"Avatar" and the other side of the story

I was originally going to write a full review of Avatar, however I’ve realized I’m just not that interested it. It may have had some of the best special effects and awesome visuals but the plot was boring and predictable. The humans in the movie are blinded by their own needs and are predictably racist in their treatment of the Na’vi and ableist in their treatment of Jake Sully. There is nothing new about the plot – it is the same old story about a stronger power going to foreign countries and colonizing the natives. And, it’s a story told from the point of view of the people doing the colonizing.

Why not a story from the point of view of the ones being colonized? Why don’t we ever get to hear their story. I think I would have enjoyed Avatar a whole lot more if it had been told from the Na’vi point of view and if Neytiri had been the main character. Jake Sully wasn’t needed, we didn’t need him to help us understand the Na’vi – they were perfectly understandable all on their own.

It probably doesn’t help that shortly before seeing Avatar I had finished reading “So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction and Fantasy,”edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan, an anthology of stories told from the point of view of the coloized:

“stories that take the meme of colonizing the natives and, from the experience of the colonizee, critique it, pervert it, fuck with it, with irony, with anger, with humor, and also, with love and respect for the genre of science fiction that makes it possible to think about new ways of doing things.”

Source: Nalo Hopkinson in the introduction to So Long Been Dreaming

I enjoyed reading the book immensely and was a lot more interested in it than I was in Avatar, and watching it shortly after finishing the anthology made the oldness of the plot all the more obvious.

Shortly after seeing the movie I started reading “Kynship,” the first book in the “The Way of Thorn & Thunder” trilogy by Daniel Heath Justice, another story told from the point of view of the ones being attacked:

The Way of Thorn and Thunder is a story about the defiant struggle of the Folk, a confederacy of Indigenous peoples whose lush green homeland, the Everland, is besieged by invaders hungry to strip it of its resources and purge it of its original inhabitants. Against this political backdrop is the coming-of-age story of Tarsa’deshae, a she-warrior of the Kyn nation, who has suddenly inherited the legacy and occasional burden of ancient powers for which she’s entirely unprepared, but which her people and the other Folk desperately require in the looming conflict.

Many aspects of my background influenced this story and its motivations. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, I wanted to tell the kind of epic fantasy that I’d love to read – namely, a tale rooted in the lands, languages, and socio-political contexts of this hemisphere, not those of northern Europe…

Source: An interview with Daniel Heath Justice at Innsmouth Press

The series is fantasy but the story is real and I’m much more interested in the story of the Kyn nation and the others who live in Everland. Their fight for their land, their homes and for their lives. We need more stories like this, more stories that tell us what it’s like to be on the other side of the invasion. And no those alien invasion movies/shows don’t count even if it is Earth on the other side of the story, because take a look at who is usually the hero in those movies.

Avatar has it’s moments and it’s certainly not the worst movie out there, as there are worse cases of racism/sexism/ableism in movies. However, like most movies it could have been a lot better. We need more focus on stories and plot rather than special effects and visuals. We need movie and television show makers to realize that white, male, thin and able bodied is not the best or only way of being. There are stories that need to be told and I’d like to hear them all.

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