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Going Native

Avatar is progressive in many ways.  It represents racism towards native people as stemming from imperialism.  It notices that imperialism is about capital accumulation, indicting a corporation along the way.  It shows an 'economy' in which spines can be repaired, but only if you have the dosh.  It metaphorically revisits the violent imperialist foundations of America - and any such settler colonial state - in a forthrightly disapproving way.  It supports the right of native people to violently resist conquest, even when Americans are doing the conquering.

Fair enough.

However, it is also deeply patronising towards native people.  To quote David Brooks' article in the New York Times:

It rests on the stereotype that white people are rationalist and technocratic while colonial victims are spiritual and athletic. It rests on the assumption that nonwhites need the White Messiah to lead their crusades. It rests on the assumption that illiteracy is the path to grace. 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.

And, even better, here's ...

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