Examining Race-Related Aspects of James Cameron's Avatar

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 41
  • Published : November 7, 2012
Open Document
Text Preview
Examining The Race-Related Aspects Of Avatar
While evident that many who saw the film Avatar were more than satisfied with it visually, I found it interesting that I heard little about the plot or characters. After all, as a writer, these elements, to me, are what make or break the outcome. After going to see the critically acclaimed film, I was left with a blatant feeling of injustice regarding the film’s race issues. The problem I had with the film is the concept of a white male entering into a world of ethnic people (in this case, aliens), with the sole intent of using them for his own personal gain. Not only has this all too familiar story been used again and again, but also, the outcome is always the same. While I do not believe that the film endorses racism, I do believe that certain racial ideologies play a major role in the film. Whilst some may argue against that point, by simply breaking down the story, it is simple to make the connections. Regardless of if it was intentional or not, there are some obvious racial undertones in Avatar, and they should not be ignored no matter how impressive the graphics are.

In the specific clip I have chosen to analyze, Jake, the human who joins the Na’vi to fight against his own kind, has returned to Pandora after being labeled a traitor and losing the trust of the Na’vi. To gain it back, he immediately tames a Toruk, a red dragon who the natives are very fearful of. The dragon had never been tamed by anyone from the Na’vi clan. The ability and heroism just spewing from Jake makes it seem as though he is the only one with the answers that the Na’vi need to save Pandora. The scene transitions to the clan praying to the Hometree, despite their knowledge of the tree having never “taken sides”. In the midst of all of this, Jake comes flying down on the red dragon, the sun beaming behind him, illuminating his path. Then comes the very demeaning imagery of Jake dismounting the dragon in front of the Na’vi, while they practically bow to and worship him as if to say, “You are superior to us, after all!” Jake certainly assumes as much, because he soon starts yelling about how this is “our” land, and they need to do what he says to save it.

While watching the film, I first began drawing a lot of parallels to class discussions of how Columbus and the Spaniards conquered America. In Avatar, a human corporation is mining a valuable mineral on Pandora, an Earth-like moon that is inhabited by the Na’vi, an “alien” race. In the late 1400’s, despite also having discovered an entire race of people, the Spanish found gold in America and began mining. Once it became difficult for them, they enforced slavery upon the natives of the land, and mercilessly killed them upon resistance. In the article Sex And Conquest: Domination And Desire On Ethnosexual Frontiers, Joane Nagel reminds us of the “relative powerlessness of many native women, and reports that sexual exchanges were often coerced, involving rape, forced prostitution, and slavery.” In Avatar, the human scientists uncover that underneath Hometree, the Na’vi clan’s dwelling, lies the richest deposits of the mineral that they value, and by the end of the film, are ready to destroy it and its’ inhabitants. This, to me, is an example of racism in how the humans were willing to treat the Na’vi (kill them) in order to acquire more “gold”. While elements are different, Columbus’ conquest of America strays not so far from the plot that drives Avatar: a “civilized” race relentlessly compromises what they deem to be an “uncivilized” race. It can even relate to how American factories are built in foreign countries to avoid specific labor laws. As Americans, how can we justify that the people working in foreign countries assembling our iPhones are equal to us? If so, wouldn’t we demand that they deserve equal pay? The ideology of the self-righteous, superior race and their ultimate disregard for all others is, sadly, an overused theme present in...
tracking img