James Cameron’s 'Avatar: The Way of Water' is not only minting money on a global scale but has also got into trouble on social media for an old comment by the filmmaker. The campaign demands the boycott of the sci-fi sequel to the 2009 blockbuster.
“Join Natives & other Indigenous groups around the world in boycotting this horrible & racist film,” Yuè Begay, a Navajo artist and co-chair of Indigenous Pride Los Angeles who is behind the campaign’s resurgence, tweeted. “Our cultures were appropriated in a harmful manner to satisfy some [white flag emoji] man’s savior complex," reads the comment.
More than 40k users liked the tweet. The Native American had demanded the boycott of the film after the prequel’s release in 2009. The furore became far more intense after James Cameron made comments about the Sioux nation, including the Lakota people, which the campaign refers to as ‘anti-indigenous rhetoric’.
In 2010, The Guardian had mentioned that James Cameron’s efforts to oppose the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, which led to the displacement of Indigenous people living in the Amazon. In the article, Cameron said that he learned to reflect on the indigenous people in North America and said the Native American history was the ‘driving force’ behind writing the script for the 2009 film.
“I felt like I was 130 years back in time watching what the Lakota Sioux might have been saying at a point when they were being pushed and they were being killed and they were being asked to displace and they were being given some form of compensation,” Cameron told the Guardian.
He further added, “This was a driving force for me in the writing of ‘Avatar’ — I couldn’t help but think that if they [the Lakota Sioux] had had a time-window and they could see the future … and they could see their kids committing suicide at the highest suicide rates in the nation … because they were hopeless and they were a dead-end society — which is what is happening now — they would have fought a lot harder.”
His allegedly offensive comments were dug up last week after several Native Americans were furious at his words that their ancestors ‘could have fought harder’ to avoid displacement and genocide.
“James Cameron apparently made Avatar to inspire all my dead ancestors to ‘fight harder,’” tweeted Johanna Brewer, a computer science professor at Smith College. “Eff right off with that savior complex, bud,” he tweeted.
The boycott campaign also highlighted the fact that mostly white people were cast to play the N’avi, which were the indigenous tribe in Pandora. The campaign referred to these decisions as ‘blueface’, and that such decisions invalidate the experiences of any marginalised people of colour.
“We should’ve been the ones whose faces and voices appeared onto the screen,” Begay wrote in an open letter to Cameron. “We are the experts in portraying our hurt, suffering, and more importantly, our resilience. White people being aliens based on actual indigenous people,” the letter continued, is “actual colonialism.”
'Avatar: The Way of Water' is currently running in cinemas successfully.