PSA: Arthur is writing.
I don't go for doing movie reviews - outside my interest (though I love movies beyond what is decent, and read reviews incessantly) and frankly I probably don't have the chops. That said - Avatar has provoked quite a bit of white-guilt navel gazing. As well it should, by my lights.
On Avatar, the inimitable (well, if one had an ounce of morality, one could conceivably get close) Arthur Silber (edited to get to my point and, need I say, go read the whole thing... and his other work, dammit!):
Just look at the critical story elements. In his Na'vi body, the (white, straight) injured Marine falls in love with a Na'vi woman. This opens his eyes to the beauty and value of the Na'vi, and he learns to appreciate and love their world on Pandora... We learn that only five -- five! -- Na'vi men (only men, please note) had become Great Leaders, symbolized by their bonding with the Big Scary Bird in the Sky. So, of course, when the Na'vi desperately need a Great Leader to end the Time of Great Sorrow... our Noble White Man figures out how to bond with one of those Big Scary Birds. ...and whammo! He's the Great Leader they need to survive! See, none of the Na'vi men could have done that. (The Na'vi women aren't even eligible, so forget that.)...Now, I saw the movie after hearing of this (entirely correct) meme from other sources, so I was on guard for a totally spoiled experience.
And none of it would have happened without the Noble White Man.
It wasn't spoiled, for two reasons. The primary one, I think, is that I'm still in touch with my inner reptilian response system. I disregard it in real-world, face-to-face with the Other situations, but I still tear up at Disney tropisms that are blatantly offensive and paternalistic, as they unfold. I am ex post facto in judgment of myself for this fact every time, but I still get all sentimental when I see these fantastical sentimental things. Such it was for Avatar.
The second reason is that my temperament causes me to focus on the salvation, redemption, education, or whatever-you-want-to-call-it of the Noble White Man protagonist. Such a bon-bon! Such a sweet! I can insert myself into the story and emerge from my dumbass cocoon as an ecologically conscious Herculean butterfly!
OK, I guess the second reason is pretty much tied up with the first.
Bottom line - Arthur is right, as he frequently (haha, pretty much infallibly) is. After all - what is the worth of the redemption of the oppressor, if it is not at least accompanied by the cessation of the oppression?
One more thing, (Arthur, again):
Finally, a word about technology and realism. The testimony of history establishes that, if a people or nation with more advanced technology is sufficiently murderous and determined, it will destroy another people or nation whose land or resources the more technologically advanced force covets. In that respect, the victory of the Na'vi may be a pleasant fantasy, but that's all it is: a fantasy. See the fate of the Native Americans, or the fate of the Philippines, or the fate of a number of nations the U.S. has placed in its targets (to say nothing of the numerous conquests by other countries and peoples throughout history).I laughed when I read this, because the first thing that occurred to my cynical ass, when the movie ended, with the bad guys being escorted off the planet, was that this thing was crying out for the obvious sequel: When the greedheads come back with nukes.
But, more importantly, I'm going to pile on with a couple of more closing criticisms.
One - the movie reinforced the idea that a few charismatic people direct the fate of the masses. That was ugly for me.
Two - does anyone else find it offensive, that the solution to this ostensibly pastoral community is the mastery of superior violence? Again, wait for the fucking sequel, if there is any honesty in this world, or in Cameron.
Oh, and Arthur - skip Dancing With Wolves. It is as facile, if not moreso, and will only make you angry.