Sunday, March 28, 2010

If Not Avatar...then What?

'Lo Peoples,

Saw Avatar finally. There's so many reviews online that can sum up my reaction to the movie far better than Her Tangh-i-ness can ever express. The site io9 basically sums it up in their review's title.

Thank you for going there. Next.

I'm standing solidly behind the overlooked Battle for Terra which handled a similar "gone native" storyline in a manner that didn't leave People of Color like me from feeling ripped off. I just enjoyed a movie and didn't feel sick afterwards. I spent a good part of Avatar identifying exactly which traditional cultures had been appropriated to give the Na'vi their look. I suppose I should be happy that People of Color voiced the "alien" natives. They all had acting jobs that year.

But it smacked of my long-standing issues with Disney. The Lion King had been the most recent project where the African descended voiced characters but hardly ever appeared onscreen. (Yes, I remember there was an onscreen African descended character in Atlantis: the Lost Empire.) That is, until The Princess and the Frog came out. Eventually, I'll see the P & F so I'll be outlining my issues with that film. I refused to see it in theaters.

My Mom, after watching Avatar with us, simply said, "This is why you have to tell your stories." My Mom has a point. I and my sister both write. We're trying to convince my youngest brother, The Lemurian, that he should get back onto the literary horse too. I'm telling my stories, but in telling my stories, I could have happen what happened to Dragonball, the Last AirBender, and let us not forget the true-life "21." Even Ursula Le Guin decried what had been done with her Earthsea series once it became a cable television property and a dark-skinned Ged became white.

This makes me leery of releasing stories featuring African descended, American Indian, Asian, and Latino characters to movie options. I'm wondering where to find an agent who is savvy enough to strike out boilerplate that would endanger my much needed visions. I write for those people who look non-white and who also want to read about themselves doing cool things.

No one dared recast "Precious" as blonde and blue-eyed? Wonder why? I did read Push when it came out back in the day. I've seen Precious and I'm thrilled for Mo'Nique's Oscar. Yet, I'm left in an uncomfortable space when I recognize the existence of the reality of dysfunction in African descended households, but I know the imagery in Precious is being used as part of an unsubtle campaign to keep negative depictions of the African descended front and center. Meanwhile, it isn't fashionable to make positive depictions of darker-skinned People of Color unless a white person figures prominently, or y'know turn us blue and well...Na'vi.


Her Tangh-i-ness