James Cameron is in hot water with some indigenous groups.
With “Avatar: The Way of Water” out in theatres, some Native American activists are calling for a boycott of the film over statements made by the director over a decade ago.
When reached for comment regarding the renewed allegations of “cultural appropriation” and being “tone deaf”, the team of “Avatar: The Way of Water” told ET Canada that there is “no official comment at this time.”
In an interview with The Guardian in 2010, Cameron explained how spending time with Amazon tribes, helping them in their fight against the building of a giant dam, and learning the history of Native American tribes informed the story he was telling in the first “Avatar” film.
“I felt like I was 130 years back in time watching what the Lakota Sioux might have been saying at a point when they were being pushed and they were being killed and they were being asked to displace and they were being given some form of compensation,” the director said at the time.
“This was a driving force for me in the writing of ‘Avatar’,” he continued. “I couldn’t help but think that if they [the Lakota Sioux] had had a time-window and they could see the future … and they could see their kids committing suicide at the highest suicide rates in the nation … because they were hopeless and they were a dead-end society — which is what is happening now — they would have fought a lot harder.”
As the interview resurfaced in recent weeks, many took offence to Cameron’s suggestion that the Lakota Sioux could have fought harder against colonialists.
Spurred by the comments, Yuè Begay, a Navajo artist and co-chair of Indigenous Pride Los Angeles, took to Twitter to call for a boycott of the sequel, calling it a “horrible & racist film.”
Do NOT watch Avatar: The Way of Water
Join Natives & other Indigenous groups around the world in boycotting this horrible & racist film. Our cultures were appropriated in a harmful manner to satisfy some 🏳 man's savior complex.
No more Blueface!
Lakota people are powerful! pic.twitter.com/NmHVU565u3
— 🌽Asdzáá Tłʼéé honaaʼéí🌽(She/Her)🌽 (@asdza_tlehonaei) December 18, 2022
Dr. Johanna Brewer of Smith College wrote, “James Cameron apparently made Avatar to inspire all my dead ancestors to ‘fight harder’. Eff right off with that savior complex, bud.
James Cameron apparently made Avatar to inspire all my dead ancestors to “fight harder”. Eff right off with that savior complex, bud. And everyone, please go watch a real native movie instead of that badly appropriated blue trash. https://t.co/XndxXm3B1d
— Dr. Johanna Brewer (@deadroxy) December 17, 2022
Avatar was a White savior story at its core and James Cameron said the Lakota should have “fought harder” with the foresight that their descendants would all be suicidal. I won’t be seeing the new one. It does nothing for Native Americans but suck oxygen for itself at our expense https://t.co/A1Lp5rw66f
— Brett Chapman (@brettachapman) December 17, 2022
maybe donate the avatar money to Native communities. you took our land, then our children, then our skin. can’t you see this is *still* manifest destiny in action?
— Kelly Lynne D’Angelo ✨ (@kellylynnedang) December 17, 2022
Activists also took issue with non-Indigenous actors playing Na’avi characters, whose cultures and dress were heavily inspired by various Indigenous tribes around the world.
“James Cameron is guilty of favouring non-Indigenous folks to play Na’vi, and alien race based on many Indigenous cultures he appropriated from,” Begay wrote in a post on Instagram. “This is a form of racist caricature known as ‘Blueface’.”
Despite the criticism, the film’s commercial success is a story in itself. It also has 78% critic score and 93% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.