in a big way: Is he the latest in a long line of
Western cultural imperialists?
Among the tremendous number of international press reactions to James Cameron’s Avatar, this one stands out for two reasons: First, it was written by the publisher of Germany’s prestigious Die Zeit newspaper. And second, because it goes against the huge majority of views on the movie, which is that it’s a sop to the left-wing, environmentalist fringe who oppose material progress.
The story is age-old. It deals with “noble savages,” something already well known to Dryden and Pope, Diderot and Rousseau. He is good, handsome, and unspoiled; our civilization is corrupt, cruel, and greedy. Tarzan lives among jungle animals that are actually more evolved than humans. Winnetou is the Apache warrior in a loincloth who is killed-off by White supremacists.
The Blue’s savior, Jake Sully, like Tarzan and Old Shatterhand (see below) before him, is a White man, a “White messiah” from a technological civilization who leads the natives to victory. They need him and his instruments to fight the bad guys. Edgar Rice Burroughs and Karl May wrote in an era during which the “White man’s supremacy” was an iron dogma. The over-correct director of Avatar, James Cameron, has become entangled in the same trap. Even Jake Sully is a cultural imperialist, merely a good one, without whom the Blues would be lost. … As deep and precious as the metal in this film [unobtanium], slumbers a condescending, yes, even racist message. Cameron bows to the noble savages. However, he reduces them to dependents.
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