The Idea of Orientalism Portrayed in James Cameron's Avatar

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  • Topic: Film, Western world, Orientalism
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  • Published : December 24, 2010
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The Idea of Orientalism Portrayed in James Cameron’s Avatar

In brief, this study discusses about the representation of orientalism idea which is portrayed in the film Avatar. The film tells about the conflict between human and native people in Planet Pandora, where human exploits the land and oppresses the native. This study explores in what way the idea of orientalism is represented and how both narrative and non-narrative aspects of the film helped in delivering that representation. Indeed, to explore the focus of analysis, the study will be completed by applying orientalism criticism proposed by Edward Said. Thereby, this research will be a qualitative research where the data is taken from the film Avatar, library research, journals, and other resources which appropriate in conducting the analysis. This study discovers that Avatar shows the idea of orientalism in three different pursuits: an academic discipline, a style of thought and a corporate institution for dealing with the Orient. Thus, hopefully this will be completed as expected and may give contribution in literary research focusing on film analysis. Key words: Orientalism, Oppression, Narrative, Non-Narrative, Orient.

The European colonialism towards almost the whole Eastern regions has caused the cultural dominance of Western. The European tends to see that they are more civilized and advanced than the colonized people. Tyson states that the colonizers saw themselves at the center of the world; the colonized were at the margins. Furthermore, he also states that the colonizers also saw themselves as the embodiment of what a human being should be, the proper “self”; native peoples were considered “other,” and different (419). The colonial discourse of “self” and “other” thus leads to the practice of othering, which is the practice of judging the different as less than fully human (Tyson 420). This practice of othering can be seen not only in the written text such as literature but also in the narrative of the performed human culture. The “other” that is created through narratives is imaginary, stereotypical, and biased. But the details of the narratives lend crucial insight into the identity formation of the “self” as differentiated from the exaggerated “other” (Roberts 4). There is another specific form of othering called Orientalism. The term of Orientalism appears in the book with the same title Orientalism written by Edward Said, a preeminent scholar and an important figure in postcolonial studies who is also known as an activist n Middle Eastern politics. Orientalism purpose is to produce a positive national self-definition for Western nations by contrast with Eastern nations on which the West projects all the negative characteristics it doesn’t want to believe exist among its own people (Tyson 420). Said’s Orientalism is a study of ‘the West’s’ representation of ‘the East’ and, in particular, how they underpinned imperialist political ambitions and administrations (Baldwin et al. 169). As an academic discipline, Orientalism emerged in the late eighteenth century and has since assembled an archive of knowledge that has served to perpetuate and reinforce Western representations of ‘the East’ which is also known to be ‘the Orient’ (Ashcroft 57). The idea of Orientalism in recent days can be found in current Western depictions of Arab culture and the discussion of politics in Middle East which is closely associated with terrorism. However, the idea of Orientalism does not merely exist only in either the current affair of Western and Middle East or the literature works which represent the distinctive identity between ‘the West’ and ‘the East’, but also in the recent movie production. In 2009 there is one movie production titled Avatar which has a strong depiction of Orientalism. Avatar is directed by James Cameron. This is an adventure sci-fi movie which is delivered in a 3D format. This movie got 56 nominations and won 3 Oscars...
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