29 responses to “James Cameron’s Avatar: Watch Some -isms This December!”

  1. notemily

    I like that the guy who is coming in to colonize this “unspoiled world” is named Sully. Unintentional irony?
    .-= notemily´s last blog ..My Regretsy submission =-.

  2. Jadey

    Dear Mr. Cameron,

    Bored now.

    No love,

    More seriously… In the past, I’ve really bought into the idea of the timelessness and universalism of certain stories and the history of shared narratives, but lately I’ve realized how inaccurate this picture is. These stories aren’t universal at all, but reflect the status quo. I read Robert J. Sawyer’s Wake over the summer, and was incredibly disappointed by the ablism in his narrative, especially when he seemed to start with a strong character (trying not to be spoiler-y, but if anyone’s interested, there’s a comprehensive review of Robert J. Sawyer’s Wake by Kestrel. The only thing she doesn’t include is the similar treatment of the protagonist’s father). I love Sawyer’s style and had been desperately waiting for his next book, but as much as I kept trying to love the second half of the novel, it didn’t go. I couldn’t get past my disappointment about his plot devices, which were ablist and obvious. Sucked the enjoyment out of the entertaining parts of the book.

    I am finding colonialist and ablist storylines hella boring now that I recognize them as overdone tropes (oh, what a difference a Bingo card can make), but I know plenty of people still enjoy them and find them compelling. And I enjoy my share of tropes and cliches in other (preferably non-oppressive) forms! But I seriously wonder what it will take for people to give up on these narratives, like Noble Savages and Miracle Cures, that they seem to enjoy so much.

  3. Anon

    I like that the guy who is coming in to colonize this “unspoiled world” is named Sully. Unintentional irony?

    Intentional, I think; it’s not supposed to be a good thing. Which, obviously, doesn’t negate the tropes discussed or anything.

  4. Sarah

    I saw a preview for this movie recently and agog. So many racist and ableist tropes so poorly disguised. The Na’vi costuming is so, so obviously drawing upon racist notions of “primitivism,” etc.

    And you are very right about James Cameron and the color blue.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Debunking Neanderthal Nonsense Part II =-.

  5. lauren


    The whole “virtual reality cure” thing reminds me of a “kids” show my sibs used to watch. I think it was from New Sealand. It was a sci-fi- show about a world without grown ups, and the bad guy for one season was a boy in a wheeelchair. He wanted to enslave everyone so he could built a virtual reality where he was able to walk.

    Also, you just know that people are going to respond to the critics by saying that hey, it is very important to point out the evils of colonialism. Because obviousely, the only way to do so is to portrait the people whose home is being taken over as noble savages. If they were actual people instead of stereotypes, it might damage the message!

    There is a reason I don’t spend much money on going to the movies. Somebody let me know when there is something really worth watching.

  6. Bene

    This dovetails extraordinarily well with a post I’m going to do on Cameron’s massive problem with women…as revealed rather explicitly in a recent interview.

    So yeah, colonialism, ableism, racism…now with added sexism flavour!

  7. Erin

    Is James Cameron the same person who did Titanic? Or am I confusing him with someone else?

  8. Tlönista

    Ugh. So it can be fairly assumed any movie called Avatar brings the suck.

  9. amanda hess

    is it bad when you want to see a movie JUST to confirm what you knew all along: that it was going to suck? because i kind of want to buy a ticket to Avatar just to see if J.C. can prove me wrong this time. the most annoying part of this movie, to me, is that it has been heralded as an ‘original story’ and a ‘technological triumph,’ when it is obviously trading in the most tired and offensive tropes. it’s a shame that this new technology couldn’t have been accompanied by a more updated worldview.

  10. Mel

    it’s a shame that this new technology couldn’t have been accompanied by a more updated worldview.

    That’s where I’m at–I’m really excited that the technology is there to make non-cheesy fantasy and SF movies. I’m really pissed that almost all of the movies being made with this nifty technology are piles of prejudice.

  11. Laura Overstreet

    I saw an extended preview for this recently and it enraged me! I figure there will be a lot of talk about this one.

  12. Snarky's Machine

    Ahhh, James “More water, less water” Cameron. ::shakes head::

  13. 8thinline

    My favourite part of the trailer is where the show a clip of Sully’s avatar giving a rousing speech to all the Na’vi and he says “…this is our land!” (3:19 in the extended trailer). OUR land? Please, you’ve been there for a week at best. It is not your land at all.

  14. Kim

    This movie is literally Pocahontas In Space. Hooray for reluctant white heroes who step down from their mountains to save us all!
    Has anyone else taken issue with the use of the word “avatar,” an appropriated word?

  15. Este Yarmosh

    @ Kim, I actually read an article recently.

    Those of the Hindu faith would like a “disclaimer” to be included in the movie, so the word “avatar” in the movie won’t be confused with its uses in Hinduism.

  16. Lake Desire

    I assumed that Avatar was going to critique imperialism and genocide and the Iraq war and how the US provides no support for injured veterans–and in my beloved genre of science fiction too! But now I’m skeptical after reading this post. James Cameron, to his credit, did pretty well with Ripley and Sarah Conner, but sounds like Avatar will be lacking in strong women.

  17. ralph78

    Have you seen this?


    A series of short clips in which the actors introduce the characters they’re playing in James Cameron’s Avatar have been released. And I start wondering about something: in Avatar it seems most humans are played by white people and there are only black people and Native people playing as aliens (as the Na’vi from the planet Pandora)? Check for yourself:

    Update: following this post (?), those official videos have been tagged as private by Fox in their youtube account…

  18. Kaitlyn

    ralph78 – I love me some CCH Pounder! She would be awesome as the boss of the human crew, but no, she’ll be blue.

  19. Kaitlyn

    I wanted to see it when I heard it one of trailers would be for “My Name Is Khan”* but info on whether the trailer would be seen everywhere, just in India, or just in cities around the world where the company assumes there is an audience. (Not Memphis, in other words.)

    *In MNIK, Shahrukh Khan plays a character with aspergers – he’s Muslim and after Sept 11, the authorities interpret “the visible aspects of his condition as “suspicious” behavior.”


    If the movie comes to Memphis (it better!), I was thinking of dragging my mom along because she works with special ed kids. But now I’m hoping that someone will post here in February about the movie. (It could be awesome, or it could be terrible – Karan Johar is directing.)

  20. Kat

    My friend posted this on my facebook. It’s an interview in which Cameron admits that he designed the female aliens that way so people would objectify them.

  21. jonathan helix

    With due respect, I think it might pay to save the negatives until after we’ve seen the movie? I haven’t seen it – yet. I’ve been told as a special effects movie it’s fantastic. Let’s face it, love or hate his movies Cameron does do “epic” very well imho.

    Thanks for alerting me to some possible themes I hadn’t thought of. I’ve tweeted this page as justice/fairness/feminist issues are important to me. However, I shall reserve judgement until after I’ve seen it. I think that’s only fair?

    Peace to all

    Jonathan :-)

  22. Sasha_feather

    This post has been included in a linkspam at Access_Fandom. Thank you!

  23. Anna

    Have you actually seen this movie? I’m a wheelchair user and not only did I not find it offensive, I thought it was a much more accurate, positive portrayal of disability than any other film in recent times.

    1. Crip Drag-Normally I’m completely against this but they produced the technology used to produce the movie captured the actors’ movements to create the characters. Since the avatar walks, runs and jumps, the actor has to as well. Not ideal but admissable.

    2. The protagonist does not spend much time sulking over his disability. As a newly injured formerly highly active person, it wouldn’t be illogical for him to experience some desire of being able to walk again, especially in a future where that’s possible just not affordable for him. It’s explained at the beginning but in the end the choice he makes does not indicate sulking at all. I won’t post it as it’s a spoiler, but see the movie and you’ll understand.

    3. The protagonist is shown to be employed in a highly demanding job. Yes his superior isn’t happy with him being on her team but at no point is his disability even brought up as being an issue. He gets around base easily and independently. Never is he shown as being a burden.

  24. jonathan helix

    Meloukhia, you raise good points I hadn’t thought of http://disabledfeminists.com/2009/11/21/james-camerons-avatar/#comment-5123

    Yes, you’re right. Even if it’s only marketed with bad attitudes that’s cause for concern. I’m nearly finished my blog on another side of Avatar, might post a link when done.

  25. Jessica Lee

    “but it’s worth pondering the fact that Cameron has been thinking about and developing this project for over a decade, and he apparently has not identified any content in it which might be considered problematic”
    That’s so full of win. My best guess is that he was too busy thinking about how to incorporate as many fiber-optics as humanly possible into the Pandora ecosystem rather than actually plot and story development. I’ve seen the film and it’s basically Pocahontas in Space with pretty lights and floating mountains. I find it impossible to believe Cameron was working on the story itself. After all this story’s already been written, time and time again.