<body>
Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The White Messiah Fable

Lots of interesting thoughts exploring modern day myths to be found here. Particular now that Avatar (which I thought was extremely well made in spite of its problems) is the latest film to employ such mythology.

The Messiah Complex

My own thought: Do the people who make these films playing out this white messiah fable ever realize how racist they are? Basically it is saying these "innocent" and "pristine" natives are stupid and unable to take care of themselves UNTIL the white outsider comes in and takes over. I guess in a manner of speaking it is your typical liberal fantasy. The enlightened outsider coming in to a disadvantaged, but wondrous society, who learns from them as he teaches them new things. Of course, there is a severe inconsistency: He usually teaches them how to use guns, stand up for themselves, and kill intruders. That's not very liberal minded.

Labels: ,

4 Comments:

Blogger Amyus said...

I actually thought it was interesting that Avatar seemed to avoid many of the pitfall cliches of the white messiah fable. It seemed marked to me that the protagonist was not 'enlightened' by the standards of our society, and he achieved victory only by adopting wholesale the beliefs, values and tactics of the natives. However, I may simply be biased because I liked the film :)

8:57 AM, January 14, 2010  
Blogger buddyglass said...

Couple things:

1. What's wrong, or especially "liberal", about a fantasy where one comes into a wondrous new community and both learns from and teaches its members? Sounds pretty healthy to me.

2. Liberals generally don't oppose using guns, per se, or self-defense. You're exaggerating.

3. The natives weren't stupid. Far from it. They just weren't technologically advanced, and had no experience with the humans. What the Jake character offered wasn't his superior intellect, but the fact that he was intimately acquainted with the humans' military technology, strengths and weaknesses, and their general strategy.

9:19 PM, January 17, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

1. What's wrong, or especially "liberal", about a fantasy where one comes into a wondrous new community and both learns from and teaches its members? Sounds pretty healthy to me.

(Fred) There isn't anything "wrong" with people learning from different cultures and communities. However, not all cultures and communities are equal in worth and some are certainly better than others.

Cameron uses the Navi as a model of his vision of what he thinks indigenous North American natives were. According to his worldview, they were a gentle, peace loving people who were in touch with the earth and were ruthlessly displaced by white Europeans. This was hardly the case with both accounts, particularly the phony notion that native Americans were peace loving and in touch with the earth. If anything, white Europeans rescued them from extinction. They certainly improved their living standards and the way the treated each other, especially the women.

2. Liberals generally don't oppose using guns, per se, or self-defense. You're exaggerating.

(Fred) On the contrary, I don't believe I am exaggerating at all. Who are the many opponents to 2nd Amendment issues and wish to enforce aggressive, draconian gun control laws? Especially for self-defense? You could probably argue for one "liberal" pro-gun society, Switzerland.

What the Jake character offered wasn't his superior intellect, but the fact that he was intimately acquainted with the humans' military technology, strengths and weaknesses, and their general strategy.

(Fred) Exactly. He was a white messiah who offered insight and abilities the Navi lacked because they were inferior in these areas of life. Just like the fable plays out, a white man had to save them.

6:10 AM, January 18, 2010  
Blogger buddyglass said...

There isn't anything "wrong" with people learning from different cultures and communities. However, not all cultures and communities are equal in worth and some are certainly better than others.

And I'd argue that in the case of Avatar, the Na'vi were a culture worth learning from, whereas the prevailing human culture was corrupt and evil. The "fantasy", then, is that there is a culture where people treat each other well, respect and enjoy creation, and can teach (and are willing to learn) from outsiders. It's like he's yearning for what the church should be, which I'd argue is healthy and normal.

On the contrary, I don't believe I am exaggerating at all. Who are the many opponents to 2nd Amendment issues and wish to enforce aggressive, draconian gun control laws? Especially for self-defense? You could probably argue for one "liberal" pro-gun society, Switzerland.

Maybe we converse with different liberals? Most of the liberals I know are not hard-line pacifists. If their families were threatened, they would resort to violence to protect them. If their country were invaded, they would resort to violence to repel the invaders. Gun control does not imply "anti-gun" in a universal sense.

Exactly. He was a white messiah who offered insight and abilities the Navi lacked because they were inferior in these areas of life. Just like the fable plays out, a white man had to save them.

Yeah. I guess I don't put a value judgment on technological advancement. Jake wasn't portrayed as superior to the Na'vi, he was just the guy who knew how the enemy worked.

7:35 AM, January 18, 2010  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home