January 9, 2010

David Brooks: "Avatar" and "The White Messiah"

David Brooks in the NYT is peeved that "Avatar" isn't gung-ho about the U.S. military invading other countries and/or planets:

Every age produces its own sort of fables, and our age seems to have produced The White Messiah fable.

This is the oft-repeated story about a manly young adventurer who goes into the wilderness in search of thrills and profit. But, once there, he meets the native people and finds that they are noble and spiritual and pure. And so he emerges as their Messiah, leading them on a righteous crusade against his own rotten civilization.

Avid moviegoers will remember A Man Called Horse, which began to establish the pattern, and At Play in the Fields of the Lord. More people will have seen Dances With Wolves or The Last Samurai. ...

Avatar is a racial fantasy par excellence. The hero is a white former Marine who is adrift in his civilization. He ends up working with a giant corporation and flies through space to help plunder the environment of a pristine planet and displace its natives.

The peace-loving natives — compiled from a melange of Native American, African, Vietnamese, Iraqi and other cultural fragments — are like the peace-loving natives you've seen in a hundred other movies. They're tall, muscular and admirably slender. They walk around nearly naked. They are phenomenal athletes and pretty good singers and dancers.

The white guy notices that the peace-loving natives are much cooler than the greedy corporate tools and the bloodthirsty U.S. military types he came over with. He goes to live with the natives, and, in short order, he's the most awesome member of their tribe. He has sex with their hottest babe. He learns to jump through the jungle and ride horses. It turns out that he's even got more guts and athletic prowess than they do.

Along the way, he has his consciousness raised. The peace-loving natives are at one with nature, and even have a fiber-optic cable sticking out of their bodies that they can plug into horses and trees, which is like Horse Whispering without the wireless technology. Because they are not corrupted by things like literacy, cell phones and blockbuster movies, they have deep and tranquil souls.

The natives help the white guy discover that he, too, has a deep and tranquil soul.

True, but The White Messiah movie goes back even further, with Lawrence of Arabia (1962) being a particularly intelligent example.

(By the way, during WWII, anthropologist Carleton Coon was officially assigned by the O.S.S. to be the White Messiah of North Africa, Lawrence of Morocco, if the Germans transited Spain and landed an army behind the U.S. Army. Coon, the kind of two fisted brawler admired by barbarians, was to take to the hills and rally his friends in the Rif Mountain tribes to fight irregular war against the Germans.)

The Man Who Would Be King (1974) debunks the White Messiah fantasy from a Realist Right point of view anathema to neocons: Michael Caine smartly wants to conquer the Afghans and then get out while the getting is good, but idealistic Sean Connery wants to hang around and civilize the conquered Afghans. Bad idea, Sean!

There are more than a few White Messiahs in history, besides Lawrence. Latin American history abounds with White Messiahs. For example, Subcommandante Marcos, the mysterious and charismatic masked leader of the 1994 Chiapas Indian rebellion in southern Mexico, is the Mexico City college professor son of parents who were born in Spain. Originally, Mayan Indians were supposed to be the press spokesmen for this postmodern rebellion, but the Mayans failed to dazzle on the first TV announcement, so the tall white guy in the ski mask took over the airtime and became the face/mask of this movement for Indian rights.

The leader of the Shining Path guerillas in Peru was a white philosophy professor named Abimael Guzman.

Fidel Castro's father was born in Spain.

Che Guevara, who fought in Cuba, Congo and Bolivia, was a half Irish and half aristocratic Spanish Argentine. At the end of The Motorcycle Diaries, Che (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) experiences an epiphany: "We are a single mestizo race, from Mexico to the Magellan Straits." But, Che's father noted: "In my son's veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels. Che inherited some of the features of our restless ancestors … which drew him to distant wandering, dangerous adventures, and new ideas."

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

127 comments:

r said...

I agree, he has nothing to say.

Richard Hoste said...

I agree he has nothing to say.

Anonymous said...

The man who would be king is clearly superior to the rest. It at least had real people, not cardboard cut-outs.

social worker said...

Is Avatar really about the 'white messiah' though? The main character transforms into one of them. He becomes half-human/half-bluey. Isn't he then a 'miscegenist' ideal?

Also, I'm not sure we can really compare people like Lawrence of Arabia with people like Che Guevara. Che probably has more in common with Osama Bin Laden. Lawrence fought for the Arabs but he was at heart always an exhibitionist Briton playing a dangerous game. He knew when it was time to put away the silly act, and he never wanted to go back.

Latins have a different take on whiteness, and Che never thought about his Irish-side(except as a link perhaps to the IRA in spirit). As Spain was racially more mixed than other Eurpean countries, two mindsets developed. One became very conscientious of whiteness, even more so than other whiter European nations. They came to define the Latin Right. But, especially in Latin America, there developed a mindset among Latinos that the REAL WHITE people were the Germanic types and the damn Anglo gringos. And, because of the high levels of race-mixing in Latin America--plus the fact that many Hispanics and Portuguese had been racially mixed to begin with in Europe(also true of Greeks and Southern Italians)--, people like Che Guevara didn't necessarily see themselves as the 'white messiah' but a third world messiah. As such, he belongs in the same league with Ho Chi Minh and Mao. Of course, there is an irony here. If non-white rebel leaders were clearly against Western 'imperialism', it was rather funny coming from Latinos who had created the first European imperialist empires in the Americas. But, the fact is many Latinos (1) racially mixed with the natives & formed a new mixed race and (2) fell so far behind the White USA that the only way they could find some degree of self-pride was through 'liberational' politics--having lost to the US in all other fields.

Paleo Truth Squad said...

LOL at the thought of David Brooks having anything to say at this point in time. The Brookses of the world are like machine gunners that have just come to the end of their last belt of ammunition. Still desparately pulling the trigger as the once faceless enemy looms closer and reveals his angry visage.

dome life said...

"Jeremiah Johnson" is closer to reality than the bogus "Dances with Wolves".
I think Milius worked on the script for "Johnson". Also for "Geronimo", a hard-bitten movie about the troubled relations between advanced whites and tribal natives. It presents Geronimo as a tough and ruthless leader of his people, not as an idealized saint.
From what I heard, Hollywood doctored up Milius's screenplay which was originally more complex and disturbing, but what remains on screen is still stunning, not least because Walter Hill at his best is one helluva director. At any rate, 'Geronimo' shows the way a truly intelligent and insightful movie can be made about the controversial topic of white imperialism and native barbarism, how both sides thought they were justified--either on the right side of history or on sacred soil.
But then, Dances made megabucks while Geronimo totally tanked at the box office.
So, Cameron knew better to add an element of ET to Avatar. Indeed, it should be calle AT. Just look at those wonderful wonderful native people in their disney land paradise. Why such folks would never use children in human sacrifice.

PA said...

The white messiah movie of them all: "Dances with Wolves."

profile of mura said...

This thing about a white guy turning into super non-white guy...

Wasn't the second episode of HEAVY METAL about some dorky white kid who turns into a big muscular black dude with massive ____?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_Ap2nqTcdI&feature=related

And, isn't this what geeks do all around the world thru videogames? Even a geeky Asian or Jewish kid can become a superstar black football player though John Madden playstation games.

Anonymous said...

James Cameron = 'Scotch-Irish' extended phenotype

Lost Pilgrim said...

Social Worker,

He's not really a native any more than O'Toole putting on native clothes made him an Arab.

All aliens are just humans in funny costumes. Just like all natives are white folks in fancy get ups. Like Ward Churchill or Iron-Eyes Cody.

Anonymous said...

I thought Avatar was a terrible movie.

apples for christmas said...

It seems to me there are three kinds of white messiahs. Messiahs should be distinguished from mere conquerors. Conquerors simply want to rule over other peoples whereas messiahs take on the promethean role of bringing light to the benighted.

1. The imperialist messiah. This kind wants to conquer native peoples and rule over them as the great white man from a superior culture and higher civilization. He believes his values and knowledge to be superior and regards the natives as children. He believes he can save or elevate the natives by teaching them white values. Call him the Right Messiah. He's different from mere imperialists who ONLY want to rule over the natives as eternal subjects.

2. The rebel messiah. This kind of white messiah is profoundly or neurotically disillusioned with his own civilization and finds escape in the world of non-Western indigenous people. Yet, he doesn't merely assimilate into the new culture. John Walker Lindh would not qualify as a white messiah because he was content to melt in with the Muslims. The rebel Messiah, though anti-Western, believes that he has special skills and superior knowledge as a person from a more advanced society--albeit one that is either soulless or has amassed its fortune by exploiting the noble 'people of color' around the world. Thus, the rebel white messiah doesn't necessarily want to assimilate with the natives but to help them by using Western tools against the West. Sartre and rebel white messiahs do choose to join native tribes, they prefer to play leading roles since they're possessed of superior knowledge and talent. Thus, guys like Che and Guzman, though fighting for the non-white masses, insisted on leadership roles. And, Joe Slovo and other white communists in South Africa didn't just join with the blacks but controlled much of the ANC. This gets somewhat complicated because Latinos and Jews are not necessarily seen as 'white' nor do they consider themselves as such.
The rebel white messiah is the Left Messiah.

3. The third Messiah is the crazy one and may only exist in fantasy, especially that of John Milius. This white messiah isn't a white civilizer nor a dewy eyed romantic about the natives. He finds PERSONAL liberation from departing from white civilization. But, he finds the natives to be plenty brutish. Isolated and without white civization to back him up, he has to fight the natives on their own terms. He triumphs and is worshiped as a god. Thus, he feels a kind of satisfactin and pride he'd never known before. He's not about white power nor about 'native rights'. He's really about HIS OWN power. He loves the native domain not because the natives are wonderful angels but because his triumph over them has vindicated his own mighty balls. He's a natural leader, not a poltiical nor an ideological leader. Call him the Nietzschean messiah.

I think Lawrence of Arabia was interesting because there were elements of 1, 2, and 3 in what he did.

jody said...

the plot in avatar is not supposed to be all that serious. cameron has been planning out more than one movie, so he used a pretty simple script in the first one to introduce viewers to the world he wanted to create.

a complicated script would have made for a worse movie, not a better one. also, the original script is a lot more developed than what was in the final edit. the first edit of the movie was 4 hours.

but, the longest thing that can fit inside an IMAX 3D projector is about 160 minutes, so cameron had to cut a lot of the movie. the first 30 minutes of the movie, which takes place on earth, all had to go. and a lot of the fleshing out of the humans on pandora, the scientists and mercenaries, that was cut too, which is why those characters feel sort of thin.

in movie time, it takes about 5 years to get from earth to pandoa, so it will take the humans 10 years to return to pandora in force. cameron has plenty of room to develop the story. he can explore the other moons around the gas giant planet in avatar 2, and then have the humans show up again in avatar 3. he can spend some screen time showing us the earth of 2154 and what the unobtainium is used for (it superconducts at room temperature). he can explain why there are floating mountains (they're loaded with unobtainium), how the na'vi-animal-plant connections work, why there are bioluminescent animals on pandora (it's a moon orbiting a gas giant, so a "day" can take weeks, with half of the moon in total darkness for a long time), et cetera.

it will be his own star wars. a 3 movie epic.

hilltopper said...

Avatar sounds pretty atavistic.

Aguirre the Wrath of God and Emerald Forest, been there, done that.

The plot of Avatar--US military guy sent to take out jungle people turning into one of them--sounds like the original screenplay for Apocalypse Now. Coppola changed it around and had Willard kill the crazy Kurtz, but Milius had meant Kurtz to be a great man who'd discovered true meaning and manhood by going native(or becoming god to the natives). In the original screenplay as recounted in "Hearts of Darkness", Willard is won over and decides to join Kurtz--who had joined the natives(or the natives joined him, their god). The clip isn't on youtube, but this is interesting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5v-G_c4f9RM

It's interesting how meanings can be changed around in adaptations or spin-offs. In Conrad's novel, Kurtz is evil and darkness. In Milius's script, he's been half Kipling-ized & half-Nietzscheanized and turned into light and heroism. Coppola changed him to Mr. Confusion and What-am-I-doing-in-a-movie-with-no-ending?

Viking said...

The Man Who Would be King is one of the greatest tales of all time, and of course it's based on real historical events.
The gullibility of the Afghans is a dominant theme, but the guys get too cocky in the end and it all goes awry.
In Avatar, the hero actually, physically becomes one of "them". no white messiah has done that before..

apples for christmas said...

Sartre and rebel white messiahs do choose to join native tribes, they prefer to play leading roles since they're possessed of superior knowledge and talent.

I meant to write "Sartre and Jared Diamond are rebel white messiahs from afar--situated in Western metropoles but aiding the non-West(Foucault too, during the Iranian Revolution). When rebel white messiahs do choose to..."

Steve Sailer said...

Jody, thanks.

I think the general lesson people ought to have learned by now is: Don't underestimate James Cameron.

Anonymous said...

Regarding side switching rebel leaders, let's not forget our own John Brown.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting.For some reason Basques and especially Irish-Basques(like Che Guevara and Bernardo O'Higgins) seem to be very overrepresented among liberators and national heroes in Latin America. This is probably due to the fact that they are overrepresented in the elite and excel at "everything" in Latin America.

Castro's father comes from a remote, northern part of Spain(Galicia) where the Celts and maybe even the Visigoths may have kept themselves pure, compared to southern Spain. I can't find much about his mother, although I assume she was mostly Spanish.

Although they eventually lost touch with their Germanic roots, it appears that the Reconquista of Spain was lead by Spaniards with the most Visigothic/Germanic ancestry, if this means anything.

from the south said...

the plot in avatar is not supposed to be all that serious. cameron has been planning out more than one movie, so he used a pretty simple script in the first one to introduce viewers to the world he wanted to create.
a complicated script would have made for a worse movie, not a better one.


You have a point. We should approach Avatar like an opera. We don't watch the great operas for the story or plot necessarily--not even for the characters--but for the music, performance, the whole presentation. The story of Wagner's Nibelungen can be summarized in a slim book. What makes it so magnificent for nearly 15 hrs is the powerful music and the grand vision.
Similarly, we don't listen to great rock albums for the lyrics or meaning. I never could make sense of Hendrix's lyrics but they sound great charged with electric madness and pounding drums.

Since Avatar is really an adventure travelogue videogame rock movie concert, I suppose it should be judged mainly on those points.
I enjoyed some of Star Wars for the same reason.

Nevertheless, it would be nice if movies did have better scripts and stories. Unlike rock or opera,
movies do tell 'realistic' stories.
Parts of Star Wars did impress but one feels it could have been much more. Same goes for Terminator II. A real eye-opener when it first came out but seems rather lame today due to weak story and special effects which no longer impress.
Metropolis has the same problem--great moments but generally laughable due to weak storyline and simple characters. 2001, on the other hand, is an all-timer because it fully realized a wonderfully developed concept from beginning to end.

Maybe Avatar II will be a big hit too, but people might get tired by Avatar III, just like audiences tired of Matrix III--which was too bad since it was the best one(all action and no bullshit story).

frizzled said...

David Brooks' Jewish Zionism and role in drumming up support for our ongoing Wars To Obliterate Israel's Enemies might have something to do with his response to a film that, however crudely, suggests "our guys" can sometimes be the aggressors and that being a "traitor" might sometimes be morally justified. Under the pretty FX Avatar contains a hard slap at Neoconservative warmongering - name checking "shock and awe", "fight terror with terror" and many other War on Terror tropes - and Zionists like Brooks have got the message from Cameron loud and clear.

Black Sea said...

In film terms, "A Man Called Horse" may have established the pattern, but in psychological terms, the pattern is much more deeply embedded. Freud wrote a book called "Civilization and It's Discontents," which I've never read, but hope to someday. On the other hand, all you really need to do is hear the title, and in a sense you can fill in the canvase from there.

People need some vision of Paradise, and when they lose faith in one situated in the afterlife, they go looking for one elsewhere, because they need to at least imagine one, somewhere. Needless to say, these aboriginal paradises bear little relationship to the lived experience within such a society. Of course we can trace the theme of an aboriginal paradise back, at the very least, to Rousseau. More relevant to our own experience might be the works of Twain, Melville, and James Fenimore Cooper, all of whom were working this psychological mine shaft in the 19th century. Even then, readers were chafing against the constraints of the modern world.

And let's not even get started with the Jungle Tales of Tarzan . . . .

Anonymous said...

Although they eventually lost touch with their Germanic roots, it appears that the Reconquista of Spain was lead by Spaniards with the most Visigothic/Germanic ancestry, if this means anything.

Just a few days ago, I learned that the Normans conquered Sicily.

Who'd a thunk it?

PS: Don't forget the Hapsburgian ties to Spain.

Anonymous said...

-Just cannot get fired up enough to blow over 2 hours on make-believe. One commenter stated at Udolpho's that Cameron could have done the whole movie drawn as a straight cartoon and it wouldn't have been any worse. Thats about all I needed to read on it. A 3-D Disneyfied Pocohantus.
-----------------
Speaking of fetishing of "the other" that has went awry:
Annie Liebovitz's Vanity Fair cover of Tiger Woods seems to attempt to depict him as some sort of primitive tribesman, especially with that tobaggan on his head, which looks like slicked-down-bowl-cut hair that some natives around the earth have sported. Its as if he is being diminished on purpose in one of the least dignified looking posings with very unflattering lighting. He looks bloated also, maybe he had just eaten. *

It seems like just a few years ago he was presented to America as the ideal "man of the future", as some mixed-race "ideal" of what we will all be in 150 more years. Now the are parody is merciless.


Will the gallery ever be free of snickers for him in Europe again? I can only imagine the jokes if he hits a bad drive: (whore!!)


*Dont think I'd let Liebovitz photograph any clients for VF covers if I were an agent. She's made the last few look pretty bad. I dont know if she is trying to gin up controversy (any publicity is good publicity?) or secretely enjoys making them look terrible (Billy Ray and Miley in a subtle-incestuous-pose), but its not flattering.

IoshkaFutz said...

Films like Avatar are all about rational man's romantic longing for culture and civilization. Pure utilitarian rationalism is cold, brutal, one size fits all. The others instead somehow still dance, still have their own music, cuisine, manners and mores.

The same process is at work when Britons move out of the U.K. and go to live in Spain. It's the difference between system and culture, a hotel and a home. A home is incredibly more free, but also more oppressive than a hotel. In other words, for good and ill, a home is a deeper experience. A hotel can be measured in stars from one to five, a home can only be poetically measured in black holes and constellations.

So films like Avatar are really about a rebellion against the Calvinistic ethos which in many important respects has made even the Taliban freer and happier than most Americans despite their lack of any constitutional freedoms. The noble savage is somehow connected to the infinite, whereas "our" focus is on money, politics, methods, the here and now. We are hyper-legislated and consequently hyper-alienated. They can still help a friend get ahead, we have to wait our number. We are fair and square, they still have their full humanity of family, wise elders, and small-time hierarchies. The really bad and really good guys are always white, because none like the white guys has forfeited culture in the name of knowledge. Only he has embraced the vast and infinite and altogether murderous void.

Topiary Utopia said...

"Latin American history abounds with White Messiahs."

A very interesting one is José Tomás Boves, a Spanish-born, nominally royalist commander during the Venezuelan War of Independence who led a race war against the Venezuelan elites.

Anonymous said...

I like the white messiahette storyline: Idealistic young white woman, straight out of teacher's college, is assigned to teach the worst students in the worst inner city school.

At first she's overwhelmed by their bad behavior and attitudes. She almost quits. Her family tells her to quit. More seasoned teachers (who don't try anymore, but hang around for the paycheck) tell her they were idealistic once too, but these kids are animals.

But she sees something in them ...

Anyway, it's emotional, and stuff, but she gets through to the kids. They all decide that Shakespeare is "phat." Her kids win the state spelling bee -- beating the team from an elite suburban prep school. And they all get college scholarships -- even Lashawn, the hardest to reach gangsta.

l said...

I think the Global War On Terror (or Overseas Contingency Operations, whichever) narrative is that we've sent a couple hundred thousand white messiahs (and messiahs of color) to Iraq and Afghanistan to deliver them from spiritual darkness (fundamentalist Islam).

Does Brooks find this fool's errand offensive?

Anonymous said...

Just to expand on Subcomandante Marcos:

" In 1983, he went to the mountains of Chiapas to convince the poor indigenous population to start a proletarian revolution against the bourgeoisie.[6] The indigenous Mayans "just stared at him,"[6] and replied that they were not workers; that, from their perspective, land was not property but rather "the heart of their communities."[6] When asked about his first days in Chiapas in the documentary A Place Called Chiapas, Marcos says:

“ Imagine a person who comes from an urban culture. One of the world’s biggest cities, with a university education, accustomed to city life. It’s like landing on another planet. The language, the surroundings are new. You’re seen as an alien from outer space. Everything tells you: “Leave. This is a mistake. You don’t belong in this place.” And it’s said in a foreign tongue. But they let you know, the people, the way they act; the weather, the way it rains; the sunshine; the earth, the way it turns to mud; the diseases; the insects; homesickness. You’re being told. “You don’t belong here.” If that’s not a nightmare, what is?
"

Guts Strongman said...

Calls to mind the classic Mr. Show sketch--"A White Man Set Them Free"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3ZG1-o9KWc

The young fogey said...

I like the white messiahette storyline.

Oh, right! Dangerous Minds. I forgot about that probably because the movie was forgettable.

Anonymous said...

Two more white messiah movies, both based on Joseph Conrad novels: "Apcalypse Now", and "Lord Jim". The novels were pretty clear on the White Messiah aspect, the books not so much. Conrad understood both the temptation to become one, and the inevitable comeuppance for doing so.

Charu said...

I believe these movies like 'The Last Samurai', 'Dances with the Wolves', Avatar etc... play out the typical New-York/California liberal, WASP boy fantasy of leading the darkies against the evil manly, rough, redneck, whitebread, cowboy, jock White types. In 'Kingdom of God', the theme is that of stupid Nazi type Whites and hardcore Christians screwing everything up with the wise muslims while the open-minded, understanding, wise, liberal White type comes along to save the day.
They are all playing out their college day fantasies. These movies are made for other liberal White types to enjoy. Of course in real life these people would not survive one hour in a slum in Bombay or Sao Paolo, let alone lead them against the cowboys. Stupid childish libards wanking away on their fantasies.

coldequation said...

It's hardly surprising that primitives would look up to the white man with his wealth and technology, making it possible for whites to lead them. This becomes less true as other races catch up with whites, and simultaneously develop anti-white attitudes.

Anonymous said...

I wish Avatar would represent a departure from this disgusting long-standing cliche. The blue guy would mingle with the locals using his irresistible averageness. Would suck at riding horses and fail to learn flying those huge birds; would get somewhat fat, boring, and have no sex. Fin.

Anonymous said...

i sure would like to see David Brooks and his co-ethnics actually do the fighting rather than egg everyone else on.

What % of neocons are actually fighting? How many sons, nephews??

Of course that other David Brooks had his special contribution: selling faulty body armor to the army, reaping enough profit to have a 10 million bat mitzah for his daughter... then shorting his own stock and making still more.

what nice folks. Why them?

Anonymous said...

This movie is a pretty blunt and clear message that America has to stop sending our young men to places like Iraq and Afganistan. Hollywood decided to spend more money making and promoting this movie than any other movie in history.

Of course the meme on this blog is that Jews love sending America's young men to die in mideast wars. The other meme on this blog is that Jews control Hollywood.

Hmm

Mark Time said...

My last comment on Brooks was that he starts by recognizing an idea and then manages to totally miss the point and obfuscate things. It must be frustrating for him - and so many of his type and ethnicity - to be so smart and so deluded at the same time. Like making a nice work of art and then marring it at the end with an untruth.

Avatar is not about the insulting need for savages to have white leadership - that is a given. It is about demoralizing whites re: their own achievements and culture. I include in achievements the settlement of the new world and the industrial revolution.

OT - but check out the new video at that shitty rag the NYT. Ten minutes of really severe sounding narrative, pictures of documents, sob-story immigrant interviews. Substance? Nothing.

Baloo said...

Tarzan indeed — and John Carter and just about all Burroughs' heroes.

Anonymous said...

My 20 year old co-ed cousin described this move as "eco-porn". And she's no right-winger.

Anonymous said...

David Brooks' Jewish Zionism and role in drumming up support for our ongoing Wars To Obliterate Israel's Enemies might have something to do with his response to a film that, however crudely, suggests "our guys" can sometimes be the aggressors and that being a "traitor" might sometimes be morally justified.





Has anybody ever suggested to you that you might be unduely fixated on one idea? Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

(Yes, a Jew said that.)

Anonymous said...

A lot of Spanairds immigrated to Latin American in the 1930s during the Spanish Civil War. Many were lefist refugees that had no future in a Franco domininated fascist Spain.

Anonymous said...

"Latins have a different take on whiteness, and Che never thought about his Irish-side"

Yeah, I bet he never even noticed that he was white, even when he said things like,

"The Negro is indolent and lazy, and spends his money on frivolities, whereas the European is forward-looking, organized and intelligent." —Che Guevara, upon returning from Africa.

"Mexicans are a band of illiterate Indians." —Che Guevara, in Mexico.

Svigor said...

Is the whole schtick predicated on denying the fact that the natives always sell out for a washing machine first chance they get? You know, Kevin Costner's there to bash any of the romantic savages that get any funny ideas? Or better yet, get them into a nice shooting war?

Old Dad said...

White Messiah's are typically disastrous for indigenous cultures. Better to be a Cortez.

The Mesoamericans were quite proficient at slaughtering one another before the arrival of the Spaniards, but European technology clearly was a game changer. The Spaniards killed with great alacrity and stole their stuff. We romanticize them and deplore the Spaniards, but they would have done it to each other eventually. What's the difference? Skin color of course.

Svigor said...

Of course the meme on this blog is that Jews love sending America's young men to die in mideast wars. The other meme on this blog is that Jews control Hollywood.

Hmm


Yet another idea is that "is it good for the Jews?" is high on the list for Jews, and that Jews disagreeing on the answers doesn't argue against that idea.

Hmm

Anonymous said...

"Latins have a different take on whiteness, and Che never thought about his Irish-side"

Also, why would he only think of his 'Irish-side' as white? Argentina is a whiter country than, for instance, the USA.

Kylie said...

Maybe Brooks would be happier, or at least less annoyed and offended, reviewing The Emperor Jones.

social worker said...

"Latins have a different take on whiteness, and Che never thought about his Irish-side"

Yeah, I bet he never even noticed that he was white, even when he said things like,

"The Negro is indolent and lazy, and spends his money on frivolities, whereas the European is forward-looking, organized and intelligent." —Che Guevara, upon returning from Africa.

"Mexicans are a band of illiterate Indians." —Che Guevara, in Mexico.


Che meant they were culturally lazy or illiterate. He wasn't talking about race per se. Of course, it's true that despite all the Marxist blah blah, lots of leftists actually harbored--secretly or not-so-secretly, consciously or unconsciously--certain racial attitudes.
But, Che did view Latin America was a rainbow continent of whites, blacks, browns, and etc all melting into one. He thought they should all mix into one people. In this sense, he was not a multiculturalist but a melting-pottist(for communism). He thought Latinos were better than gringos because Latinos, being generally less race conscious, had mixed more with blacks and browns whereas yanquis had mixed less and kept the Negroes down. Of course, Latins had kept the blacks and browns down, but the race-mixing blurred the line between ruler and the ruled. In the US, those lines were more distinct because of less race-mixing.

Nevertheless, I do think that Che's views of Latinos all having melted into a single rainbow race--no matter how sincere on his part--was essentially bogus. It was an easy way for Latin whites to absolve themselves of their historical sins. It's as if to say, "sure, we conquered, enslaved, murdered, and raped the blacks and browns, but we mixed with them too, so we are all brothers and sisters now, and our common enemy is The Yankee!!!"

Too convenient and disingenuous. A ploy used by white Latinos to cover up their own sins and divert the anger of the black and brown masses at the gringo. Mexican white ruling class does this all the time. So do the whites who rule Cuba.

Anonymous said...

Steven Seagal has adopted the White Messiah role off-screen. Categories 2 and 3.

Like Ward Churchill or Iron-Eyes Cody.

Grey Owl is a Canadian example.

Old Rebel said...

Let's not forget the White Messiahs at the totally idealistic and super-enlightened Southern Poverty Law Center.

Lost Pilgrim said...

Natives almost always take the funny looking goodies from the 'Sky People'. A nice shiny red plastic bucket is always nicer than a leaky reed basket.

It's not the trade goods that get them. It's the realization that they can't compete. Not only can't compete simply didn't know what they were competing for.

The only exceptions I can think of off the top of my head are the 'Five Civilized Tribes'.

They assimilated so well that they were worth stealing their farms and houses from.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the second episode of HEAVY METAL about some dorky white kid who turns into a big muscular black dude with massive ____?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_Ap2nqTcdI&feature=related


Just saw the whole thing on youtube. Funny as hell.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_mTkKJBZ7Q&feature=related

albertosaurus said...

Magnificent review, wonderful comments.

The best short summary I've read of Avatar called it "Blue men played by black men pretending to be red men".

You have seen this movie before. In the final battle the Na'vi look a lot like American Indians from any number of cowboy movies. They ride horses and shoot bows and arrows. Yet when they get into trouble they call on the power of the jungle as if it were a Tarzan movie and Johnny Weismuller issues his famous yodel to stampede the elephants.

The whole theme of the technological primitives defeating the evil technical empire in battle comes from George Lucas and Star Wars with the Wookies and the Ewoks. We all know now that Lucas meant the Ewoks to symbolized the Viet Cong and the Empire to be the US.

Apparently most of the Na'vi were played by black actors (it's kinda hard to tell). We saw a lot of this in The Matrix where almost all the real humans were dark skinned - except Neo The White Messiah - and all the villains where white men in business suits and ties.

In Avatar getting unobtainium (a mineral first introduced in The Core) is not presented as just a way to get rich but as essential to human survival. So when the Na'vi win, humanity presumably goes extinct. Species treason too is a popular movie theme. The recent film District 9 ends with the hero (like Sam Worthington in Avatar already half alien) helping the hideous bug people invade the Earth.

Of course the basic premise of the film is totally bogus. The idea that the white technical civilization is bad for the environment and that primitives are good is exactly backwards. Concern for the environment is almost exclusively a modern white European idea. Primitives routinely decimate the environment without a second thought. Consider Madagascar or the mega fauna of the Americas and Australia. That's why it's so marvellously ironic that the Indian symbol of environmental sensitivity is Iron Eyes Cody.

In this movie the bad white guys blow up a big tree. That's OK with me but just when did they file their environmental impact statement? In Iraq our soldiers never had this kind of license. In real America the military are more and more constrained. But this plot takes place in the movie world where the characters only have to behave the way they did in previous movies.

Still I forgive Cameron. He is a true genius. Who knows what he might have created except for the budget. He spent a decade making this movie and reportedly spent a half a billion dollars (the legends grow). So it is understandable that the plot is very conservative in the sense that it is a compilation of themes from previous movies. Portraying anything real would be too big a risk.

albertosaurus said...

My fantasy ending for Avatar has one of the defeated whites saying to another, "I saw this movie Aliens where this character Ripley says, 'the only way to be sure is to nuke them from space.' I guess it's that time now."

Anonymous said...

"2001, on the other hand, is an all-timer because it fully realized a wonderfully developed concept from beginning to end."

You're joking, right? I've heard people say there's an actual story behind 2001, but "you have to read the book" (i,e. it totally defeats their ability to explain a story) or you will have NO idea what's going on. Precisely the opposite of a wonderfully developed concept.

Sorry, but to me 2001 is simply unwatchable.

Anonymous said...

No connection between Avatar and american neoconic wars. The Avatar meme is war for oil (unobtanium), not war for jews (land grab). That's why Hollywood went for it.

On the other hand Avatar is the perfect movie for fatsoplegic videogamish nerds who cannot climb a tree without cables and helmets, let alone on bare feet.

Truth said...

Avatar was an entertaining movie.

I saw it in IMAX 3D and the theater was packed at the showing I went to. The audience was made up of mostly white families.

Typical that isteve posters would dislike the movie.

You guys are really out of touch with reality.

Anonymous said...

Everyone seems to read Avatar as a "generic" story of bad white people oppressing good indigenous people, but I have a feeling that the movie is actually a revisionist-history fantasy about the Spanish empire. A decaying, militaristic Earth begins colonizing a lush tropical world with the sole idea of stealing its precious metals (the fundamental weakness of the Spanish colonial economy was the fixation of the Spaniards on just getting gold, instead of creating, well, an economy). They have to deal with rainforest-dwelling natives who shoot poisoned arrows at them.

This one-to-one connection seems especially likely to me since "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" is one of those boring European movies much loved by cinephiles, and it's about some crazy Spaniard searching for El Dorado in a rainforest ridden with poisoned-arrow-shooting natives. So the idea of making a movie about the old Spanish empire would not be as far from James Cameron's mind as you might expect. Look at the big panoramic shots of the floating mountains in Avatar, then look at the big panoramic shot of the Andes that opens "Aguirre", and I think you can see one of those "homages" that directors so enjoy.

josh said...

I hear Avatar has placed first again this week,its now the 2nd highest grossing movie--not adj for inflation,obv--of all time. No. 1 is Titanic."Whiskey/teste99/neocon" said it would be a flop! LOL! I enjoy his posts very much but he sure struck out this time. Mesage:Cameron,dont underestimate. Whiskey,read with a 'groin' of salt. I only wish Cameron,if he felt that way,could have been a little more specific about who is pushing for the wars on the Natives. If he IS disgusted by neo-Con influence (and I just cant get past the fact that that pea-brained Sarah Palin had an Israeli flag on her wall. If a Hillary Clinton is an ineffectual dumb ass at the highest levels of government,as I believe, then Good Lawd!(as Harry Reid might say) what would the Bill Krystol Chosen One be like as President? I wish I made freakin movies!!)--anyway,if Cameron is opposed to NeoCons why cant he put that in the movie?????

Anonymous said...

I don't see anything in the Brooks quote to support the snark in Steve's introductory sentence. In fact, it seems like istevers would commend Brooks for calling Avatar a "racial fantasy" and criticizing its noble native theme.

AS said...

South Park made fun of Avatar as "Dances with Smurfs"
http://www.southparkstudios.com/episodes/251890

Anonymous said...

Do Jews control Hollywood?

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-stein19-2008dec19,0,4676183.column

Glossy said...

Pretty much OT:

NYT has just put up a series of fascinating online maps that show, zip code, by zip code, how often particular movies are being rented through Netflix in a dozen metro areas. For example, you can see where the gay/gentrifying zip codes are in each city by selecting "Milk". The interactive map for New York just told me that practically no one is renting "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" in Manhattan, but that it's pretty popular in the NJ and Long Island suburbs. OK, that's not shocking, but I've only started playing with these maps. I'm sure I'll turn up a few surprises along the way.

When you hover over a zip code, you see its top ten movies. If you're bored, you can play a game:
pick a few zip codes in your metro area that you know well, guess their top ten lists, then check how many you guessed right.

none of the above said...

The real and positive version of this has happened with Japan, south Korea, India, etc. Not white messiahs going native to save them, rather natives deciding that stuff like science, industry, and parliamentary democracy look like pretty good ideas.

Old Dad: I think diseases were *way* more efficient at killing the natives than Spaniards. Disease resistance and endemic vs epidemic disease probably explains why Europeans dominate in north America and Australia, less in central and south America, and not so much in India, Africa, Indonesia, etc.

Anonymous said...

'White Messiah' as a theme should be distinguished from the subgenre where the WM, in going native, actually and treacherously works against the interests of his own group, Avatar-style. Lawrence of Arabia is at one end, where he used his bond with the natives to further the interests of his homeland - that's quite different from being so deep cover that you identify with the natives to the point where you turn against your original mission. The latter has become popular in Hollywood for obvious I-can-show-how-smart-and-independently-resourced-I-am-by-glorifying-my-people's-enemies reasons.

The Mission is another example of an Avatar forerunner. Of course, when the original mission/compatriot objective was actually easy to simplify as evil and genocidal, since those elements were there, that's one thing. Creating a fantasy that allows you to make your own people as completely evil as possible, since you don't have to worry about facts at all, is something else.

The examples discussed of WMs are generally somewhere in the middle, where the WMs are already somewhat localized and not out-and-out agents who turn. I wonder what examples there are in the history of constant warfare where an inflitrator or important representative went completely native, uncoerced, and waged war against his own side. The Irish examples that spring to mind, your Erskine Childers types, are similar to the south american ones in being already fairly inculturated from a young age in the opposing camp.

'Going native' is a reliably compelling plot. See the associated genre of 'Deep Cover' movies, is he a cop pretending to be a crook or has he become a crook pretending to be a cop.

Anonymous said...

"I hear Avatar has placed first again this week,its now the 2nd highest grossing movie--not adj for inflation,obv--of all time."

Was it Whiskey who said Avatar would tank at the box office? I think he better go easy on the bathtub gin.

Anonymous said...

goes back farther is incorrect usage. it should be further

ken is one lucky guy said...

More White Messiah movies.

Magnificent Seven. Brave gringos save salt-of-the-earth Mexicans from Tuco and his gang.

Schindler's List. A cynical 'Aryan' has a change of heart and saves 'his' Jews from evil Nazis.

Temple of Doom. Indiana Jones saves hapless Hindus from evil Hindus.

The Mission. A-hole Deniro turns into a good man and tries to save natives from greedy Spanish imperialists.

10 Commandments. Though it's about Moses saving his own people, Heston is one helluva of an 'Aryan'-looking Jew.

Reds. American radical helps out the Russian Revoluton. Though Russians are white too, Russia was another world altogether.

Rambo III and IV. Rambo saves Afghanis and Burmese by killing half of them.

Wild Bunch. The bunch are not white messiahs but come to be perceived as such by stupid Mexicans.

Platoon. Though Dafoe character fights for the US, his heart is with the Viets and he wants to at least 'fight fair'. He dies christ-like.
(Isn't Avatar kinda like 'Born on the Fourth of July' crossed with 'Robocop' and 'Aliens'?)

Death Wish III. Bronson saves old people--of all races--from nasty young hoodlums.

Karate Kid II. Ralph Macchio beats up a nasty Jap kid, teaches Japanese some decency, and wins the heart of a cutie-san. General MacArthur lives!

--------

Now, some black messiah movies.

Lilies of the Field. A black guy teaches repressed white nuns how to sing and dance.

Sister Act. A black gal teaches repressed white nuns how to sing and dance.

All Will Smith movies. Black dude teaches white kids how to be cool.

Obama. He's the messiah, aint he?

Ms Dubei has a weird sense of humor said...

Isn't Red Dawn like a reverse Avatar? Evil Russian commies invade, and American kids fight back guerilla style like the Viet Cong did against the US. And a 'good' Hispanic comes to sympathize with Americans and even let the white kid walk away at the end.

Anonymous said...

"Sorry, but to me 2001 is simply unwatchable."

No, you're just blind. Dogs can't appreciate Beethoven and you can't appreciate a great movie. Go back to LOR and Transformers.

Anonymous said...

Success of Avatar means there are lots of geeks around--and they have money to burn even in this economy.

Whiskey said...

Agreed, AVATAR is NOT Lawrence of Arabia. It is indeed a "specific rejection of Whiteness," to the point of becoming "the Other" who is "superior" in both physicality and spirituality.

AVATAR is not one branch of neo-conism (roughly "bring Democracy to Muslims so they stop blowing us up") but rather the REJECTION of European civilization ALTOGETHER.

At any rate, Lawrence makes the point that whatever betrayals the Arabs got from the colonial powers, they were still Arabs and as unsuited for civilization as a stone age tribe, in belief, cooperation, and tribal construction. The Man Who Would Be King makes the same point.

When obscure Danish cartoonists face axe wielding maniacs journeying from Somalia expressly to kill them, when Mozart operas cannot be performed in Germany or Austria, when a Nigerian attempts to drop an airliner on Detroit, the idea that the West can just ignore the rest of the world is "flat-earther" idiocy.

Muslims are here. They demand we surrender to Islam or they'll kill enough us so we surrender. We can fight them, or submit. Those are our only choices. HOW we fight, and what our aims are in fighting, is up to us. But broadly we can fight or submit. That's it.

AVATAR is another "Birth of A Nation" because it asks we submit. [As well as a base libel on the US Marines.]

Whiskey said...

James Cameron should be underestimated. How many people are lining up to throw money at him? If Avatar is such a profit maker? None, there is not even a deal in place, NOW, to make Avatar 2. When Jon Favreau, and Bryan Singer, and Christopher Nolan, got signed right quick after THEIR action movies debuted to big box office.

This is because: A. AVATAR cost too much, it will never make its money back, B. The box office is from 3-D IMAX theaters (60%) which have higher ticket prices, meaning less people to go out and rent it. Also note that almost no one has Blu-Ray (10% of 2009 home video purchases according to VideoBusiness.com) let alone 3-D sets. Hi-Def is about 12% of all TV sets, the bad economy has stalled adoption (like TV in the 1930s).

Cameron spent a decade after Titanic basically untouchable in Hollywood. He had Dark Angel ... and that was it. The Abyss was a failure too. His hits were when he was younger: True Lies and the Terminator movies. Titanic probably was viewed in Hollywood as a money-loser, and a big one, which is why Cameron was in exile.

Oliver Stone is believed to be a coke-head, according to accounts. But most of his movies don't cost too much, so no one has a $500 million cost on their balance sheet and can get invited to the correct parties. If the movie loses $50 million, who cares, its the shareholders who take the loss while the exec networks like crazy.

Camerons flops tend to be BIGGER, which is why he works a lot more infrequently than Stone who by all published accounts is very difficult to work with and whose movies generally don't make much money.

Whiskey said...

Anon re Tiger Woods.

Woods is trying to be a Bad Boy ala Charlie Sheen. Deadline Hollywood Daily had an interview with CBS's Nina Tassler, who had no objection to Sheen's latest arrest for DV.

Men are not very forgiving, particularly since Woods had positioned himself as the sober, non-Rap style responsible middle class guy. Now he looks arrogant, out of control, and worse for guys. So he's toast.

Leibowitz's cover (I've seen it) is woman-bait. Here's the Bad Boy of golf all muscled up (notice Peyton Manning or Brett Favre never appear shirtless) for "the right woman to tame."

One of Woods's ex bimbos is retailing to the tabloids Woods gay sex episodes, which will only make him more appealing to women ("I can make him switch teams!") and less to men. I suspect roiding/HGH will come out soon.

Whiskey said...

Josh --

IF AVATAR made a boatload of profit (revenue != profit) don't you think FOX, Sony, Paramount, and every other studio would be competing to throw money at him?

What's Cameron's next project? Oh yeah, some indie movie about a Hiroshima survivor. That's because this movie will be a dud in home video (a 3-D extravaganza looking FLAT on 2-d) and no higher 3-D IMAX ticket prices to help out. Home video/rentals/tv rights sales being where most of Hollywood's money comes from.
-----------------
AVATAR was explained as fitting with the desire of status-anxious SPWL who have the greatest wealth and security yet known, but the most anxiety and the most complex levels of hiearchy. Either Mark Steyn or Derbyshire at NRO wrote that in AVATAR, there is not much hierarchy.

You are either a shaman, a chief, or a warrior. That's it. Very flat, and no anxiety about having to perform complex tasks requiring experience, skill, and intelligence. The film speaks to people who want to live in a fantasy, and cannot even believe in that in a human setting (indeed want humanity to die ala "Life after People" and all that).

The Book of Eli, with Denzel Washington as another magical Black man, "creating a new beginning" is part of that too I suspect.

Anonymous said...

Interesting Glossy, you can also use that map to pretty much pinpoint area codes that are heavily black by using the Tyler Perry movies. In fact, the contrasts couldn't be more striking with Atlanta and D.C. turning into big red and orange blobs.

I am curious as to what area code 20762 is like in DC. It is according to the NYT and Netflix an exclave surrounded by a sea of black neighborhoods. Any readers live there or are familiar with the area?

Anonymous said...

Best white messiah comedy: The Three Amigos--in which even three of the dumbest white men on earth did a better job of saving an entire Mexican village from outlaws than the village itself. Possibly conceived of a send-up of the genre. But the end result was the same.

The young fogey said...

Now, some black messiah movies.

Lilies of the Field. A black guy teaches repressed white nuns how to sing and dance.

Sister Act. A black gal teaches repressed white nuns how to sing and dance.

All Will Smith movies. Black dude teaches white kids how to be cool.


They're not an inversion of the white messiah but another cliché, the magic Negro, but he or she does the same thing: being earthy and honest and making whites feel better about themselves.

Anonymous said...

"Che meant they were culturally lazy or illiterate. He wasn't talking about race per se."

Yes, of course he would use racial terms when he did not mean race. He was too dumb to use a smart word like 'culture' when he meant culture. How lucky that we now have a piker (who's on a first name basis, no less) to tell us his true thoughts that he remained unable to express himself.

Anonymous said...

There's also some historical Black Messiahs, like Private David Fagen, who deserted the U.S. Army to join the Filipino rebels, along with apparently four other black soldiers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Fagen

See this novel about him by a white Vietnam vet:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1904433111/qid=1101077500/sr=2-1/ref=pd_ka_b_2_1/103-6137352-5127043

wonk buddy said...

James Cameron should be underestimated. How many people are lining up to throw money at him? If Avatar is such a profit maker? None, there is not even a deal in place, NOW, to make Avatar 2. When Jon Favreau, and Bryan Singer, and Christopher Nolan, got signed right quick after THEIR action movies debuted to big box office.

Whiskey, go easy on the bathtub gin. Avatar made a lot of money but it's making A LOT MORE money. You gotta spend money to make money. Microsoft and Google spend tons of money and make tons more.

Cameron is now at a point where he can finance his own movies and do as he pleases--just like George Lucas and Spielberg. Admit you're jealous, you boozer.

rob said...

I haven't been internetting much recently, but I recall Wiskey predicting that Avatar would be a total bomb. How did that prediction work out? Has he disappeared again because he can never admit being totally effing wrongedy-wrong-wrong?

Svigor said...

Consider Madagascar or the mega fauna of the Americas and Australia. That's why it's so marvellously ironic that the Indian symbol of environmental sensitivity is Iron Eyes Cody.

Or all those collapsed ecologies in Oceania. Lots of those island ecologies were destroyed by over-forestation or whatever before whitey ever got there.

Anonymous said...

Whiskey, you're embarrassing yourself badly enough on Deadline Hollywood as well as here. Just stop. Titanic was a humongous moneymaker, for Fox if not Paramount (a studio that thought it was being clever by capping its contribution to the budget, thereby missing out on the humongous profits that rolled in). Cameron could get a deal at literally any studio in town, or get venture capitalists to throw money at him for that matter (most of Avatar was actually privately financed.) He likes his deal at Fox, and simply makes movies as often as he feels like it.
They're now talking about a global gross of 2 billion plus worldwide. Even taking the most extavagant figures for production budget plus marketing and the stingiest split between studio and theaters, that's still a boatload of profit filling NewsCorp's coffers.

tree in a pond said...

"Even taking the most extavagant figures for production budget plus marketing and the stingiest split between studio and theaters, that's still a boatload of profit filling NewsCorp's coffers."

Murdoch has something to do with Avatar? Hmm, bring a whole bunch of liberals to the movies, make them plunk down $20 each, and rake in billions. Use that money to promote conservatism. Not a bad deal. Isn't that what liberal Hollywood does everytime it makes a 'patriotic' film? We spend our money which Hollywood liberals use to support Democrats.

To be sure, FOX will use all that dough to support neoconservatism than conservatism. Ironic that FOX, which was behind the Iraq War, should finance a movie critical of the war. But, maybe it's just about money. Murdoch will do anything for a buck.

Braddock said...

Whiskey, what's your opinion of Mel Gibson?

Anonymous said...

There was at least one white messiah for whom it worked out:

James Brooke, the White Raja of Sarawak

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Brooke

Truth said...

"I think the general lesson people ought to have learned by now is: Don't underestimate James Cameron."

Could that be a thinly veiled shot at a certain hypercritical, daily poster who named himself after an alcoholic libation?

"the magic Negro...being earthy and honest and making whites feel better about themselves."

What the hell is cliché about that? I do it here every day.

Anonymous said...

"Temple of Doom. Indiana Jones saves hapless Hindus from evil Hindus. "

Actually he saves the children of the hapless Hindus from a Thuggee death cult...

Anonymous said...

I think movies like Avatar are popular and therefore the theme repeated because they reflect the western European belief in universal values that (may) transcend what's good for one's own tribe. In these stories the non-Europeans are "right" and the hero's European culture is presented as wrong. Therefore the hero is being true to his European nature and siding with those who are right even if it puts him at odds with his "own people". Everyone goes home feeling fuzzy-good at their shared virtue, ignoring the fact that their culture is being slowly boiled to death. Its one of the quirks of Europeans and, of course, something the scotch-irish who control Hollywood are quick to exploit.

Anonymous said...

"What the hell is cliché about that? I do it here every day."

And you're a cliché.

QED

Ron said...

Prototype for the "white messiah" thing: Broken Arrow (1950)

Antidote: Black Robe (1991)

Anonymous said...

The horror, the horror.

Milo said...

One more White messiah movie. 'The Deceivers'. Pierce Brosman is a Captain in the (British) Indian Army in East India Company ruled India. He is also the colonial administrator in some region in Northern India. The Hindus are suffering from societal ills like Satee and the strange Hindu murderous cult known as the Thugees. He infiltrates the strange and mysterious cult (darkens his skin to do so), learns their ways and secrets, and destroys them by capturing or killing their key leaders. He even exposes Hindu kings and some top British officials all would up in the cult’s corruption. He also manages to save a Hindu lady from satee. I actually liked the movie.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094979/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yO8JyNjUWO4

Jack Burton said...

Steve, I think this trope can be found in your favorite movie, too. President Not Sure is, after all, white.

Anonymous said...

The most incisive example of a White Messiah movie is Sergio Leone's DUCK, YOU SUCKER, where IRA bomber on the run in Mexico James Coburn decides to be the white messiah to the Mexicans during their revolution, while peasant bandit and comrade Rod Steiger sees this as a great opportunity to use Coburn's bombing skills to rob banks! Coburn, the immigrant, cares about high-minded ideals like freedom, while Mexican citizen Steiger just wants gold. Watch for the scene where Coburn blows open vaults filled with political prisoners, which Steiger expected to be full of money. Leone understood society better than he's given credit for, as this and Once Upon a Time in America show.

Marc B said...

I am amused when liberal pundits berate grassroots (read populist) conservatives yet recognize the Davids (Brooks and Frum) as the "good" conservatives. Brooks is an establishment Neo-Con hack just like the rest of his brethren that play nice with Eastern establishment libs.

soda and candy bar said...

"I think movies like Avatar are popular and therefore the theme repeated because they reflect the western European belief in universal values that (may) transcend what's good for one's own tribe."

You is only half-right. Avatar is indeed about seeing the world from a POV outside one's own. But, it is not universalist. Christianity and communism are universalist, trying to bridge different peoples and race together with the tools of common creed, ideology, or set of values.
Avatar is tribalist with a twist. One's tribal loyalty is not with one's own people with another tribe--conversion tribalism. The hero in Avatar doesn't try to go beyond cultures--that of his own or of the blue folks--but rather immerses into the blue culture. In other words, he switches tribalisms. And, his fascination with the blue folks is paradoxical because he partly feels sympathy for their primitive weakness and admiration for the natural superiority--bigger, stronger, and perhaps more 'beautiful' in a strange way.

A true univeralist not only abandons his own culture but seeks to destroy the cultures of other peoples since culture is seen as an atavistic and superstitious impediment to the 'brotherhood of man'. The hero in Avatar cannot be said to be a real universalist because he fully embraces the culture of the blue folks.

There were stories of white folks who underwent tribal conversion, but the opposite was also true. Some Indians--Asian or American--came to greatly admire the white man and joined up with the white man's cause. A lot of Sikhks served in the British Imperial Army. And, some American Indians joined up with whites--if only because they hated other Indian tribes more than they hated whites.

And, we have plenty of American conservatives who've totally immersed themselves in the ideology and identity of Zionism. Heck, they are more Zionist than many of the Jewish zionists. They are more honorary neocon or orthodox Jews than Christian conservatives of old. Just look at Jon Voight go boo hoo hoo over Israel and the Jewish people.

Though civilized folks have sometimes switched sides and joined with the primitives, the opposite tended to be more common. Thus, far more Germanic barbarians, admiring of the Romans, joined up with the Roman legions and adopted Roman culture. I don't know any story of Romans going native and fighting with the Germanic tribes. Maybe there were some.

And prior to the black power movement, many blacks thought it was a great honor to fight for and win approval from the white man--during WWI and WWII.

on the sofa watching sitcom said...

Two kinds of white messiahs.

One kind goes to help the primitive or backward folks against non-white evil forces. Thus, this kind of white messiah is not a 'race traitor' but more like a missionary who uses his superior white skills and knowledge to help good non-white folks against bad non-white folks. It's possible that Joe Stillwell may have been seen this way by the Chinese as he helped them fight the Japanese. And maybe South Koreans saw MacArthur the same way--for defeating imperialist Japan in WWII and for fighting China during the Korean War.

Another kind of white messiah goes against his own people. John Reed, Edgar Snow, Walter Cronkite, and Harrison Salisbury clearly sympathized with the OTHER side and did everything in their power--openly and subversively--to undermine the interests of America and capitalism.

every other day around noon said...

Some of this tribal switching or conversion happens willfully or consciously, but sometime it happens 'insidiously', subconsciously, 'naturally', or 'organically'.

Take the rise of Jazz music. Many scholars will say Jazz isn't white nor black but grew out of both worlds. But, one could still argue that the FEEL of jazz is more black-ish than white-ish. To the extent that mainstream America was into Jazz in the 30s and 40s, it could be argued that white people adopted 'blackness' to some extent. Well, at least city folks--though even country music was influenced by black music to some degree. Because it happened 'naturally' and gradually, most white folks probably didn't even notice that they were 'turning black'. But, Europeans did notice. When Carl Jung visited America in the 20s or 30s, he remarked that whites were 'turning black'. He noticed that white people walked and talked 'black'. White Americans well less aware of this change because it had happened 'naturally' through popular culture. Also, even as whites took from black culture, the racial divide had been maintained, thus making even 'black-ish' whites to think themselves entirely white.

Blackness or turning black became a bigger issue in the 50s with the rise of Elvis. If white jazz musicians had whitened and sanitized the form as acceptable for the entire family, Elvis was really singing and shaking his hips like a 'ni**er'. So, a lot of whites were alarmed... but soon enough, many white folks came to see Elvis as their WHITE hero. Gradually, Elvis's black act was seen a legitimate white act. All of rock music since then has been affected by Elvis, and to this extent, we can say even rightwing rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Ted Nugent are negro-ized whites. Like the guy in Avatar, they've immersed themselves in the culture and sensibility of another people.

It seems that one can switch tribal loyalties along with embracing another people's culture OR maintain one's own tribal loyalty even while embracing another culture. After all, Japanese adopted tons of Western stuff but still fought the West for the honor of Japan. Plenty of Italian-Americans and Mexican-Americans adopted street thug black-isms but still stuck to their ethnic loyalties. It kills me when I see Mexican-Americans using rap to put down 'niggaz'.

And, French youth have adopted American pop culture and music, but the target of their rage is the US.

everyday around noon said...

We've all become somewhat Jewish to an extent, at least in our comic sensibility. To be sure, Jews adopted much from goy satire to develop their own humor.

jody said...

you know, there could be lots of movies where the hero is not genetically european. all it takes is for the other races to show us their scintillating talent for making awesome movies. except, they generally don't have that talent. so, movies by white guys is what we're gonna get.

it definitely has nothing at all to do with discrimination or economics. as for the economics, the market for films is worldwide today, with major films typically making twice as money outside of the US than inside it. indeed, compared to other big films, the dark knight was only a moderate hit outside of america. simply having a white good guy was not enough - the batman character is less popular outside of the US, and the international market did not go for crazy for the dark knight like the americans.

by contrast, slumdog millionaire, which featured south asians instead of europeans, had little trouble selling itself around the world, and racked up about twice as much business outside of america. it did, of course, have the dreaded white male director, the kind of guy who makes a movie with mass appeal. oh, how they are loathed, these white males who invent and create 80% of everything. they're ruining the world!

as for the potential cries of discrimination against non-white talent in film, it's a ridiculous claim. there are many, MANY people in positions of power within the american movie industry who would LOVE to remove this army of white writers and directors. in 2010, any non-white person that shows a modicum of talent is brought into the industry right away.

i suppose the last resort argument here is that other nations do not have a film industry, so it's not a "level playing field" between the whites and everybody else. putting aside this stupid argument, which is made every single time that whites build up and develop some enterprise from scratch while the other races were busy doing something else rather than developing their own version of what whitey was creating, the fact remains that most nations DO have a film industry by now. they just don't make movies that are nearly as good or with nearly as much mass appeal.

albertosaurus said...

This Whiskey character has revealed some cojones if not much wisdom or judgement. Apparently he predicted that Avatar would be a flop and responds to its super success by doubling down with even more goofy and improbable predictions.

Hollywood is a hit based economy. Most studio films lose money. Few in any people can actually predict box office performance. Most movie directors, even the most reliable, can not make a "good" movie much more than about two thirds of the time. Certain genres do better than others as "blockbusters".

So while there was no guarantee that a James Cameron movie sci-fi action would be a smash it was a reasonable expectation. Certainly
it was a better bet than a Woody Allen movie about mid-Manhattan yuppie's struggle with impotence or some such.

Hollywood, or rather the financial forces that back Hollywood films, love James Cameron. He is the guy who creates the mega hits. And without those kind of hits there simply isn't any Hollywood.

Secondly James Cameron is a visionary. We know this is true because for the last decade he has made visionary remarks in a series of interviews. Basically he had said that he had an idea for a movie but that the technology wasn't yet ready. So he would wait a bit and when it became available he would make his Avatar movie.

In subsequent interviews he has explained that he watched with interest The Lord of the Rings, King Kong and the Robert Zemekis movies like Beowolf. He decided the technology was ready although he felt he could do better.

Cameron thinks he himself is an "inner directed" visionary who chooses his projects carefully but Whiskey thinks he is just some kind of 40's studio hack who has to beg for work. Whiskey has devised a fantasy where Cameron is out of favor with the money men because he spends too much.
Where is the evidence for this?

The real revolution in Avatar is facial motion capture and 3D. Cameron criticized the Zemekis renders characters because they had "frozen faces". The motion capture cameras were too far away to pick up facial expressions accurately. The Peter Jackson rendered characters (Gollum and King Kong) did have facial expressions but those were created in post production by teams of animators. Those expressions were not the work of the actors. For Avatar Cameron created a technology that involves small cameras attached to a rig that fits on the actors head. Obviously in the long run this will be cheaper than post production animation. Everyone henceforth will be doing it this way. It is rather like the introduction of the steady cam.

The other transforming notion in Avatar is the use of 3D. I have been a critic of movie 3D in the videophile blogs for years. For example in one of the first 3D movies in the fifties, House of Wax there is a scene on the sidewalk where a barker for the wax museum spends a lot of time whacking a paddle ball. It is aimed of course into the audience. Last year the new 3D movie Journey to the Center of the Earth there is a very similar scene involving a yo-yo. In both cases these are gratuitous inclusions of things to fly into the audience's faces. In Hollywood speak these "take you out of the movie". They break the illusion.

Conversely in Avatar at one point I unconsciously raised my hand to shield my face from those floating white "thingies". The 3D had "taken me INTO the movie".

The buzz about Avatar has set off a firestorm in 3D technology. The big TV and projector manufacturers are all introducing 3D products for Spring 2010. The Blu-ray industry consortium published 3D standards two weeks ago. Cameron got just the kind of industry and technology splash he had spent a decade trying to achieve.

Everything I have written is well known and easily verified. Whiskey on the other hand presents a fantasy scenario that only reflects his own bizarre world view.

sitting crossed legged before the lobby tv said...

"The most incisive example of a White Messiah movie is Sergio Leone's DUCK, YOU SUCKER, where IRA bomber on the run in Mexico James Coburn decides to be the white messiah to the Mexicans during their revolution, while peasant bandit and comrade Rod Steiger sees this as a great opportunity to use Coburn's bombing skills to rob banks! Coburn, the immigrant, cares about high-minded ideals like freedom, while Mexican citizen Steiger just wants gold."

You got this movie all wrong. Coburn is a cynical nihlist with the heart of a mercenary. He'd been involved with the IRA and learned the tools of the trade--terrorism--, but something tragic happened, and he ran from Ireland. Since then, he's been a globe-trotting terrorist who joins revolutions half-heartedly just to blow things up and take out his anger on the whole world. He doesn't much for Mexicans. He just likes the fact that Mexico gives him ample opportunity to blow things up. Both Sean and Juan have one thing common: they are cynical about lofty promises and ideals. And just as Sean lost everything dear to him in Ireland, Juan loses his crazy family. So, they become natural friends.

Anyway, Coburn is more like a white anti-christ than a white messiah. His commitment to the revolution is shaky, just a means for him to escape the past and destroy another part of the world. Sean knows that Man is rotten, and everyone is a liar and traitor on both the Right and Left. Bombs are his whisky to drown the sorrow.

ivory hands said...

http://movies.yahoo.com/news/movies.ap.org/some-see-racist-theme-alien-adventure-avatar-ap

Looks like a bunch of leftists and people-of-color have found something to bitch about Avatar. But, they did the same with Lion King. "sexist, racist, blah blah".

Come to think of it, Lion King was a precursor to Avatar, at least in its racial implications. Matthew-Broderick the unmistakably white actor took on the role of a lion son of an obvious black-soulled lion father and mother, which was similar to a white guy taking on the form of a blue giant.
Lion King subliminally suggested to white kids that their 'spiritual'--as opposed to merely biological--parents should be NOBLE blacks. Thus, we have lots of white girls who feel detached from their own mothers but worship Oprah as the Mother Goddess of all women.

A character in LAST DAYS OF DISCO says environmental movement may have originated with BAMBI, as kids who saw that movie were traumatized by the death of Bambi's mother at the hands of human hunters. It could be that the popularity of Obama among young white kids could partly be sourced back to the Lion King.

Ms Dubei befuddles me said...

One part of me is glad that we finally have a movie like Avatar. Most sci-fi movies about humans meeting aliens have been about them coming to us. Since they developed the technology to reach us first, they were obviously superior to us in intelligence, power, and etc. Few sci-fi movies gave us friendly aliens who not only had superior smarts but bigger hearts or higher wisdom. The Day the Earth Stood Still, 2001, Close Encounters, ET, and CONTACT comes to mind.

More often than not, however, the space aliens use their superior intelligence to clobber us real good. They bomb our cities, zap us, enslave us, eat us, etc. Typical have been stuff like Independence Day, V, War of the Worlds, etc. Aliens are like the Nazis, we are like the American Indians fighting against superior technology. In the original War of the Worlds movie, even our nukes could not destroy their ships. Indeed, we generally win by some accident.

These sci-fi films are generally said to be conservative--xenophobic, nationalistic, gung-ho, us vs them, etc(especially during the climate of the Cold War and WWII remembrance). Come to think of it, PEARL HARBOR was real history turned into "Independence Day" with alien 'Japs' attacking good ole US of A.

There haven't been many movies about humans traveling to other planets and coming upon people less advanced than us. So, Avatar reverses what we've generally been getting--good backward earthlings attacked by bad advanced aliens. It's refreshing to see bad advanced Earthlings attack good backward aliens. Change in the movie formula is welcome once in awhile. Though Avatar can be approached allegorically, it is a something relatively new in the literal sense.

what are you watching on the tube? said...

Planet of the Apes and Escape from the Planet of the Apes have themes related to sympathizing with the Other side. The good chimps in POTA sympathize with Taylor(Heston)and help him escape from the clutches of conservative orangatans and thick-skulled gorillas.

In EOTPOTA, some compassionate humans protect Zera and Cornelius from humans who are alarmed about the future of humanity if the smart apes were to breed and supercede humanity.

Anonymous said...

>the unmistakably white actor took on the role of a lion son of an obvious black-soulled lion father and mother, which was similar to a white guy taking on the form of a blue giant<

My head hurts.

Thomas said...

This meme has got legs now.

Principally, I'm reminded of two things. The first is "revolution from the middle", as laid out in Goldstein's book in 1984. The "middle" overthrows the "top" by rallying those at the "bottom" (though those at the bottom invariably stay there whatever the system).

The second thing is to remember that to white liberals, first, last, and always, the primary purpose of nonwhites is and will always be to afford opportunities to feel superior to other whites. It's the closest thing we have to a law of white liberal behavior.

eating fast said...

Is there a movie about space aliens invading Earth where a rare GOOD space alien joins Earthlings in the struggle against his imperialist brethren?

Anonymous said...

"Come to think of it, Lion King was a precursor to Avatar, at least in its racial implications. Matthew-Broderick the unmistakably white actor took on the role of a lion son of an obvious black-soulled lion father and mother, which was similar to a white guy taking on the form of a blue giant.
Lion King subliminally suggested to white kids that their 'spiritual'--as opposed to merely biological--parents should be NOBLE blacks. Thus, we have lots of white girls who feel detached from their own mothers but worship Oprah as the Mother Goddess of all women."

Sometimes a film is just a film...

I saw Avatar today and it was excellent. I didn't waste my time thinking about what it 'meant', I just sat back and enjoyed the spectacle of it. I didn't begrude parting with an extra £2 for the 3D version, which rather than being gimmicky (like those awful red/blue cardboard specs) brought the film to life.

People of genuine intelligence don't indicate it by watching the 'right' films or reading the 'correct' books and then gobbing off about it to strangers on the internet, if you do that you're not better than some elbow-patch wearing Guardian reader.

"Lawrence fought for the Arabs but he was at heart always an exhibitionist Briton playing a dangerous game."

He fought for King and Country... It's thoroughably absorbant!

Anonymous said...

What's a meme? Is it a fat black lady squeezing rich white girls into corsets?

hands of snow said...

Is Avatar essentially a remake of Terminator I & II?

Terminator is about time travel. Though Avatar is about man journeying to another planet, it could be seen as kind of time travel, with modern man going back to a more primitive version of himself. It's like technological man going back to a time when the world was populated by tough barbarian warriors--like the Teutonic tribes.

In Terminator movies, machines have superceded man. One could say sentient machines are the next stage in the evolutionary process. Just like the Cro-magnons wiped out the neanderthals, machines wanna wipe man out.
The audience side with MAN against Machine because they are human and because man has become the hunted underdog in the future.

For the machines to prevail, they must send a machine back into the past. But, this machine must fool people into thinking that it is one of them. So, machine is wrapped in human flesh. People don't realize that Arnold is really a machine. They see him as one of them. He blends in and kills a whole lot of people. The crippled Marine is meant to serve as a kind of terminator; to fool the blue folks, he's man wrapped in blue flesh.

In Terminator II, Arnold is reprogrammed and becomes a machine siding with man against the machines that created him. He becomes a mechano-traitor. In Avatar, the human-wrapped-in-blue-flesh was meant to terminate the the blue people, but he becomes 'reprogrammed' to by the blue folks. So, he becomes like Arnold in Terminator II; he becomes a 'race-traitor'. Arnold became a 'good' machine, and the marine becomes a 'good' human.

In Terminator II, mechano-traitor Arnold had to go face-to-face(s) against T-1000, a machine that can turn into ANY human. I wonder if Avatar II will be about the humans creating another(better, improved, and traitor-proof)blue terminator who goes against the marine-blue-guy-who-switched sides. Or, maybe humans will come up with a female blue terminator(like in the awful Terminator 3)who seduces and endangers the marine-blue-guy. There's something like in Germanic mythology too. Siegfried is tricked and turned against his lover Brunnhilde. Maybe, humans will create a beautiful blue terminatoress who will steal the marine-blue-guy from his blue lover.

moon garu said...

There's subterfuge and disguise in sci-fi but usually about man hiding behind machine or machine hiding behind man. In Iron Man, man puts on a metal suit. In Asimov stories, robots are human-like. In Bubblegum Crisis 2032(episode 5), man and machine fuse to create the formidable Largo character.

In Avatar, we have a far-out idea not of man hiding inside a machine nor a machine pretending to be man but a man genetically merging with another organism. Maybe this is fitting in an age when biogenetics makes it possible to take plant genes and put it into animals, or vice versa. And, how long before we have 'gene therapy' or 'gene boosting' whereby the genes of leopards and wolves are mixed with our genes? Maybe we can create superduperfast athletes. Maybe we can mix hawk genes with human genes and gain superb eyesight. Maybe we can mix dolphin genes with human genes and develop sonar power.

Primitive and pagan cultures had no clear distinction between the man and animal. Many Egyptian gods were half-man, half-animal. Many Persian gods too. Hinduism has stuff about reincarnation, where your soul transmigrates from man to animal.

Two cultures that clearly distinguished man from nature was the Jewish and Greek. Bible said God made man to be lord over all the beast. The only animal that speaks to man is the serpent in the Garden of Eden, but it is punished and the bond between man and nature is broken. Greek mythology had many half-man/half-animal creatures, but in its arts and representation Greek culture made a clear distinction between superior/noble man and the beasts(and beastly man-monsters like the Minotaur). Also, all the major gods were human in form.

Avatar romanticizes a world when man and nature were one. Thus, it idealizes a human's merging with a blue creature. The hero's crippled state and dependence on machines may have two meanings. Anti-war message or metaphor of man as being spiritually/physically crippled(disconnected from sacred nature) and over-dependent on technology. Thus, the marine truly comes alive when he enters the blue body. It's not just a physical but a spiritual tranformation. We feel like this when we go into nature. Something dormant comes back to life.

Blue people are part human, part animal in form. They have human intelligence and spirituality, animal power and magnetism. Physically and spiritually, they represent the sacred unity. (Rather like Zed in Zardoz, who also comes to attain intellectual mastery).

There is great irony here. Technology made man to rule over nature. Civilization allowed man to forge an identity apart from animals. Yet, advanced technology now seems to be fusing man and nature again through biogenetics. It's possible that animal genes will be used to cure or boost human genes. We are thus becoming more advanced and more primitive at the same time--like Dr. Strangelove warned.
All said and done, despite our advances in technology, what do we REALLY want, especially in a free, individualist, and consumerist society? We want beauty, power, sexuality, etc. Animals are more powerful than us. Maybe even more beautiful in some ways. And, there are plenty of Asians who want bigger and taller 'barbarian' white genes, and there are plenty of whites who want bigger and stronger 'savage' black genes. Not the entire thing but choice parts of it. A white guy may want to remain white but want a black physique and voice. A white woman may want the buttocks of a black woman. A black guy may want the face of a white guy. All guys may want the muscle tone of a leopard or lion--super strong. Technology makes us more brutish as human desire is essentially fueled by will-to-power and want-to-f***. What guy doesn't want to be the Terminator? Terminator II was essntially 'liberal fascism'. Enjoy the fascist imagery and style but in the name of social justice. Arnold was a 'good' SS robot. Have cake and eat it too.

Moony said...

A case of a non-White messiah fighting for Whites. In Jean Raspail 's novel, Camp of the Saints, Asian Indians (and other non-Whites) attack and conquer and Europe because the Europeans do not have the stomach to kill invading civilians. Eventually the Europeans fight back. One of the leaders in the European struggle is an Asian Indian. This Indian guy fights against his own people for the sole aim of saving Europe (he expects nothing in return).

orthodox said...

I heard Cameron came up with this idea more than 10 yrs ago. So, are we projecting what has happened since 9/11 on the film or did the screenplay change over the yrs in response to the war on terror?

cat said...

Hey, we forgot THE Messiah himself. Jesus was born a Jew, but at least according to the myth of St. Paul, he embraced non-Jews and spread the love of God to all the world. So, the Jews saw him as a heretic traitor and killed him.

I suppose the first Roman converts to Christianity would been regarded as traitors by conservative pagan Romans who saw Christianity as either an alien religion or subversive movement.

---

Is Obama a black man inside a white body or a white man inside a black body? He too is touted as the messiah who can finally bridge the gaps between black and white, just like the heroine in METROPOLIS bridges the gap between the capitalists and the workers.

Anonymous said...

Obama is black. Everyone says so ("first African-American president"), even his wife, even him. The end.

PS Avatar sucks.

Anonymous said...

Albertosaurus is spot on in his post. It should be added that Cameron spent a lot of his time after Titanic indulging in taking his own submarines to the Titanic, the Bismarck etc. I attended a screening of T2 at "The Dome" (The Arclight in Hollywood) several years back, hosted by Cameron. He stated that he could now begin production on an idea he had because the technology was now available to do so.

hello collie said...

Was Simon Bolivar a white messiah or a Latin-American patriot? He surely led many people who were not white but I don't think he was into people-of-color-ism.

Interestingly enough, Chavez, who always rags on white people, idolizes Bolivar the Great White Man.

Anonymous said...

Avatar is like Fantasia, no?

woman who runs FROM the wolves said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/01/arts/01iht-idbriefs3A.html

Maybe "Wolf Totem" is like a Chinese Avatar. It too has mix of right and left elements. Its romantic view of the sturdy, strong, and pagan-barbaric warrior herdsmen and the wolves they co-exist and compete with can be said to be proto-fascist. But, it's made palatable to the modern liberal audience in the guise of championing the powerless primitivist minority against the the powerful technologically savvy majority.

Robin said...

David Brooks claims, "It rests on the stereotype that white people are rationalist and technocratic while colonial victims are spiritual and athletic."

Not all of the people who were invading were white, nor were all the humans who decided to help the Na'vi. I think Brooks is confusing a culture with a race.

Since strong female characters have been a recurring theme in James Cameron's films (Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor, etc) it would have been great to see that continued in Avatar, or expanded upon by having a strong Latino or Black woman be the main character, but I don't think it's rational to call the movie racist just because Sam Worthington (a white man) was chosen for the role. Worthington was living in his car before auditioning for Avatar, so it's nice that Hollywood's money isn't going to only rich people all the time.

I personally would have liked Avatar better if the hero of the story was one of the natives (that's why I loved "Apocalypto") but Cameron wanted to make a movie about self maturation and acceptance, so he had to use a human as the main character; because, if he had used a native then he/she would have already had the correct set of beliefs (environmentalist, non-corporatist) and there wouldn't have been a process of maturation.

Cameron's choice to use a human as the main character also helps the majority of the audience members relate to the story better, so they can understand the error in Jake's original way of thinking, and can then arrive at the correct set of beliefs themselves. This may be less creative than using a native as the main character, but it helps to make the movie much more popular since more people can relate to it.

Also, by the end of Avatar it's pretty clear that the mother/daughter pair are the Na'vi leaders and that the Humans who switched sides aren't "saviors" but were just correcting the situations they had actually set into motion. Jake had obviously become very influential, but it is usually the case with popular action movies that things turn out well for the protagonist so the audience can feel triumphant through the lead character.

Robin said...

David Brooks goes on to say, "It rests on the assumption that nonwhites need the White Messiah to lead their crusades."

The movie doesn't display the natives as being helpless. They benefit from Jake joining them because he knows more about their enemy than they do (because he was one). Any side of a conflict could benefit from knowing more about their enemy, no matter what their culture or race happens to be.

Brooks claims, "It rests on the assumption that illiteracy is the path to grace."

Of all the beautiful qualities that various tribal cultures have, Brooks decided to cherry-pick this particular aspect, totally ignoring the fact that tribal cultures often have very advanced sign-language and oral forms of communication (or in this case, a freaking global neural network) that more than make up for their illiteracy. Brooks is being completely ethnocentric here.

He continues, "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."

He's using the word "imperialists" interchangeably with the word "whites", implying that "white" people are one homogeneous culture throughout the world that are inherently imperialistic. He's conveniently ignoring that there have been non-imperialistic European cultures.

Yes, the last several hundred years of imperialist crimes have been committed almost entirely by nations ruled by white people. This has nothing to do with anything inherent in "white" behavior, and everything to do with the historical events leading up to European colonial expansion; most notably the death of Ogedei Khan, preventing the conquest of Europe.

So, if Avatar isn't about white "self-admiration" as Mr. Brooks claims it is, then what is it about?

Here's just a few of the themes:
It was against corporate greed, it was against destroying the environment, it was against imperialism, it was against violating people's rights, it was against ethnocentrism. It actually portrayed tribal cultures as being positive instead of pretending that they're all barbaric cavemen.

With all these themes that go against the status quo, of course there are going to be people who dislike this movie, especially self-proclaimed pro-war Republicans such as David Brooks.

Mid T G said...

White Messiah-ism goes together with Black Messiah-ism. People like Bono wants to play white messiah to Africans in terms of material aid, but white liberal attachment to blackness is based on the image of the sensual and spiritual black messiahs who 'liberated' uptight and repressed white people from puritanism, Victorianism, and bigotry.

For white liberals like Bono, MLK and James Brown are the great black messiahs who saved white people from Hate and lameness(especially in music).

Since blacks 'saved' the souls of white folks, whites must save the bodies of Africans--whose suffering is understood to be the result of white imperialism, Muslim imperialism, (or more recently Chinese imperialism--support of the the Sudanese regime). It seems blacks are NEVER to be blamed for their problems. They are seen as perfect angels, innocent children, or both.

So, Brooks is only half-right about white messiah-ism. It's only supposed to be economic and political, not spiritual-creative-and-sensual(which are the domain of black messiahs, Obama included). Whites must produce the stereophonic systems, but blacks must make the music.

For some strange reason, the white liberal stereotypes about whites and blacks conform to ideas of Leonard Jeffries whereby blacks are the 'creative' SUN PEOPLE(intuitive and soulful) whereas whites are the 'rational' ICE PEOPLE(logical and soulless).

So, the white messiah offers the ice of reason to poor Africans suffering from heat while the black messiah offers the warmth of the sun to melt the frozen hearts of white folks. Sounds like ham and cheese to me.

Wandrin said...

The original white messiah theme was unstated but usually unabashed white supremacist.

It was subverted by Hollywood into shiny white liberal messiah films where the good white person helps out the non-whites against the bad sweaty white people - usually southerners. These are sermons or moral conditioning designed to turn impressionable white teenagers into anti-white liberals.

Brooks is right imo. He recognizes this process has gone too far and some of those impressionable white teenagers have grown up to make movies like Avatar which represent a total rejection of whiteness by shiny white liberal kids to the point of not being willing to bomb the non-white people Brooks wants bombed.

(Although they'd still be fine with bombing transgressive white people.)