Identity: Through Others We Become Ourselves

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  • Topic: Avatar, 82nd Academy Awards, Zoe Saldana
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  • Published : April 22, 2013
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Through Others We Become Ourselves
Rachel Sealy-Fisher

In this essay, I will be discussing how people create identities for others through propaganda and language usage, perceptions and first impressions and how we accept these identities because of fear. I will use the films: Avatar and Memoirs of a Geisha as well as the novel: We Shall Not Weep by Johnny Masilela as references.

Everyone creates identities for others. Often this is sub-conscious or unintended. We sometimes create these identities because carefully compiled propaganda and language have been used on us. From what we hear, we form identities. In the film, Avatar, Colonel Quartich, head of the Avatar programme, tells Jake Sully “ Every living thing that crawls, flies or squats in the mud, wants to kill you and eat your eyes for Jujubes.” The colonel informs Jake about the dangers on the planet Pandora, accurately portraying his negative feelings about the planet. He creates an identity for the Na’vi, the natives of Pandora, that they are savage beasts, referring to them as “blue monkeys” or “roaches”. He sets this negative identity in Jake’s head before he even meets the Na’vi. Mabena, Duma’s grandfather in Johnny Masilela’s We Shall Not Weep tried to keep Duma enlightened about his Ndebele past and creates a negative identity about westernisation and Duma’s interest in music. Mabena insists that Duma keep the values of his history alive. Duma, however, is disinterested and absorbed in urban life and jazz music. Through this, Mabena creates a negative identity for urbanisation.

Identities are also created by first impressions and perceptions. How we first see someone is often how we will think of that person in the future. In the movie, Avatar, Neytiri, a Na’vi and daughter of Chief Moat, is asked by Jake why she saved him when a Pandorian creature was attacking him. She says, “You have a strong heart. No fear. But stupid! Like an ignorant child.” She tells him this on their first...
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