Jon Jackson, Newsweek, December 19, 2022
Director James Cameron is facing allegations of Native American and Indigenous cultural appropriation over the themes and imagery in his latest blockbuster, Avatar: The Way of Water.
The follow-up to his 2009 film Avatar, which is the highest-grossing movie in history, opened this past weekend at No. 1 at the box office. Like its predecessor, the sequel centers on a story about colonizers taking over land from tribes. In Cameron’s telling, the colonizers are humans who need a new inhabitable planet because Earth’s resources are becoming increasingly depleted.
Also like its predecessor, the new Avatar film is being accused of using an amalgamation of the histories of various Indigenous cultures for a film that features a largely white cast. (Notable exceptions in the casting include Zoe Saldaña, a Black Latina actress, and Cliff Curtis, who is of Maori descent.)
Among those upset by Cameron’s film is Yuè Begay, a Native American influencer and co-chair of Indigenous Pride L.A.
“Do NOT watch Avatar: The Way of Water,” Begay wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “Join Natives & other Indigenous groups around the world in boycotting this horrible & racist film.”
Begay also said that Indigenous “cultures were appropriated in a harmful manner” to satisfy a white man’s “savior complex.”
Begay also wrote in her post, “No more Blueface!”
The term “blueface” emerged after allegations of appropriation followed the release of the first Avatar, and its use is similar to using the terms “blackface” or “yellow face.”
When fighting a legal claim that he stole the idea of Avatar, Cameron even said directly that its story came from Indigenous history.