I don’t have much time so I am going to keep this short. In the middle of the worst blizzard to hit the Northeast in recent memory, I went to the movies. Since it took me nearly six hours to get home, I had some time to think about it.
Let me get this out of the way, it is one of the most visually stunning things I have seen. Truly amazing. It had to be because the story was a textbook liberal guilt trip. Somebody called it Dances with Wolves – In SPACE! That about sums it up.
I read some interesting commentary on the movie which talks about the potentially racist nature of the white liberal guilt trip fantasy and I think there are some valid points in there. The closing paragraph of the piece struck me because it hit upon the thread of my blizzard driving musings.
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. Speaking as a white person, I don’t need to hear more about my own racial experience. 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. Science fiction is exciting because it promises to show the world and the universe from perspectives radically unlike what we’ve seen before. But until white people stop making movies like Avatar, I fear that I’m doomed to see the same old story again and again.
Leaving science fiction out of it, I’d also like to watch some movies about people of color involved in a civilization ending conflict of cultures told through the eyes of the participants rather than through the eyes of a tired liberal avatar. I’d like the movie to be visually stunning and spectacularly told. Then I remembered that I had recently seen just that in Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto”. For all the magnificent effects and visual storytelling in Avatar—and it really is spectacular to watch—the story left me disengaged. See it, but know what you are getting. Its ok, but it is no Apocalypto.