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In the first two weeks of its release, Avatar: the Way of Water raked in US$1 billion at the box office, already becoming the 33rd-largest grossing movie ever.

But when the original Avatar was released, critics likened it to Dances with Wolves as protagonists were military men damaged by war and imperialism, who turned to Indigenous peoples to “heal,” both “go Indian” by learning Indigenous languages, ceremonies and cultures, and both lead Indigenous peoples in successful battles against evil invaders, like saviours of Indigenous life.

Winnipeg Free Press columnist Niigaan Sinclair writes on how the sequel continues the “settler fantasy” as the Indigenous people in the film are, once again, unable to save themselves.

To read more of this column from the Winnipeg Free Press, click here.

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I've read some criticisms in the past about Avatar as being both an example of 1) the white saviour myth/trope, referenced here in this Free Press opinion (I didn't read the entire piece to avoid the spoilers), and 2), amongst some environmentally-minded, a naive and silly view of indigenous peoples using clearly ineffective technologies to counter industrial warfare. The movie was ultimately judged, by some, as even being detrimental to the environmental movement.

To each there own, but I tend to put these points of criticism together in forming a response.

There are numerous indigenous societies that were decimated/exterminated by colonial invaders armed with technology which the indigenous had no idea how to counter. We know this because they were wiped out. The white saviour analogy would hold if some white boy/girl had been raised amongst the indigenous society and it was this white boy/girl, having only the knowledge of any other in that society, who saved the people. In Avatar, the invaders could have been any race but they were majority lily-white (which could certainly be criticized). What ostensibly (see below) "saved" the Na'vi was a person from the invader culture, who knew of the culture, weapons and tactics and was able to lead a defense. But, you will remember that this knowledge was, in the end, insufficient to win the war. It was the mystic powers of Pandora, those worshipped by the Na'vi, that ultimately won the war, with a few white guys and girls choosing to become colonized by the Na'vi.

Who do people think was the target audience for Avatar if, indeed, James Cameron was using the tools that he knew (i.e. film-making) to do his part in trying to alter the destructive path of colonial culture and engender respect for the planet?

The envionmentalist criticism is easily countered, using the scene with the gunship fleet attacking the Home Tree as the analogy. How many times have those complaining environmentalists raised a pen, wrote an editorial or an entire series of editorials, protested here or there, started a movement, created a website and/or (yet) another ENGO?. And, to-date, how effective have all those actions been? Have they been any more effective than the Na'vi firing arrows at the gunships?

Jsut one point-of-view.