Author Topic: from acclaimed author STEVEN BARNES  (Read 2233 times)

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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from acclaimed author STEVEN BARNES
« on: January 14, 2010, 06:01:16 pm »
A gentleman referred me to his website, upon which there is an essay stating that "Avatar" triggered a sense of guilt about being white. Saw it as a condemnation of the military, and of corporations. Really? This gentleman needs to love himself more, accept himself more deeply. Criticizing behaviors, or writing cautionary tales about the excesses of a group or organization is not the same as condemning it.

But that is exactly how many people feel. And that is not mature behavior. Unfortunately, society doesn't really encourage us to be adults (which is an observation or criticism, not a condemnation of society. Sheesh.) I mean, if I tell Jason he's done something wrong, his poor little heart lurches to the conclusion that he must be a BAD BOY. This is one of the reasons that I will stand him in front of a mirror, have him look at himself and say "I like myself!"

This is horribly hard for him at first, but when he gets into it, there are joyous giggles. Oddly (not really) discipline and criticism are taken MUCH better for the rest of the day--I can point out a non-optimal behavior without him leaping to the conclusion that if he isn't the best boy in the world, he must be the worst.

And I think that a huge percentage of people live in such a binary world. If America isn't clearly the best on every issue, all the time...you must be saying America is AWFUL. If racial group X has abused its power, or segments of it are organized in patterns inefficient for producing stable social/family units...why, I must be CONDEMING it. They're the worst!

If corporations eat everything in sight, and you point that out, why, you must be saying corporations are EVIL! No, I'm saying they eat everything in sight, and must be treated like the jolly predators they are. Like Sam Neil said in Jurassic Park about carnivorous animals: they aren't evil, they "just do what they do." We must simply be careful of limiting them to their appropriate place in the circle of economic life.

If mercenaries in the service of corporations are said to be capable of amoral behavior, that is hardly a condemnation of the military. It is an acknowledgement that the warrior urge is related to the "death drive," and must be balanced by love and controlled by diplomacy and compassion. Society cannot exist without the courageous men and women who eat stress and spit fire. God knows I ain't going into the caves of Tora Bora...not unless there is absolutely, positively no one else to do it. But condemn this vital drive for OUR mismanagement of it? That would be like condemning the sex drive because immature expressions of it lead to illegitimate children and the spread of disease.

The sex drive, the survival instinct, the drive to dominate and control...these things are not evil. They just are what they are, do what they do. Get this straight: I LOVE this country. There is no where I'd rather live. But because it is populated by human beings, it has been guilty of horrific acts. But wow, can you believe how hard we try to grow and heal? Amazing.

So many men feel guilty about being men, ignoring the price of carrying that toxic and intoxicating drug testosterone in their veins. And apparently, the legacy of racism is that we can't really think of humanity as being non-heirarchical. That the attempt to embrace "equality" leads to staying quiet about your beliefs that group X ain't quite up to snuff. And if you say something that trips a guilt switch, the easiest default is to assume that, well, if My Group isn't BETTER, then We must be worse. Must be. What else could anyone possibly be saying, eh..?

This kind of thinking is poisonous. We are so much better than this. We MUST be able to speak of our pain, speak our truth. And be able to hear it while maintaining, without the slightest doubt, the knowledge that no one is closer to the divine than we are.

The problem is that the cost of holding that belief is abandoning the hope that we are closer to the divine than others. And that, apparently, for almost everyone: whites, blacks, gays, straights, Americans, non-Americans, men and women...virtually everyone seems to need that belief just to make it through their lives.

Believing in differential worth, applied to entire groups of human beings, seems to be one of the most addictive drugs in the world. And when it turns on you...God in heaven, is it ever vicious.

You deserve better than that, each and every one of you. The love you have for yourself will be the love you can offer your family, your community, your world. And trust me: we need every drop you can muster.

Offline mylastnerve

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Re: from acclaimed author STEVEN BARNES
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2010, 09:19:48 pm »
With all due respect to Steven Barnes, I must disagree with any defense of any aspect of the movie Avatar.  As advertised on the official Avatar website, "Avatar takes us to a spectacular world beyond imagination".  There may be plenty of imagination in the special effects and creation of the planet, but the story and characters are not only umimaginative, they are downright unoriginal and offensive.
As I sat in the theater last Friday with my 3D glasses on, the instant the Sigourney Weaver avatar hit the screen with braided hair and beads, I thought "hmmm, that's interesting she would choose an Afro-centric style of hair in avatar fantasy land".  Imagine my surprise when all the natives (Na'vi, as they are called) of the planet Pandora wear their hair in either a braided style (with beads) or mohawks.  That's original?  It gets worse, the Na'vi have tails, that's right long monkey tails, which serve no purpose to their existence - except to make a later reference to them as "blue monkeys" make sense.  I am a huge fan of movies, and not since the 1933 version of King Kong (you know when the natives offered a trade of six of their women for that one blond-haired white woman) have I seen a so-called fantasy movie as offensive as Avatar.  
The biggest issue I have is not the fact that in the end it is the white man that saves the day while being asked about betraying his own race, I don't even care by the time the movie gets to that point.  I just cannot believe there has not been an uproar from Native Americans and African-Americans regarding the raping of our cultures and mixing it with asinine concepts of overgrown creatures with blue skin and tails!  The Na’vi commune with nature, ride horses, their weapon of choice is bow and arrow, their elders wear outfits made of feathers, and of course the hair styles and being voiced mostly by African-Americans.  As previously mentioned they are once referred to in a most derogatory manner as “blue monkeys”, another time as “roaches”, and finally as “brothers and sisters”.  Shameful.  My people are headed away from the usual role of pimps, hookers and crackheads, to be remade in make-believe worlds as blue monkeys.  And this is the highest grossing film of all-time that is already walking away with awards?
And white America!  How do you stomach the over-the-top brutality on display for your people?  Is this how you imagine yourselves more than 100  years into the future?  Still in the majority with the ability to ravish other planets for your own greedy gain?  
Furthermore, the movie just is not a good movie!  If the Na’vi had been an orange-skinned people with 3-legs and one eye, it doesn’t make up for the pitiful plot, poor choice of language, and lack of reasoning.  Without the special effects this movie would rate no more than 2 stars out of 4.   There is no reason behind the destruction of the trees except for cruelty.  The precious gem the Earthlings were after did not lay at the trees roots.  Cruelty!  And since we can see from the lack of minority involvement in the human’s quest, we know that James Cameron does not believe in the current census numbers and projections for America’s future.  White people will not be running around the galaxy devouring other planets because they won’t even be the majority race on their own planet.
 The whole thing is a sham and the world has fallen hard and turned a blind eye.  This movie not only lacks imagination, it has taken the same old tired concepts of greed and white domination of other races and wrapped it all up in special effects to keep your focus on the objects appearing to be coming at you out of the screen instead of the offensive images that are as plain as the nose on your face.