Avatar: Race, Gender, and Stereotypes

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Avatar: Race, Gender, and Stereotypes

Avatar uses a variety of film genres and styles. One of the styles is the Cowboys versus Indians theme. It is clear that Avatar is a product of post-colonialism: it shows the Na'vi as the relatively harmless yet environmentally respectful and spiritually in tuned indigenous population, while the humans are a corporate military whose only goal is mine the resources of Pandora. The film presents an anti-military narrative. The soldiers are portrayed as cruel, violent, and brainless brutes, with only mercenary intentions. They are the stereotype of the ultimate warrior. They perpetuate the “might is right” myth. All of them are males, except for a female helicopter pilot, who ultimately defects to the good side after rejecting violent action against the native population. Pandora’s indigenous society, the Na'vi, is clearly modeled in part on Native Americans (and interestingly, the Na’vi, despite computer generated characters, are performed and voiced by African and African-American actors and the features of the Na’vi are clearly African). Avatar, like most films about aliens, is a metaphor for contact between different human cultures. In this film the metaphor is conscious and precise: this is the story of European engagement with the native peoples of the Americas. Europe was massively enriched by the mass murders and ultimate colonization in the Americas. The Na’vi were here first and were connected to the land in a spiritual way. In Avatar they are physically attached to nature while the Native Americans where religiously attach in a non-physical way. But Na’vi like the Native Americans believed that the land was the mother to all living things. Avatar is a film that resembles a “revisionist western” in which the Indians become the good guys and the Americans the bad guys. The final epic battle is almost exactly like Custer’s last stand at Little Big Horn. The Na’vi bring together other tribes to mass for an attack on a technologically superior opponent, just as Sitting Bull was able to rally tribes of Native Americans in the Montana region to attack the U.S. Calvary. Both modern militaries were defeated by “inferior” race of people, but unlike a U.S. military counter attack and ultimate victory, the Na’vi were able to vanquish the would be conquers from their land. Avatar is set in a stunningly beautiful and realistic looking forest planet called Pandora. The graphics of this film makes it look like a real place as opposed to a computer generated world. The alien’s of this planet are the indigenous race, called the Na’vi. The Na’vi were once skeptically accepting of the scientists and the builders of the schools but are now unhappy with the presence of all human life on their planet. The encroachment of the mining has angered the Na’vi. The corporation and military are slowly colonizing and exploiting the land and oppressing the native populace. In order to gain a better understanding of the Na’vi, a group of scientists developed the means to mentally occupy specially grown avatar bodies that look like the giant, wide-eyed, opaque-skinned Na’vi locals. The scientific/anthropological idea of the Avatar program was to gain understanding of the Na’vi and the customs and rituals they observed. But, the corporate goal was quiet different. The corporation was very interested in the valuable mineral that was found on Pandora. The corporation and its paid military force say the Avatar program as a way to infiltrate the Na’vi populace, gain trust and find any weaknesses they would be able to exploit. The goal of the corporation was to acquire as much of the valuable mineral as possible with no thought to the ramifications of the indigenous population. The corporation was very much like the Spanish conquers in the New World. The Spanish charged into the New World in search of gold and other fabulous riches. The Spanish Conquistadors killed all that stood in their way and the...
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