major person, James Cameron, be so cliche?! Now I am finally able to get what that South Park episode, Dancing with the Smurfs, was doing; I understand why they were making fun of Avatar so much. If you haven’t seen that episode watch it here. (They basically compare Avatar to Dancing with the Wolves and other cliche’ movies, while integrating the clouded douche-like mindsets of people like Glenn Beck into the plot through Cartman.)

The movie offered excellent graphics especially in 3D, it looked great at the imax theater, but I left feeling bad for the overwhelming ignorance of the people who cast the movie. But idk, maybe I’m missing something.

Now, lets move on…

Avatar: The Last Airbender is my ISH (that’s a watered down way to say “shit” btw, lol). Yeah, I may technically be a young adult now, but still Avatar: The Last Airbender, is MY show! lol. It’s probably the best thing on Nickelodeon and the best non-comedy cartoon out these days; I seriously love that show. So when I saw the preview for it earlier this year I was extremely happy.

Now you may ask, why am I bringing up Avatar: The Last Airbender? Well because on my google search to find out if other people shared my opinion on the “backwards diversity” of the blue Avatar, I discovered some mind-boggling information about the real Avatar movie, MY Avatar. What did I discover? I discovered the cast. The cast of a movie so OBVIOUSLY set in Asia. All the traditions, the actions, the everything, EVERYTHING on Avatar: The Last Airbender is Asian. From their wisdom, skills in martial arts, to the tea houses, to well, let’s see, hmmm, oh yeah THE SETTING!?! Lol, yes the setting for pete’s sake, is in Asia. But somehow, someway M. Knight Shyamalan and his casting crew, were not able to find one, not ONE, asian person to play one of the main characters in an Asian movie, lmao. I’m sorry, but that’s total BS. And not only are none of the actors initially chosen to star in the movie Asian, but the main character Aang is being played by an undiscovered non-asian kid from Texas.

Many of the actors in this movie are virtual unknowns in one sense or another, so why could not they have used their willingness to cast unknowns as an opportunity to increase the number of asian-american actors? They could have atleast used more racially-ambiguous actors (basically mixed people or perhaps pacific-islanders) to star in the roles. The only main character they got right was sort of unintentional. Prince Zuko, a character on Avatar, was supposed be played by Jesse McCartney, but the movie conflicted with his tour dates so he had to pull out. They replaced him with british actor Dev Patel (the main guy from Slumdog Millionaire), this of course was a huge relief. There are other indian people playing minor roles in the movie, but the overall lack of asian or atleast racially-ambiguous actors is a slap in the face to any competent person.

Dev Patel is the only one that favors his character. They just gave everyone else the hairstyle of the character they are playing which makes them look slightly similar, but still far from the tv show character. Simply put, the casting for Avatar: The Last Airbender was horrible.

I often find that people who feel they belong to the “majority” group in a country are often oblivious to these things. They don’t think twice about diversity, and I guess one could rhetorically ask, “why would they need to?” Well how about because it’s 2009, we’re more conscious as a human race, and we can do better because we know better. But James Cameron and his casting directors only cast european-americans in the human roles and only cast african-americans, hispanics, and native-americans in the alien roles. M. Knight Shyamalan and and his casting directors cast no asians in a culturally Asian movie, giving us direct flashbacks to movies like Cleopatra (I love Liz Taylor as much as the next person, but Egyptian people during the times of Cleopatra were brown). It’s okay for a director to change the intended ethnicity of a character, it really is, but it should not be done at the expense of an entire culture. And it makes more sense to do it for a race of people that are under-represented in Hollywood, so that includes people of color (african-americans), asian-americans, native americans, etc.
Were these directors and hollywood casting agents being racist when they picked the actors for these two movies? who knows. I only put the word “racism” in the title post for emphasis and effect, but it does make you wonder what the logic and intent of these directors were. Were they just oblivious? Unaware? Or was it intentional? Did they feel the need to perpetuate stereotypes or appeal to the “majority” of Americans? I for one am positive that people would have watched Avatar: The Last Airbender if the characters were all asian, if not more people. They certainly lost my ticket, support, and enthusiasm, and from what I have read from others around the internet they’ve lost alot of support and have lowered the moral of avid Avatar fans. I didn’t pay to go see Cameron’s Avatar, a friend gave me a free ticket, but for anyone struggling with whether or not to go see it… don’t. It looks great in 3d, but the movie honestly is not THAT good and extremely cliche’ (save your money).
Now, I know this is sorta off-topic, but entertainment topics (and politics) are brought up here and there, and when I see bullsh*t I have to speak up. This may also be irrelevant to many of you, and that’s cool, just ignore this post, and come back tomorrow, lol. But for those of you who read this post and know anything about either movie feel free to share your opinions, your observations, or your thoughts on either Avatar movie. Note: I know for many of you just seeing the word “racism” brings out a defensive attitude, causing you to not be as objective. You may want to just say, “no diversity, lmao” and then you’ll continue with a 2-4 paragraph rant on how you’re sick and tired of these conspiracy theories about Hollywood not being diverse, but just take a deep breath and try to see these points from various perspectives. No one’s mad here, a little sarcastic? sure why not, lol, but I’m not calling this racism, just simply posing the question… Again, let me repeat for those easily offended– I used the word racism b/c it just brings more attention to the topic. (And thanks to the head editor for letting me post this, I know it isn’t the usual articles we bring and its not the usually type of article I write as a contributing editor, but it had to be done) Mike.


UPDATE: Wow, I didn’t know how many people were boycotting Avatar: The Last Airbender, pretty cool in my opinion. There’s a site called Race Bending that is organizing the boycott and trying to shed light on the lack of color in Hollywood. They not only discuss The Last Airbender, but the constant discrimination at places such as Paramount studios (displayed in movies such as Transformers), among many other interesting topics. Depending on how open your mind is and how culturally diverse you are on a personal level, you may or may not be able to understand the website, but it’s worth checking out.

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17 Comments


  1. Lol, it's funny that you brought this up. My best friend was just talking about this.

    I know you're a very "PC" person, but you should just call it how it is…. this IS obvious Racism. Anyone knows that. Of course, people will try to deny it, but no offense, but white people think the world is perfect and that racism does NOT exist.

    I don't know if you should have written this post though, you have a diverse readership and some people may be uncomfortable. lol… but i can't wait to hear them squirm and try to make sense of the obvious racism… i cant wait to come back to see the comments.

  2. IM INDIAN AND M. Knight Shyamalan IS A SELLOUT. HE NEVER HAS ASIAN PEOPLE IN HIS MOVIES.

    James Cameron HATES DIVERSITY. HE'S NEVER HAD AN ASIAN, BLACK, or HISPANIC IN ONE OF HIS MOVIE.

  3. I agree on the Michael Cameron view, I'm white but my girlfriend is mixed so I think I'm one of the few non-oblivious whites out there, lol. No but seriously, I didnt get why they couldn't have background native people who were white/asian/etc.

    And why none of the Americans were asian or black. But thats Hollywood.

    I don't know enough about The Avatar Airbender movie to comment.

    - William

  4. As a "european-american" (you're too PC, its cute though) I was holding on to my seat when I read this. But like you suggest, I took a deep breath and looked at it from many perspectives and ok, yeah, sometimes we get oblivious but isn't that expected? I'm not going to see either movie so quite frankly I don't give a damn, but kudos to you for having the guts to "speak up" on the topic, most people do nothing.

    PS. Can we get more inspiration photos on the wardrobe list? (here: http://theurbangent.blogspot.com/2009/02/wardrobe-official-list-of-clothing-to.html)

    Thanks

    - Oliver

  5. Great post. I appreciate this.

  6. I kindly beg to differ. I feel that James Cameron's AVATAR was meant to depict "the white man's burden" or Manifest Destiny. While watching the film, I was thinking that he purposely made the humans all white to show imperialism and its tragedies. We must not forget that in the 1800's when Europeans took over the world, that prestigious civilations such as Africa started to collapse. It can even relate to today with the U.S. involvement in the middle east. Avatar is a great depiction of this and that is what I took from the film.

    However, what I metioned was merely logic based. I have no evidence or statements from James Cameron that that is what he intended. I would like a third person's opinion for more credibility or a rebuttal for initiation of a debate.

  7. I'd have to agree with Anonymous above. This movie has actually been done before and is a mere interpretation of the examples of European Imperialism. Of course the military leadership and powers that be were white…and of course the Na'vi were easily identifiable as a "pick any native and indigenous peoples who have had their land stolen and pillaged for its natural resources" people. The same logic of gaining the people's trust has been used for generations by the West after invasion. Avatar was a well done depiction of this very thing and if anything, further illustrates the devilishness of those in power around the world and the usual selfish and money driven actions at the expense of a lands' rightful owner. We've seen this all before..but good review ;)

    As far as M. Knight's concoction? I will have to agree, the old tactic of euro-actor dresses as an ethnic character is absolutely ridiculous. Apparently he hasn't seen Apocalypto….

  8. I absolutely agree with you! A theme that runs through American cinema since its inception is that non whites have a dependency on and submissive role to whites.

    I would argue that while every director may not consciously have a discriminatory mindset when casting roles for films, it is likely that they are unconsciously restating stereotypes that are buried so deeply and engrained in the dominant American ideology that the images and role plays we see on the screen today are the residue of racist behavior enacted and perpetuated by the original European settlers of this country and their progeny.

    We must remember that since the founding of this country there had never been a time when racism didn't exist toward some minority group. It has been institutionalized by the most powerful, trickled down to and absorbed by every class beneath in some form, and passed on to successive generations.

    And if you can sense less than informed racial opinions in your Caucasian friends you can be sure these attitudes will be reflected in the films that they make; many times without having given it a second thought; as if to say "This is the way things are".

    You were sharp in recognizing the roles of whites and non whites in the Avatar film and mature in your assessment.

  9. I just want to say that…
    The relatively small truth that it has some embarrassing moments of dialogue and a simple plot and superficial resemblances to other movies doesn't change the fact that it blasts open the possibilities of the cinema as few films ever have.

  10. As for the Avatar casting by James Cameron. I connected the movie more to the pillaging of Africa and the Native American's land by Anglo-saxons for the land's resources. The casting emphasized the whole metaphor for me. I really caught one line when the CEO referred to the blue creatures as monkeys. The writer could have had the CEO say anything, but he chose that. As a writer, I know how important word choice is. Or James Cameron just went with a term that just came to mind and really isn't that deep. When he said monkeys though, I immediately thought that is a racist term often used to refer to blacks. He is reinforcing his connection with what whites did to Africans. I don't know, maybe I'm reading too much into it. But I really feel that's what the movie was going for.

    The whole white man saving the people. That whole thing paled in comparison to the whole story and what it truly meant. I feel though it wasn't about the white man coming to save the savages. It was about the man's journey and transformation. These are people too, I thought it was a good point. I think Avatar is less racist than many movies I've seen. All the blue creatures could have been easily played by white actors, but they weren't.

    Now the Avatar anime. That is pathetic. But they did the same thing with Dragon Ballz. I feel like Asian American actors have it much worst when it comes to being cast in America than Blacks. I feel like we need to be more positive about things, get out there and start making these kind of movies ourselves. But who knows? I complained only a little about the Princess and the Frog.

  11. I don't really understand your point. The film depicted the humans as the evil, imperialist, greedy characters and the natives as the good, wise, peaceful characters. It left no doubt as to who it felt the superior race were so if it were racist then it is racist against whites as the majority of the humans were played by white actors. However, there were at least a few non-white actors playing humans so this doesn't really stand up.
    That said, the film was shit. The plot was a terrible simplistic morality tale and an obvious metaphor for the European slaughter of Native Americans and the US led invasion of Iraq.

  12. why are there so many punk anonymous people?

    b*tches cant use their real names? so that we can actually reference you????

    but to the guy above… the point the writers/reviewers point is obvious… they even recognize everything you just said… with the whole "playing devil's advocate"… thats what makes this a good review.

    I dont even think their main problem was that… the main point was that why is it always the WHITE MAN WHO HAS TO SAVE the natives??!?

    and the only "non-white" actor was michelle rodriguez, but even she's considered white… ie. in places like puerto rico or brazil. point is she's white…. there was no one with BROWN skin who was on the american side. the main thing… is their was the cliche of the WHITE SAVIOR.

    Jesus isnt even white… so I need Lames Cameroon to get it right.

  13. CameronisaRACISTasshole.

    The first few white people to comment makes sense… "white guilt" and what not.

    But the rest of yall… its just sad.
    You people really do live in some kind of crazy bubble huh.

    as Charlie said… the problem was the CLICHE, VERY VERY VERY CLICHE'…. WHITE SAVIOR!

    But its whatever James Cameron is pretty racist in general, he never has actual black people or native americans in his movies just playing regular starring roles… they have to be playing a "black person" or a native american, etc…

    I wonder why James Cameron hates black people so much????

  14. Hey Charlie, I'm the anonymous poster from 11.1.10 so now you have a name.

    The plot is about a whole load of evil people invading a planet and one of them, who is evil at first, being taught a better way by the natives and in the end helping them. The people who come out of this looking worse are the humans.

    I'd argue that the message wasn't that the white man saved the natives, but that they worked together and therefore it is a film preaching understanding and cooperation accross cultures/races. I'd agree that Cameron is a lazy film maker and that his film is full of stereotypes. The soldiers are mainly (not all, despite what is posted above) dumb white men and the most obvious exception to this is Michelle Rodriguez who also becomes "good". Incidentally another "non-white" you appear to have forgotten about is Dileep Rao.

    It is basically just a big rip-off of films like Pocohontas and Dances with Wolves. However as these two films were based on the true genocide of the native Americans and Avatar appears to be based on a puerile 14yr old's creative writing project Cameron was able to add a cheesy "everyone lives happily ever after" ending on the end of his. We even have the cliche part where the hero almost saves the day but then himself has to be saved by the heroinne at the last minute, just to even everything out and ensure one isn't portrayed as weaker than the other. But the message seems clear to me, greedy white men are bad. Endearing wise natives are good. Simplisistic and banal though this message is, I don't read it as Cameron hating black people.

  15. I have to say, my favorite part of seeing Avatar in the theater had very little if anything to do with the content of the film. As it ended, (the white, Earthling colonists defeated, and the native "Naavi" rejoicing in their victory) the audience burst out into applause, and all I could think was, "Really?! That's you!"
    The irony of a theater almost entirely full of White people, cheering for their own failure and humiliation was overwhelming. Clearly, ignorance really is bliss.

  16. First, I would like to say I really like your fashion blog. A fine contribution to the importance of inspiration regarding style.

    Second, I need to introduce myself as an incarnated film lover that usually do not like big budget studio hollywood productions but is more into great storytelling and filmaking from places such as South America, Europe, Eastern Europe, Middle East, Asia etc.

    With that in your mind I hope you do not misinterpret what I am about to declare :)

    No, Avatar is not the greatest story that has been made, however, it is by far the greatest film experience to date. It is simply an outstanding masterpiece.

    And to make a picture of such immense quality there is no room for random decisions or careless construction. Therefore the division between humans and the natives is neither a mistake nor does the movie carry racist undertones – making the director a racist or having shammed messages.

    Everything is put out there and the divison is made very clear for the audience for one reason – to make associations to our own history – Britain conquering large areas of the world to colonize and harvest resources (like in the film – because in the film planet Earth was sucked dry and all industrialized) and places that Britain has colonized in the past are places like India, Africa, America, Asia etc. where the natives were of other races then the Europid race.

    For people to think it has anything to do with racist undertones is only an expression for their ignorance (I'm sorry) and for their personal need to seed racism in the wrong places. (Read: Wrong places – because, YES, we all can agree on the fact that racism excist and is a very big problem for the modern age world).

    The film is actually an odd to finding each other with understanding and respect despite race and culture. To leave the planet (asscotion to our own planet Earth) as it is – stop inflicting the Western culture, religion and industralization on others – the planet is beautiful as it is with all its differnces (especially several hundreds of years ago) – native Indians (link to story of Pocahontas) – and associations to our time – the Western world trying to control and reform; for instance the Middle East into our philosofies and lifestyle.

    So what if the story contains cliches – the work itself is something never done before, never seen before and something that has revolutionized the film industry. I really think that it is in its place to take the hat of and just acknowlegde that fact – and none the less (liking the film or not) pay the respect to a man that has been close to 14 years (putted together) to create something that he believed in and succeded with. Succeded with big time :)

  17. haha this is so funny…its just a movie…this is how the directors, producers, writers, and executives want it..its not about racism or anything else..they want the movie a certain way and thats it…people just need to stop over thinking everything

    i didnt see any white people in waist deep or babyboy..does that make vondie curtis hall, tyrese, or john singleton racists??? no..its just that there calls for no white people in the script.

    its just art, people..calm down

    now something like the degradation of black americans in ciroq commercials with p.diddy …thats racist

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