This is a quick hit, because, really, there’s not too much to say.
I’ve been reading criticisms of Avatar pretty extensively, and I’ve even engaged in a bit of critique discussing the way in which the movie is being promoted to the public, and how the framing of the film in promotional materials reflects social attitudes about disability.
So, when I saw a New York Times article, “You Saw What in ‘Avatar’? Pass Those 3-D Glasses!,” I thought it might be an interesting roundup of critiques surrounding the film. After all, it seems like the media is finally starting to pay attention to discussions from social justice advocates about popular culture, as seen by the flurry of articles about Glee and critiques from disability rights advocates. Could we possibly be starting to have a mainstream discussion?
No. That would be silly, mel! Here’s what the article has to say about the “groups [which] have projected their issues onto ‘Avatar’ (emphasis mine)”:
Over the last month, it has been criticized by social and political conservatives who bristle at its depictions of religion and the use of military force; feminists who feel that the male avatar bodies are stronger and more muscular than their female counterparts; antismoking advocates who object to a character who lights up cigarettes; not to mention fans of Soviet-era Russian science fiction; the Chinese; and the Vatican. (Emphasis mine.)
Yeah, the author just threw together a laundrylist of things with the obvious goal of making them all seem petty and trivial. “Those silly people, not liking Avatar, what’s wrong with them?” Gosh, who would want to be linked with people who are so obviously oversensitive, I ask you.
There are two problems with this list.
- Why aren’t disability-centered critiques included on it? People with disabilities are talking about the movie, surely those of us who don’t like it or don’t like the way in which the film is being promoted should be included on David Itzkoff’s dismissive list of “people who don’t like this movie for no very good reason.”
- HOLY STRAW FEMINISTS, BATMAN. Now, I’m not saying I have read every single critique of this movie which has ever been written. But I never saw anything of the kind in any critiques I read, and I couldn’t find anything of the kind when I went on an Internet Treasure Hunt. Did Itzkoff seriously just throw some straw feminists in there to make the list seem even more ludicrous? “See, feminists are criticizing it, that must mean that any critique is trivial.”
What’s really weird about this article is that it admits that great science fiction (which Avatar is purporting to be) is allegorical, while, at the same time, it is tearing down criticisms and discussions about the symbolism of the film. Apparently, allegorical media is for consumption only, not discussion. Quick. Someone alert the media.