Indigenous people boycott James Cameron's Avatar sequel The Way of Water
Image courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Indigenous people are protesting to boycott James Cameron’s Avatar sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water.

The sequel saw its worldwide release starting in London in early December. The film is a continuation of the first installment released 13 years ago. It has claimed to be one of the highest-grossing films of all time and is exemplary for its production in the sci-fi genre. However, it has been opposed by the Native Indian community for its ingrained racism.

Let us try to understand what James Cameron missed while trying to portray the ills of colonialism through fictionalized world-building.

James Cameron's Avatar sequel Avatar: The way of water
Image courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Avatar: The history of inaccuracy

The first installment of the series, while praised for its VFX, faces criticism of having a ‘white messiah complex’. The story tries to depict the selfish intentions of humans for taking over a community’s land and culture. The audience can sense the criticizing tone of the film as it begins but at the end, it turns into another Pocahontas – inaccurate and offensive.

  • James Cameron, while facing the allegations for Avatar in 2012, revealed to Business Insider that Avatar does reference the colonial period in America. It shows the conflicts and bloodshed between the military aggressors and the indigenous people. Europe equals Earth and the Native Americans are the Na’vi. It definitely isn’t subtle.
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The protest against the Avatar sequel

After the experience with Avatar, one would expect James Cameron to not repeat the flaws, but the story continued with the sequel. This time, the problem was in its casting.

  • Yué Begay, co-chairman of Indigenous Pride Los Angeles explained while protesting a boycott against Avatar that it appropriates their culture. As a movie that claims to show the conflicts of colonization, it does not include any Native Americans in its cast or production. She prompts people to boycott the film and join Natives & other Indigenous groups around the world in the protest. She rejects the Blueface and affirms that the Lakota people are powerful.
  • Lydia Jennings, a Wixárika and Yoeme soil scientist, chimed in that the film blames the victims without reflecting the privileges of colonizers. After watching the original, it was annoying to see people celebrate the story without considering how many Indigenous Nations in the present are fighting for the same. She urges people to support Indigenous storytellers and not white saviors.
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Yué Begay’s open letter

In an open letter regarding the boycott of Avatar: The Way of Water,  she exclaims that it is unacceptable. “Black and Indigenous people are capable of portraying our hurt, suffering, and more importantly, our resilience however the director chooses to glorify colonialism. White people playing aliens based on actual Indigenous people. That’s colonialism.”

“Make it right. Hire us! Hire our experts in your writing rooms, as your consultants, as your talent, and as your leaders. Stop trying to lead. You are NOT our leader. You are an outsider. A guest to our lands and culture. Act like it.”

Avatar: The Way of Water boycott by Indigenous people

The heart of the matter

Avatar series is distributed as a movie representing the struggles of Indigenous people due to colonialism, but it continues to fail in including the voice of Native Americans in the production. It raises the question, does art that covers a historical matter ought to be backed by someone who has knowledge and understanding about the matter? It is especially an important question for a film that claims to depict the voice and culture of a community.

  • Yué Begay has included a list of sci-fi movies and books written by Indigenous people in her Twitter thread which could be good examples of what Avatar failed to do for them.

Supporting or boycotting Avatar 2 is up to you to decide, but a change in the upcoming sequels to make them accurate and inclusive is necessary. Follow Spiel Times for more coverage of the latest topics in entertainment, gaming, and sports.

SOURCE: Hindustan Times
Kairavi Pandya is a writer, editor and proofreader who loves to write niche content that’s both receptive to readers and exciting for every mind. Coming from the curious land of India, she likes to explore society from the lens of literature, entertainment, and current events.