Call for a boycott after the theatrical release – serious allegations made

This image released by 20th Century Studios shows Trinity Bliss, as Took, in a scene from "Avatar: The Way of Water."  (20th Century Studios via AP)

The “Avatar” success is overshadowed by a call for a boycott.Image: 20th Century Studios

films and series

Vera Siebnich

“Avatar: The Way of Water” was recently released in cinemas. The sequel to one of the most successful films of all time has already made strange headlines: Projectors in Japanese cinemas are said to have broken when the film was shown there. But that’s not the only negative PR that “Avatar” has to deal with – although the sequel is very successful and has already made a lot of money.

Because even with the first part of “Avatar”, which was released in 2009, there was a lot of criticism. At the time, many found three points in particular about the film problematic. “Avatar” is a “White Savior Story”, a story in which non-white people are saved by white people. There was also criticism that white actors were cast for the main characters, who are also not white. And then a comment by director James Cameron caused a stir.

Director James Cameron is greeted by fans during the blue carpet event to promote his latest movie 'Avatar: The Way of Water' in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Dec.  9, 2022. The movie is to be released i...

There was a lot of criticism of James Cameron after the first “Avatar” part.Image: AP / Ahn Young-joon

Above all, he is now quoted again and again by activists. But it is not enough for them to draw attention to what they consider to be problematic statements. They are calling for a complete boycott of the film.

“Avatar”: Criticism for cultural appropriation

As the “Los Angeles Times” reports, Yuè Begay is one of the supporters of a boycott. Taking to Twitter, the artist and Pride Los Angeles chair keeps explaining why you shouldn’t watch Avatar:

“Our culture was appropriated in a hurtful way to gratify some white man’s Savior Complex. No more bluefacing! The Lakota people are powerful!”

“Bluefacing” stands for Begay in a row with “Blackfacing” and “Redfacing”. So when white actors fill in characters that aren’t actually white, that’s seen as problematic.

She tweeted that “bluefacing” is when “an inventor takes non-white cultures, mixes them together indistinguishably, has white people play them or dub them, and uses fiction to… to legitimize the way they created this world.”

Begay accuses the makers of such films “of not focusing on the experiences, voices, faces and bodies of blacks, indigenous people and other marginalized people of color.”

Especially with James Cameron, Begay doesn’t think this decision was a coincidence. Because in 2010 the director made a statement to the “Guardian” that many still consider problematic to this day. It is also repeatedly quoted in the discussion about “Avatar: The Way of Water”. At the time, Cameron spoke out against the Belo Monte hydroelectric power station. Because of the power plant, many indigenous people would have lost their homes.

Cameron said at the time that the time he spent with the tribes in the Amazon inspired him to create Avatar. “I felt like I had stepped back in time 130 years and observed what the Lakota Sioux might have said at a time when they were being pushed out, when they were being killed, when they were being asked to relocate and given them some form of religion compensation was offered.” Then he continued:

“That was a driving force behind writing ‘Avatar’ for me. I couldn’t help but think that [die Lakota Sioux] “would have fought harder if they could have seen a window into the future – they would have seen their children commit suicide and have the highest suicide rate in the nation because they are hopeless and their society is broken.”

A group of Native Americans who are also in favor of boycotting the film have described the statements as “anti-Indigenous rhetoric”.

This image released by 20th Century Studios shows Kate Winslet, as Ronal, left, and Cliff Curtis, as Tonowari, in a scene from "Avatar: The Way of Water."  (20th Century Studios via AP)

The “Avatar” sequel has been criticized since its theatrical release.Image: 20th Century Studios

“Avatar 2” successful despite harsh criticism

Brett Chapman – a lawyer who campaigns for indigenous people’s rights – thinks the film “takes oxygen at our expense”. In his eyes, “Avatar 2” is a “White Savior Story” that “washes history white so that everyone feels better”.

A harsh verdict on the film, which, judging by Begay’s reaction, is shared mostly by those affected. So far, she has done little to change the success of “Avatar: The Way of Water”. According to Amazon’s Box Office Mojo, which reports on movie box office results, The sequel has grossed $955,234,966 worldwide to date.

From the successful quiz show “Who knows something like that?” there was an XXL edition on ARD on December 27th – live. For the participating celebrities there was once again a high risk of embarrassing themselves by not knowing, especially in the quick guessing round on the hot seat.