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If the shuttles have to be retired, then New York City seems the perfect place for a space shuttle to get maximum exposure. Just think how many kids might be inspired to become astronauts after walking through an actual space shuttle.
Now If New York gets the shuttle, the Intrepid Museum wants to build a $40 million glass enclosure around it. I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling the shuttle would be not only a huge boon to tourism, but also the filmmaking industry. Think how many zany scripts might be written, based on the remote possibility that a teenager could jumpstart the shuttle and use it to combat jewelry thieves, time travelers, or Russians. Oh, and also to impress girls. We’d have a real 80’s movie renaissance on our hands.
Adventures in Babysitting in Space. The Freeze-Dried Breakfast Club. 16 Billion Candles. Ferris Bueller’s Millenium Off…
It’s a win-win NASA!
Avatar: The Last Airbender Superbowl promo.
This trailer actually looks quite promising. Cool special effects? Check. Unknown child actor with a first-degree black belt cast as Aang? Check. Awesome looking Appa wandering across the upper left-hand corner of the screen at the 10 sec mark? Check.
But, M. Night Shymalan as director? Ruh-roh!
I haven’t seen Avatar yet, so I can’t speak with any real expertise as to whether or not Annalee Newitz’s claims about Cameron’s new opus are true. However, I HAVE seen the trailers, which as far as I can tell give away the entire plot and feel a lot like an overblown video game cut scene. Reviews of Avatar have not inspired me to rush to the theater and have a look-see.
At the heart of Newitz’s argument against Avatar and the many movies (both sci-fi and otherwise) that tend to reproduce the white guilt paradigm is this:
These are movies about white guilt. Our main white characters realize that they are complicit in a system which is destroying aliens, AKA people of color - their cultures, their habitats, and their populations. The whites realize this when they begin to assimilate into the “alien” cultures and see things from a new perspective. To purge their overwhelming sense of guilt, they switch sides, become “race traitors,” and fight against their old comrades. But then they go beyond assimilation and become leaders of the people they once oppressed. This is the essence of the white guilt fantasy, laid bare. It’s not just a wish to be absolved of the crimes whites have committed against people of color; it’s not just a wish to join the side of moral justice in battle. It’s a wish to lead people of color from the inside rather than from the (oppressive, white) outside.
In the end, Newitz wishes sci-fi would make movies from the perspective of the Alien/non-white instead of repeatedly deploying the secretly human/white “Avatar” who can “translate” the experience of being a minority for audience.
As expected, a rather extended conversation has ensued from Newitz’s analysis with most comments, unsurprisingly, reflecting the types of opinions people tend to hold regarding any discussion of race in pop culture. There are those who think it’s unreasonable to expect a mainstream movie to do anything more than entertain. And there are those who think we live in a post-racial society and analyzing anything from the perspective of race is, well, racist. Finally there are those who are grateful that Newitz had the cojones to bring up the subject at all.
Is it reasonable to hold higher standards for our mainstream multimillion dollar movie industry? Probably not. Or put another way, it’s unlikely that the relatively small minority of voices who want more out of their entertainment will be able to stop the onslaught of movies that traffic in ginormous explosions, naked ladies, and obvious moral conclusions. That said, I agree with Newitz when she says,
Science fiction is exciting because it promises to show the world and the universe from perspectives radically unlike what we’ve seen before. But until white people stop making movies like Avatar, I fear that I’m doomed to see the same old story again and again.
We can at least hold Science Fiction to higher standards. As this increasingly commercially influential genre takes over the box office, it should have the balls to move beyond the predictable and self-reflexive patterns we’ve come to expect from mainstream movies.
What do YOU think?
Read Newitz’s critique of Avatar here.
I finally saw Duncan Jones’ Moon at the local Sundance Theater this week (yes, after whining about how no theaters near me were showing Moon, it came). If you have yet to see it, do not delay! This one deserves to be seen on the big screen. I mentioned the beautiful soundtrack in an earlier post, and let me tell you, seeing this movie made that music even more haunting in its spartan dashes of piano against methodical drumbeats. As for the movie itself, I guarantee you will leave the theater with a nifty pile of philosophical questions that probe those eternal questions of what it means to be human. Sam Rockwell’s performance is particularly noteworthy. His motivations and internal conflicts never seem like forgone conclusions, and this is where the movie excels the most.
Moon is that rare movie that I’d classify as “high” science fiction. Even though such distinctions are a bit old fashioned and snooty sounding, it’s a useful way of distinguishing between movies like Alien and movies like Alien vs. Predator. The former fully ensconces you in the terrifying possibilities of predacious life forms beyond the realm of your worst nightmares juxtaposed against the horror of human greed, while the latter makes you you realize that hollywood is composed of predacious life forms beyond the realm of your worst nightmares driven by the horror of human greed.
Moon is special. Go see it.