[ExI] Avatar: misanthropy in three dimensions

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Mon Jan 11 07:09:35 UTC 2010

Stefano writes

 > ...but another quite sobering (albeit from a
> POV rather different from mine...) review can be found here:
> http://io9.com/5422666/when-will-white-people-stop-making-movies-like-avatar

Of all the reviews linked to so far, this may be addressing
the most fundamental, or perhaps most profound, issue. Here's
a part that I want to speak about:

     When will whites stop making these movies and start thinking about
     race in a new way?

     First, we'll need to stop thinking that white people are the most
     "relatable" characters in stories. As one blogger put it:

         By the end of the film you're left wondering why the film needed
         the Jake Sully character at all. The film could have done just as
         well by focusing on an actual Na'vi native who comes into contact
         with crazy humans who have no respect for the environment. I can
         just see the explanation: "Well, we need someone (an avatar) for
         the audience to connect with. A normal guy will work better than
         these tall blue people." However, this is the type of thinking
         that molds all leads as white male characters (blank slates for
         the audience to project themselves upon) unless your name is Will Smith.

     But more than that, whites need to rethink their fantasies about race.

     Whites need to stop remaking the white guilt story, which is a sneaky
     way of turning every story about people of color into a story about
     being white.

Well, the problem goes very deep. People *like* to see stories
about white people, because the sad fact is that white people
have more status. So it's just as in the old days, hearing
stories about kings rather than about paupers (Shakespeare,
for example, told relatively few stories about entirely
ordinary people).

In *whatever* culture, it seems---though there have to be a few
exceptions---people want their children to be whiter. And don't
forget the Japanese, who treasured the whiteness of their women;
and when it turned out to be undeniable that white men actually
had complexions whiter than their own women, they went into denial
about it for some time.

Now if that weren't bad enough, *film*, i.e. the nature of
film, is also in on the conspiracy against people of color.
White faces simply show up much better than dark faces in
movies or portraits. Perhaps this is indeed evidence of
(a malevolent) God's existence after all: how else the double

     Speaking as a white person, I don't need to hear more
     about my own racial experience.

Well, this isn't just about you, buster.

     I'd like to watch some movies about people of color
     (ahem, aliens), from the perspective of that group,
     without injecting a random white (erm, human)
     character to explain everything to me.

Okay, go get a producer to make a movie consisting
entirely of black people. The only reference in the
movie to white people could be that "they all died
out long ago from their own corporate greed and
unfriendliness to their environment". Then just
see how well your movie does at the box office.

(I also imagine that it has cost Disney a pretty
penny to present non-white centered characters in
movies, animation, and cable series.)

Look, the solution to the problem is simple, and we need
only wait patiently a few more years. Soon one will be
able to control the amount of color that children will
be born with, and not long after that people will
themselves be able to undergo whitening processes a lot
cheaper, more effective, and easier than Michael Jackson's.
Then everybody can be as white as they please, and films
will become truly equal opportunity.


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list