Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Liberal Heaven: still not Paradise


This article about a film includes some information that might spoil the surprise for really, really naïve and ignorant readers.

James Cameron’s science fiction film Avatar has it all in Liberalalternativerealityworld ™.

Evil mining corporation.


Deadly mercenary US Marines.


Unindustrialised and therefore paradise planet.


Peaceful natives.


Peaceful natives who worship a mother earth goddess.


Peaceful natives who worship a mother earth goddess voiced by actors of color.


World-spanning and self-aware ecology based on trees.


Successful defensive war against the Company, Marines and Technology by Tribbles and Triffids.


And yet, and yet…

All is still not perfect on Planet Portside.

It seems that the arboreal shamans and gatekeepers of the Great Mind of the Great Unwashed from the Great Kos and its tree-based satellites such as the New York Times still manage to see beneath the anti capitalism message of this hugely profitable film.

They remain unenchanted by the hope suggested by the film’s violently achieved pacifist victory. Thanks to their great wisdom and their psychic connection to the Great Old Ones, even the visible dream of a truly sustainable and self-perpetuating industry-free ecosystem that has been made flesh before their very eyes (technological miracle and triumph of the American film industry though it is), the Wise Ones still discern the evil substructures of racist, imperialist, capitalist oppression that gives the lie to any hope for Mother Earth’s redemption short of...well, short of the cinema going public doing whatever it’s no doubt being invited to do as a result of seeing this film.

Here’s David Brooks from The NYT .

Still, would it be totally annoying to point out that the whole White Messiah fable, especially as Cameron applies it, is kind of offensive?

It rests on the stereotype that white people are rationalist and technocratic while colonial victims are spiritual and athletic. It rests on the assumption that nonwhites need the White Messiah to lead their crusades. It rests on the assumption that illiteracy is the path to grace. It also creates a sort of two-edged cultural imperialism. Natives can either have their history shaped by cruel imperialists or benevolent ones, but either way, they are going to be supporting actors in our journey to self-admiration.

It’s just escapism, obviously, but benevolent romanticism can be just as condescending as the malevolent kind — even when you surround it with pop-up ferns and floating mountains.

Get that?

From a film that only just avoids showing George W Bush raping Pocahontas upstairs in a men only bar on Wall Street (except perhaps by the most artistic of implications: nothing tawdry or trite here in 3-D you understand), and all that just after eating a meal of manatee fritters with Bald Eagle eggs, easy on the panda, somehow it just isn’t liberal enough.

Sure; Cameron’s attacked and defamed the military, and the industry that has produced every foot of film, every pot of makeup, and every computer his films have ever used and will ever use, and despite not allowing anyone white to act as one of the sylvan good-guys, it still all comes down to Whitey trying to retain his plantation-based racial cotton power after the Civil War (courtesy of US Army and US Navy and US Marines ™) formally ended slavery.

Just the way the Ku Klux Klan did for the Democratic Party till the 1970s.

On TerraSinistra, it seems, we Western white people just can’t agree with their frothing-mad victim hierarchy enough. We just can’t concede enough. We can never apologise or atone enough. It’s never enough.

We’re just rubbish. Even when we say we’re rubbish, we’re still being rubbish.

Why not just get on with it, upholding the kind of society that, for all its faults, allows us the leisure to worry about something other than crop failure, plague, and our children starving or being taken for slaves?

Oops. Belated hat tip to Dumb Jon.


James Higham said...

Er ... went over my head, that one. I have an avatar on my blog. Does that help?

JuliaM said...

"From a film that only just avoids showing George W Bush raping Pocahontas..."

Funny you should mention rape... ;)

North Northwester said...

Hi James. been a bit wrapped up lately and not been on my travels.
Mine's a mouse, now. Cheerier, than old Grim, I think.

Julia. Lol.
That's a fun site. Um, I think I might have Prolonged Puberty Envy...


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