Avatar's Missed Opportunity

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Krystalline Kraus Krystalline Kraus's picture
Avatar's Missed Opportunity

 hey, help me be a better writer. please take a second to comment. krystalline!

 

Avatar's Missed Opportunity

March 9, 2010 / By Krystalline Kraus

 

The movie Avatar might empower indigenous people to rise up and defend the earth but it does nothing to empower people with dis/abilities.

http://www.rabble.ca/news/2010/03/avatars-other-missed-opportunity

ceti ceti's picture

Well looks iike the Academy Awards purposely shut out Avatar where a potent convergence of liberalism and imperialism crowned Hurt Locker and Kathryn Bigelow Queen of the World.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

The director (James Cameron) of Avatar looked stunned at one point during the Oscars.

Skinny Dipper

One big problem with Avatar was that a type of computer animation was used instead of real actors (except for the voices).  If the voting actors had supported Avatar, this would have been a signal for film producers to make more computer generated films.  This could devalue the role of the live actors.

VanGoghs Ear

exactly, actors vote these awards and James Cameron doesn't give a shit about acting.  Which is OK. I find Terminator and T2 a guilty pleasure.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Working with most actors encourages film producers to work with cgi. 

CMOT Dibbler

What?  Are you saying most actors are pricks?

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

No, mostly just neurotic. 

CMOT Dibbler

I'm glad Avatar got it's ass kicked by The Hurt Locker, even if the film is a bit sketchy politically.  It was a good movie.  

CMOT Dibbler

 

No, mostly just neurotic. 

 

Hell of a statement to make.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

CMOT Dibbler wrote:

 

No, mostly just neurotic. 

 

Hell of a statement to make.

It is?

FWIW, I've been a professional actor as well as a filmmaker - I have a degree in theatre.  Actors are very fun people, but they tend to be a little nutty and egocentric.  You have to be to choose acting as a career.  Some actors are terrific team players who are ready and a joy to work with.  Others are a pain in the ass.  Sadly, the pains in the ass tend to be more common than they need to be - some actors work harder at being pains in the ass than at being good actors.

al-Qa'bong

Hmm.  Right before I got my present job I worked for the 25th Street Theatre.  That was the first job I ever had where I didn't feel out of place.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

I love theatre people.  They're great, very accepting of differences.  And I'm including the behind the scenes types in that - it's not just the actors.  There's a very cool culture in theatre.  Sometimes I miss it.

I think you find more prima donnas in film and tv, though. 

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

Regarding the exchange between CMOT Dibbler and Timebandit:

I would weigh in heavily on the side of calling them "pricks" as opposed to diagnosing them as "neurotic". (Another FWIW, I have worked on stage, television and film productions (though never as "talent")... so I have had slightly more exposure to "actors" than average) The reason for my weighing in is that I view the word "pricks" as simply descriptive of their behaviour, to call them "neurotic" is to attempt to explain the root cause of this behaviour - and tossing around pop psychology explanations is itself, in my view at least, not a particularly desirable behaviour. As to whether "most" actors are pricks, I would say no... but I wouldn't go so far as to deny that the number of pricks in the profession exceeds what you would expect to find in a random sampling of the general population... of course my view may be swayed by the fact that the members of the acting profession I have met who I would accuse of being pricks have been really, really, really memorable pricks (or is that really, really, really dramatic....). In defence of actors, I would point out that the real pricks in the industry tend to be the directors and producers, and in comparison to these guys (and I do mean guys) the actors are rank amateurs at being pricks.

Smile

VanGoghs Ear

I never really understood the fascination with "behind the scenes".   Nil by Mouth directed by Gary Oldman is an actors movie made by a great actor.  What's he like  as a person? I don't know and I don't care.  I just hope great actors keep getting chances to act in movies about real people living real lives, in addition to the fantasies of Hollywood.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

bagkitty - One of my most valuable tools as a producer is the judgement to know when and how to bring the bitch out of the closet and when to put her back again.  Wink

Yeah, there's a culture of prickdom with directors and producers.  But I wouldn't necessarily call actors pricks.  A few are, but for most of them it's just the wrong word.  It's not strictly prickiness or narcissism/self-absorbtion, neither of which imply the kind of insecurity that some very difficult actors have...  I dunno, neurotic really is the best descriptor.  Take it in the non-clinical, colloquial sense if you can.  Cheers!

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

Sure thing Timebandit, as long as you permit me to describe producers and directors as frequently exhibiting antisocial personality disorder, and I do mean it in clinical terms. Wink

500_Apples

VanGoghs Ear wrote:

exactly, actors vote these awards and James Cameron doesn't give a shit about acting.  Which is OK. I find Terminator and T2 a guilty pleasure.

I feel sorry for you if you missed out on the philosophical depth of the terminator movies.

500_Apples

CMOT Dibbler wrote:

I'm glad Avatar got it's ass kicked by The Hurt Locker, even if the film is a bit sketchy politically.  It was a good movie.  

No science fiction movie has ever won best picture. Not Blade runner, not Star Wars, not Dark Knight, not Wall-E, not Wizard of Oz, not 2001, not Planet of the Apes. The reason Avatar let alone District 9 didn't win an oscar is that most artists don't "get" science fiction - it goes over their heads. They find it confusing.

Sigourney Weaver never even won Best Actress for Ellen Ripley.

500_Apples

statica wrote:

 hey, help me be a better writer. please take a second to comment. krystalline!

 

Avatar's Missed Opportunity

March 9, 2010 / By Krystalline Kraus

 

The movie Avatar might empower indigenous people to rise up and defend the earth but it does nothing to empower people with dis/abilities.

http://www.rabble.ca/news/2010/03/avatars-other-missed-opportunity

I think the article starts off badly. You are criticizing an artistic product based on what it failed to do rather than what it did do. The latter is bad form, as then the failings of any artistic product become infinite. I had an English teacher who once told me she never penalizes students for what they don't write. Avatar may not have given a great message to handicapped people... neither did it have much to offer to people suffering from alcoholism, internet addiction, sexual abuse, unemployment, illiteracy, et cetera. The list is intrinsically infinite and would be even if Avatar was the greatest  artistic work of all time. I don't know why you chose to frame it that way, as I think my comments here apply to your title and to your opening paragraph, but not to your story as a whole.

I cannot give you a proper critique because I am fundamentally at odds with your core assumption, I believe social change is only a bandaid, and that the recipe for real change has to come from science. There is no conceivable sociology where eyesight confers no benefits over blindness. I wear glasses, and if it were not for glasses I would be incompetent for technical work. It is impossible for people like myself to demand that everything be written bigger - the invention of glasses is simply a superior solution. You spoke of your inability to complete manifestations. One could hope they'd be made shorter, but the potential healing from biotechnology is simply a lot greater.

In this sense I think that the little bit that Avatar touched on disability was a good bit. It's a futuristic world where they still have disabilities... and they still have capitalism. Jake Scully isn't disabled in Avatar - he's poor (middle-class?). That is the main reason he can't walk. When I think of social change on issues of diability, I think of expanding socialized medicine to include hearing aids and mental health. I think of a saner pharmaceutical R&D culture than the crony-capitalist BS we have now. I think asking people to talk louder, walk shorter distances and write bigger is a nice thought but ultimately a non-starter.

I also think you missed out on the environmental message of Avatar. You wonder how an injured Na'Vi would do on Pandora. Yet you also refer to a 2005 accident that damaged your spine. I think one of the memes Avatar pushed was that our environmental degradation is what causes us a lot of our physical imperfections, there was obesity among the Na'Vi, and you would have likely not had your accident in a world closer to nature.

CMOT Dibbler

I cannot give you a proper critique because I am fundamentally at odds with your core assumption, I believe social change is only a bandaid, and that the recipe for real change has to come from science. There is no conceivable sociology where eyesight confers no benefits over blindness. I wear glasses, and if it were not for glasses I would be incompetent for technical work. It is impossible for people like myself to demand that everything be written bigger - the invention of glasses is simply a superior solution. You spoke of your inability to complete manifestations. One could hope they'd be made shorter, but the potential healing from biotechnology is simply a lot greater.

Fucking hell! Yell

If this thread were about gender, class or race would you be encouraging comitted feminists, anti racist activists and anti poverty activists to wait very patiently until the greater society changes? 

 

   

500_Apples

CMOT Dibbler wrote:
If this thread were about gender, class or race would you be encouraging comitted feminists, anti racist activists and anti poverty activists to wait very patiently until the greater society changes?

Race and gender are socially constructed, blindness is as well, but not in the same way, not at all. It's not a challenge made up to maintain privilege, it's a challenge ignored to maintain privilege. Anyone who pretends they're analogous is either misguided in my opinion or at worst, working alongside oppression.

That which preventswomen and minorities from full emancipation is a matter of ideology and in our minds. You don't need to wait for society to change as you can work to make it change. It's not an extra challenge that exists in nature.

 

CMOT Dibbler

Has it occured to you that opressions overlap?  That you can be black, gay disabled all at the same time?

  

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

bagkitty wrote:

Sure thing Timebandit, as long as you permit me to describe producers and directors as frequently exhibiting antisocial personality disorder, and I do mean it in clinical terms. Wink

I wouldn't argue with you, my dear!  Laughing

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

WRT Avatar in general:  Has it occurred to anyone that this is just a Saturday afternoon entertainment?  Maybe you're placing too much expectation on it and the intentions of the director/producers.  That, and if you try to graft too much message (or a multiplicity of messages) into a screenplay, you wind up with something utterly incoherent. 

CMOT Dibbler

Race and gender are socially constructed, blindness is as well, but not in the same way, not at all. It's not a challenge made up to maintain privilege, it's a challenge ignored to maintain privilege. Anyone who pretends they're analogous is either misguided in my opinion or at worst, working alongside oppression.

 All opressions are socially constructed.

The physical constraints of gimpdom are easier to deal with then the societal ones.

How the hell is statica harming the feminist movement or anti racist movement by wanting to be active in building a society free of ableism?  Is she not allowed to do that?  Should she be passive, while all around her Canada    shits on gimps?  What kind of position is that?  Are you a closet tory.

CMOT Dibbler

Well, maybe.  But Avatar does take itself VERY seriously.  I very much doubt Cameron sees his creation as a Saturday morning cartoon.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Timebandit wrote:
Has it occurred to anyone that this is just a Saturday afternoon entertainment? Maybe you're placing too much expectation on it and the intentions of the director/producers.

In some ways I agree with you, TB--I think I said as much in one the earlier dozen threads on Avatar. But the problem is not that Cameron didn't make a movie about a black, female, disabled protagonist, but, like CMOT says, that he made a film that pretends to make a progressive message--anti-imperialist, pro-environment, etc. And in doing so, the movie runs ramshod over grassroots anti-imperialism and commits the same errors as our current governments in their wars of aggression, thereby upholding the myths that justify our imperialism, while pretending to be against imperialism. Kind of like the way Paul "Mountie" Haggis presumed to make an anti-racist movie in Crash that ended up making white people feel okay about racism.

 

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

CMOT Dibbler wrote:

Well, maybe.  But Avatar does take itself VERY seriously.  I very much doubt Cameron sees his creation as a Saturday morning cartoon.

"Saturday morning cartoon" is taking it a fair bit further than I implied.  However, I think Mr. Cameron is not so naive as to play down the film as entertainment - he's made millions on that concept.

I also think he meant to make an environmental point, but not all the other points that everyone seems to wish he'd made. 

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Catchfire wrote:

Timebandit wrote:
Has it occurred to anyone that this is just a Saturday afternoon entertainment? Maybe you're placing too much expectation on it and the intentions of the director/producers.

In some ways I agree with you, TB--I think I said as much in one the earlier dozen threads on Avatar. But the problem is not that Cameron didn't make a movie about a black, female, disabled protagonist, but, like CMOT says, that he made a film that pretends to make a progressive message--anti-imperialist, pro-environment, etc. And in doing so, the movie runs ramshod over grassroots anti-imperialism and commits the same errors as our current governments in their wars of aggression, thereby upholding the myths that justify our imperialism, while pretending to be against imperialism. Kind of like the way Paul "Mountie" Haggis presumed to make an anti-racist movie in Crash that ended up making white people feel okay about racism.

 

I thought Crash was a horrible little film. 

Be that as it may, however, I still think expectations here are too high and at odds with what the film is and was meant to be - ie: mass market entertainment.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Well, I agree with that. I won't be looking to James Cameron, or Hollywood at all for that matter, to solve the world's ills. But when half the world is cheering on this movie for how anti-war and pro-environment it is, it doesn't hurt to point out what's wrong with that line of thinking.

CMOT Dibbler

I still think expectations here are too high and at odds with what the film is and was meant to be - ie: mass market entertainment.

Are you sure about that? the impression I got was That Avatar was meant to be Cameron's opus, something he has dreamed about for thirty plus years, surely he meant it to be more then a big budget popcorn movie.

500_Apples

CMOT Dibbler wrote:

Has it occured to you that opressions overlap?  That you can be black, gay disabled all at the same time?

...

What a condescending comment.

500_Apples

CMOT Dibbler wrote:
All opressions are socially constructed.

The difficulties of blindness are directly linked to the biology of blindness, whereas the difficulties of being black have nothing to do with absorption of sunlight.

Technological progress is our best hope, and in some ways it might be a better hope. We might see most physical impairments cured before we see the veil lowered on our history of sociological bigotry.

CMOT Dibbler

500_Apples wrote:

CMOT Dibbler wrote:
All opressions are socially constructed.

The difficulties of blindness are directly linked to the biology of blindness, whereas the difficulties of being black have nothing to do with absorption of sunlight.

Technological progress is our best hope, and in some ways it might be a better hope. We might see most physical impairments cured before we see the veil lowered on our history of sociological bigotry.

 

 

I have  a  disability,  but  the only  time  I actually  feel  "disabled"  is when  I  run into  a barrier, for example a ramp that hasn't been  shoveled,  or some wise ass government  paper pusher who thought   it would be a marvelous  idea to ensure that I will never have full time employment.  If  you  eliminate  those  barriers you won't  make my disability  vanish,  but  my  feeling  of being  "disabled"  will go the  way  of  the doe doe bird.

CMOT Dibbler

What a condescending comment.

 

 

Oh the irony.

God, how I hate this place.

CMOT Dibbler

Technological progress is our best hope, and in some ways it might be a better hope. We might see most physical impairments cured before we see the veil lowered on our history of sociological bigotry.

There are a lot of gimps born every year, medical science can't possibly find a way to cure them all.  Which is why it's important to promote acceptance of gimpdom.  We'll always be here. 

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

Considering the treatment of the Paralympic games, I'd say you're way off base 500_Apples.  It's sociological too dude.  You should back away from some of your statements here and rethink it in my humble opinion.  In fact, I'd almost be tempted to argue the opposite of what you're saying with your own words.  You could also argue that absent technology to "cure" gimps, they have the most to lose sociologically.

 

And being a POC has nothing to do with biology, whereas blindness does?  Guess I should have got me a university edjumacation.  People need to deconstruct their attitude towards "others", period.  It's a hard, hard road.

 

I was really disappointed after a great olympics, on the last day they denied McKeever a place in the 50k on the last day of the games.  Summed up why I shouldn't have been paying attention.  Shame on me.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

CMOT Dibbler wrote:

I still think expectations here are too high and at odds with what the film is and was meant to be - ie: mass market entertainment.

Are you sure about that? the impression I got was That Avatar was meant to be Cameron's opus, something he has dreamed about for thirty plus years, surely he meant it to be more then a big budget popcorn movie.

To an extent, perhaps.  However, it still is what it is:  A Hollywood "blockbuster".  Cameron had an environmental message he wanted to communicate, and to do so he did what Tiggers do best - in his case, via the Hollywood blockbuster with kick-ass special effects. 

But if we go back to the OP, the point made there was that Avatar was a "missed opportunity" to have a discussion about disabilities, and to me this is grafting an expectation onto the filmmaker that isn't entirely reasonable.  Cameron never set out to make a movie about the acceptance of people who are differently abled, and it would have been a conflict if he had tried to address both.  Should he have?  Maybe that's up to him.

As a filmmaker, it's actually kind of disturbing that people feel entitled to tell any filmmaker what message they have to address in their work, whether that work is mass market or indy. 

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

But he also used disability and the "cure" and the hero complex, and likely subconsciously to get his point across.  Keeping a common tome going.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

No, he used common plot devices within the genre he was using.

For argument's sake, suppose I want to make a film that revolves around themes of religiosity, and my main character happens to be female.  If I decide that taking on a detailed critique of gender distracts from my main point and I leave it in the background or simply don't address that issue, is it a missed opportunity or is it just not what I'm trying to say? 

500_Apples

 

CMOT Dibbler wrote:
I have  a  disability,  but  the only  time  I actually  feel  "disabled"  is when  I  run into  a barrier,

That's the only way it could ever be.

CMOT Dibbler wrote:
If  you  eliminate  those  barriers you won't  make my disability  vanish

Only technological progress can do that.

500_Apples

RevolutionPlease wrote:
Considering the treatment of the Paralympic games, I'd say you're way off base 500_Apples.  It's sociological too dude.  You should back away from some of your statements here and rethink it in my humble opinion.  In fact, I'd almost be tempted to argue the opposite of what you're saying with your own words.  You could also argue that absent technology to "cure" gimps, they have the most to lose sociologically.

What about the paralympic games?

RevolutionPlease wrote:
And being a POC has nothing to do with biology, whereas blindness does?  Guess I should have got me a university edjumacation.  People need to deconstruct their attitude towards "others", period.

Where's the counterargument?

****************

My point remains that race and gender are purely social constructs unless you're talking about medicine (for example) where the biological correlates (sometimes) matter.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Timebandit wrote:
However, it still is what it is:  A Hollywood "blockbuster".  Cameron had an environmental message he wanted to communicate, and to do so he did what Tiggers do best - in his case, via the Hollywood blockbuster with kick-ass special effects.

Timebandit, it sounds like you are defending Avatar on the basis of it being a Hollywood movie, as if that excuses it a priori for any anti-progressive messages it carries. I'm reminded of that oft-cited parable about the turtle carrying the scorpion on its back across the river. What if we don't want Hollywood-style movies? Or if we would like Hollywood to actually uphold the reputation it claims for itself (cf George Clooney)? Are we not allowed to criticize Hollywood because, like the scorpion, oppression and deceit is simply "in its nature"?

Quote:
But if we go back to the OP, the point made there was that Avatar was a "missed opportunity" to have a discussion about disabilities, and to me this is grafting an expectation onto the filmmaker that isn't entirely reasonable.  Cameron never set out to make a movie about the acceptance of people who are differently abled, and it would have been a conflict if he had tried to address both.  Should he have?  Maybe that's up to him.

As a filmmaker, it's actually kind of disturbing that people feel entitled to tell any filmmaker what message they have to address in their work, whether that work is mass market or indy.

I agree with this in principle--it's the same reason why I occasionally defend Bill Cosby from critics who say he doesn't take up race issues enough in his comedy--no one should tell an artist how political they should or should not be. But, and this is critical, all art is nevertheless political--it's simply a matter of degree. So when, in the interests of plot, Cameron employs the ableist conceit (also seen in Clint Eastwood's pedantic and sentimental Million Dollar Baby) that all a disabled person wants is to walk again (whether or not this is true for a lot of disabled people), don't disabled folk--real disabled folk--have a right to object? In effect, Cameron is using their real life experience as so much excess material solely for the existential crisis of the otherwise classic military maverick hero. Cameron didn't have to use it, but he did. And people like CMOT abnd statica are justifiably upset about it. Imv, if Cameron uses Ableist material, he invites such criticism. The fact that he lives and breathes Hollywood is no excuse.

p-sto

Timebandit wrote:

No, he used common plot devices within the genre he was using.

For argument's sake, suppose I want to make a film that revolves around themes of religiosity, and my main character happens to be female.  If I decide that taking on a detailed critique of gender distracts from my main point and I leave it in the background or simply don't address that issue, is it a missed opportunity or is it just not what I'm trying to say? 

But what if in your film you not only ignores gender critique but goes so far as to unfairly portray women.  I agree with you that it's within an artist's right to ignore or misrepresent certain issues if they wish to do so to get to another point.  At the same time this opens them up to criticism for how they chose to represent things.

CMOT Dibbler

500_Apples wrote:

 

CMOT Dibbler wrote:
I have  a  disability,  but  the only  time  I actually  feel  "disabled"  is when  I  run into  a barrier,

That's the only way it could ever be.

CMOT Dibbler wrote:
If  you  eliminate  those  barriers you won't  make my disability  vanish

Only technological progress can do that.

But dude, the barriers I talk about are also social and political.  The BC government has decreeed that I can only earn 500 dollars above my disability benefits.  This prevents me from engaging in anything but part time employment.  

CMOT Dibbler

 

The point I am trying to make is that disability is a physical and/or mental condition, wheras being disabled(the feeling of powerlessness you get when society shits on you from a great height) is a direct result of ablest attitiudes in our culture.
 
Only technological progress can do that.

So all the social stuggles that gimps and there allies have gone through don't matter?

 

500, why do you have such faith that scientists will one day cure disability?  Nazi scientists tried to make perfect people but all they ended up doing was making mentally challenged gimps. No one is perfect, nature does not like perfection, which is why you have your glasses and I have my chair(and glasses too, as it happens).  

500_Apples

CMOT Dibbler wrote:

The point I am trying to make is that disability is a physical and/or mental condition, wheras being disabled(the feeling of powerlessness you get when society shits on you from a great height) is a direct result of ablest attitiudes in our culture.
Only technological progress can do that.

So all the social stuggles that gimps and there allies have gone through don't matter?

500, why do you have such faith that scientists will one day cure disability?  Nazi scientists tried to make perfect people but all they ended up doing was making mentally challenged gimps. No one is perfect, nature does not like perfection, which is why you have your glasses and I have my chair(and glasses too, as it happens).  

As far as imperfections go, glasses are trivial, and glasses are trivial to anyone who can afford the few hundred dollars. If you are a poor student or elderly and cannot afford glasses, then you are sort of like Jake in Avatar, you are a victim of poverty. On the other hand, if there were no glasses in the world and I were stuck with ~5.00 in each eye, I'd be a bad driver at best, I'd be unable to do most professions and my inability to recognize faces would render me effectively non-social. These facts would be sociology-independent, or at best loosely sociology-dependent.

The social struggles are not irrelevant. Just because they're not the end-all doesn't make them irrelevant. It would be great if the people at the BC ministry acquired rudimentary math skills, but not as great as if you got new legs.

500_Apples

Catchfire wrote:

 (also seen in Clint Eastwood's pedantic and sentimental Million Dollar Baby)

What is wrong with MDB?

Do you believe no euthanasia story should ever be written?

A lot of people would have demanded the same as Hillary Swank demanded. Further, the alternative storyline, of Swank becoming champion at no physiological toll to herself because she's a hardworker, is a story that has already been told.

This was the storyline of someone becoming physiologically devastated by sport. When have we seen this story before? Never in depth. It was implied Rocky was becoming mentally disabled, though he didn't seem too affected in his movies. In Friday Night Lights, Booby Miles loses his football career, but we're told he turns out fine. Sometimes it doesn't turn out fine. That story should also be told.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Catchfire wrote:

Timebandit wrote:
However, it still is what it is:  A Hollywood "blockbuster".  Cameron had an environmental message he wanted to communicate, and to do so he did what Tiggers do best - in his case, via the Hollywood blockbuster with kick-ass special effects.

Timebandit, it sounds like you are defending Avatar on the basis of it being a Hollywood movie, as if that excuses it a priori for any anti-progressive messages it carries. I'm reminded of that oft-cited parable about the turtle carrying the scorpion on its back across the river. What if we don't want Hollywood-style movies? Or if we would like Hollywood to actually uphold the reputation it claims for itself (cf George Clooney)? Are we not allowed to criticize Hollywood because, like the scorpion, oppression and deceit is simply "in its nature"?

Quote:
But if we go back to the OP, the point made there was that Avatar was a "missed opportunity" to have a discussion about disabilities, and to me this is grafting an expectation onto the filmmaker that isn't entirely reasonable.  Cameron never set out to make a movie about the acceptance of people who are differently abled, and it would have been a conflict if he had tried to address both.  Should he have?  Maybe that's up to him.

As a filmmaker, it's actually kind of disturbing that people feel entitled to tell any filmmaker what message they have to address in their work, whether that work is mass market or indy.

I agree with this in principle--it's the same reason why I occasionally defend Bill Cosby from critics who say he doesn't take up race issues enough in his comedy--no one should tell an artist how political they should or should not be. But, and this is critical, all art is nevertheless political--it's simply a matter of degree. So when, in the interests of plot, Cameron employs the ableist conceit (also seen in Clint Eastwood's pedantic and sentimental Million Dollar Baby) that all a disabled person wants is to walk again (whether or not this is true for a lot of disabled people), don't disabled folk--real disabled folk--have a right to object? In effect, Cameron is using their real life experience as so much excess material solely for the existential crisis of the otherwise classic military maverick hero. Cameron didn't have to use it, but he did. And people like CMOT abnd statica are justifiably upset about it. Imv, if Cameron uses Ableist material, he invites such criticism. The fact that he lives and breathes Hollywood is no excuse.

*deep sigh*

Physical disability is a common metaphor in film and literature.  In this case, I have little doubt Cameron meant to mirror the broken-ness of the culture that his main character originates from through the metaphor of his identity as a broken man.  We're not talking about a congenital disability, but an injury that cannot be fixed for this character.

On this basis, within the context of the genre of the film and the literary tradition it grew from, the criticism is not very reasonable.

Now, if this was a social realist film, you might have some solid ground to base such a criticism on.  But that's not what this is.  It's a Hollywood sci-fi film.  Real life experiences have zip to do with it and expecting any film to be all things to all people is unreasonable - whether it's Hollywood or indy.

ETA: re "what if we don't want Hollywood movies?"  :  Has it occurred to you that you are very likely not the target audience?  If you don't want it, don't go see it.  There are plenty of other people out there who do.  I'm not defending Avatar on the basis that it hails from Hollywood, just pointing out that a genre film from a big studio (European studios sometimes make such films, and so does Hong Kong) having expectations of passing the great progressive purity test is a tad unrealistic.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Timebandit wrote:
*deep sigh*

Physical disability is a common metaphor in film and literature.

I thought I was being respectful. This borders on pedantic. As it happens, I am aware of this. I happen to study "film and literature" for a living. Joseph Conrad (and thousands of writers before him) used blackness and Africa to represent the hollowness of capitalist and colonialist civilization. Chinua Achebe famously castigated Conrad for it. CMOT is, quite eloquently and, moreover, from lived experience, making the same criticism for how we use disabled people as metaphors for able-bodied people. Chinua would call this ignoring the humanity of black people. Does this mean we shouldn't read Conrad anymore? No. But it does mean we should consider Chinua's lived, real and different experience.

As for your second point (in the last P) Are you suggesting that progressives shouldn't critique pop culture? I'm not sure what to make of that. Should we not critique corporate tax breaks because we're not the targeted audience? Pop culture--all culture--affects us all. I can critique Avatar for its self-righteousness, its imperialism and its ableism and still enjoy it. Maybe you can't, I don't know. Criticism doesn't mean producing the perfect film, whatever that is. But it does mean critiquing how a film is received, discussed and glorified. Don't take it personally.

And for the record: Science-fiction has everything to do with real life experiences. Indeed, I have no idea what else it could be concerned with, or if it didn't, why it would be of any interest to us at all.

500_Apples wrote:
What is wrong with MDB?

Do you believe no euthanasia story should ever be written?

Hee. That's a bit of hyperbole, isn't it? I think I like Avatar better than MDB. I guess I just think that Clint has taken to writing morality plays since his masterpiece, Unforgiven. I thought it was sentimental and cliched, and turned an awful lot on believing that it was better to be dead than disabled. I didn't buy it. Your mileage may vary.

I'm sorry, Apples. I know you like the movie. I liked parts of it too--and said as much in earlier threads. You also seem to think I don't like sci-fi--nothing could be further from the truth. I even said I liked parts of Avatar, even enjoyed it. But its 'message' and the way it seemed to take itself so seriously, kind of irks me, and has clearly irked others. Let's just say it ain't no T2.

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