Avatar: A Shameful Example of Western Cultural Imperialism: Die Zeit, Germany

Avatar’s Jake Skully is a man who goes native
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.

For Die Zeit, in one of the most erudite criticisms of the film we’ve come across, Josef Joffe writes in part:

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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Author: WILLIAM KERN (Worldmeets.US)

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13 Comments

  1. What's “shameful” about it? Cultural relativism is absurd. If Joffe wants to find something shameful he should check out cultures where they lop the heads off girls for attending school and hang men from cranes for being homosexuals. Instead he gets obsessed with a movie because it's a nice safe culture to attack. Nobody much will fight back, and the liberals amongst us will assuage their guilt by inviting him to lecture at some elite whine and cheese party to offer erudite views on 'subliminal racism' directed at blue people. The self-congratulatory decadent edge of Western Society strikes again. Complete with obligatory slam at capitalism. Woo woo!

    Grow a pair Joffe.

    Thanks for an interesting article though. It gives a glimpse into the minds of those who take themselves far too seriously.

  2. “cultures where they lop the heads off girls for attending school and hang men from cranes for being homosexuals”

    Maybe this is why the French, the ones I'd expect to bash capitalism, decadence, and the USA, weren't the source of this criticism. After all, France is well known as the home of such cultures among many of its “resident guests.”

  3. Yeah! What DLS said! ;-)

    If Joffe wants to find something shameful he should check out cultures where they lop the heads off girls for attending school and hang men from cranes for being homosexuals.

    How do you know he hasn't? Presumption, presumption…

    Instead he gets obsessed with a movie because it's a nice safe culture to attack.

    Instead DLS gets obsessed with a movie critic because it's a nice safe target to attack. ;-)

  4. Joffe checked them out and was too frightened to criticize them so he picked on ours. I'm easy with that.

    hah hah, touche, but I don't pontificate much on blue people

  5. This review doesn't even come close to erudite. It's plain old dirt-throwing based on over-generalization and stereotyping.

  6. “The story is age-old.”

    This critic is correct in one area: this story is age-old. As in repetitive. We've seen Avatar dozens of times before in different vehicles. Avatar isn't a new story based on modern thought, it's a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. Cameron is entangled in the same trap as imperialist authors of the past because he basically copied imperialist authors of the past.

    Don't criticize Cameron because he reinforces stale thinking of “scholars” long-dead. Criticize Cameron because he either didn't have the talent, or couldn't take the time, to write an original story.

  7. Maybe this is why the French, the ones I'd expect to bash capitalism, decadence, and the USA, weren't the source of this criticism. After all, France is well known as the home of such cultures among many of its “resident guests.”

    I know French Bashing is good clean wholesome fun, but is it really necessary?

    And by the way, the French are as enthused by American Culture as anyone else, they are huge jazz fans, they have attempted to adapt Rock to their language (Rarely works), have adopted Rap (works great), they are huge fans of American Cinema, and they get the dubious pleasure of seeing most American Series on French TV. They just have a major problem with assholes starting wars they don't know how to win or end, jackasses telling them how to run their internal affairs, ignoramuses attempting to shove their culture down their throats, and dimwits who believe in letting the so called “free market” rule without any controls or safety nets…

  8. And of course there was the moment back in the 18th century, when they came to our assistance during that little Revolutionary War thingee, without which we might have continued paying “homage” to King George for a long time to come. History, history, history…

  9. Not all Die Ziet writers are equal….

  10. Oh, man. I bet this really stings James Cameron, whose latest (Avatar) has just dislodged his most recent film (Titanic) as the highest grossing film of all time.

    Plus, after a 10 year personal crusade to get enough theaters to adopt 3D projection, after inventing the camera and computer technology to make such an epic, and half a dozen other state of the art tech triumphs, within less than 10 years 2D films will be as quaint as B&W films today. Way to go James Cameron.

    Oh yeah, the plot? Classic, unadulterated and fairly unimaginative good vs. evil fare, which has been the template for stories since before even the Bible (which by the way, was unoriginal too).

  11. “I  know French Bashing is good clean wholesome fun, but is it really necessary?”

    No, it's not necessary — and that doesn't follow from my stating what I stated.  Nor was I having fun bashing the French here.  What I wrote actually is self-explanatory, or it should be — it's interesting that the French weren't the first to bash an example of US culture.  (If I wanted to be clever, I'd say it might have been because while it has Herd appeal, it does, after all, follow a standard theme often used by lefties.  I might even post something about people there, too, living still in 1968 and militantly defending “social solidarity” statism, shutting down the country with demonstrations and strikes upon the very slightest hints at inevitable reforms of a welfare state that is destined to suffer much worse failures than ours.  But I chose not to be clever.)

  12. (If I wanted to be clever, I'd say it might have been because while it has Herd appeal, it does, after all, follow a standard theme often used by lefties. I might even post something about people there, too, living still in 1968 and militantly defending “social solidarity” statism, shutting down the country with demonstrations and strikes upon the very slightest hints at inevitable reforms of a welfare state that is destined to suffer much worse failures than ours. But I chose not to be clever.)

    I have been reading that crap ever since the early 80's, it's now thirty years later and the collapse still hasn't happened…

  13. Just saw the movie. So, so plot. (I don't over analyze plots, it's entertainment after all.) A little long, great effects.
    My all time favorite: Gunga Din, is all time racist also.

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