Should U.S. troops pull a Michelle Rodriguez (Trudy Chacon in 'Avatar')?


Michelle Rodriquez as Trudy Chacon in 'Avatar'

It definitely seems morally right to side with the colonized against the colonizer and preemptive invader, the U.S. and the Western invaders now so nakedly aggressively imperialist toward the third world. NGOs' feeble cover stories notwithstanding, poor people and poor countries are there for the rich and powerful to exploit, otherwise they are ignored.

But much much better never to join the military as it is now, and I think 'Avatar' can be an impactful as hell anti-recruitment propaganda video for U.S. high school kids. You really don't want to join the corporate mercenary imperial shock troops burning down and blowing up native villages and all inside. Those are the bad guys, the assholes, the macho airheads, not the heroes.

But, the above interpretation of U.S. military conduct in the world, though the obvious one, requires wide social support, by you and me, especially all over the progressive blogs and whineytopia. We must counter the huge corporate media lie, the 'our troops are heroes' bullshit. Make it so my army of progressive and left bloggers!! Talk up Avatar's anti-colonial, pro-resistance, anti-U.S.-military-recruitment meaning everywhere your blogging selves reach.

24 Percent, in Avatar And Anti-Colonial Resistance, explains Michelle/Trudy joining the resistance, turning her guns on her former mercenary mates:

The Na'vi . . . win for real, sending the colonizers - represented by the corporate-military alliance of Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) and the K.I.A. Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) back to Earth at the barrels of guns or in pieces. But it isn't just theNa'vi sending the invaders away, the scientific team (Skully, Dr. Augustine, avatar guide and science dork Norm Spellman (Joel Moore), their military pilot Trudy Chacon (Michelle Rodriguez) and Dr. Max Patel (Dileep Rao)) joins the Na'vi very quickly. There is no discussion of non-violent resistance or any real attempt to negotiate, the intellectuals - including all the women and people of color among the humans - show no hesitation in siding with the the colonized against the colonizer and shooting humans. By the end of the film we have a clear division between the white male capitalist imperialists fighting ruthlessly for profit and everyone else siding with the indigenous Na'vi fighting to save their homeland. The best line in the movie is when Quaritch says to Skully in the heat of battle, "How does it feel to be a traitor to your race?" The film's answer is: Great! In this way, Trudy is perhaps the most interesting character. She's a member of the military, but through her contact with the scientists gains empathy for the Na'vi. She refuses to fire missiles at the natives' home, this is according to the traditional script. But what isn't is when she rapidly turns her guns on her fellow soldiers. There's no discussion of how she knows the men on the other side and has served with them, nothing about their wives and kids. She dies in combat, and there was never a question of an ethical third-way.

. . . What sets Avatar apart is that it suggests a positive alternative to paralyzing guilt: becoming a traitor to the dominant race. Maybe the violence just makes for a crowd pleaser, but the fact that the movie ends with intellectuals and those outside traditional ideals of white masculinity joining indigenous people to successfully fight off an invading army of corporate mercenaries left me leaving the theater very happy.

More below on the anti-imperial movie of the century:

Rob Kall of OpEdNews:

The storyline is built around an evil corporation that has gone to this gorgeous planet, Pandora, where it has no problem killing indigenous people, destroying their most precious cultural possessions. The corporation and its military personnel act horribly, killing wantonly, destroying some cultural icons, threatening to destroy the most sacred place on the planet, comparable to bombing Mecca or Jerusalem or the Vatican here on earth.

Does this sound like what Blackwater did in Iraq? Does it sound like the way the US is attacking the Taliban in Afghanistan? By the end, the audience has been totallyoffended by the militaristic support of corporate greed. The audience has spent 160 minutes falling in love with the indigenous people of Pandora, then watching military neanderthals heartlessly try to kill them and their most sacred place, where their deity resides.

Comrade Kale (at the website of the American Party of Labor, which I don't know anything about, btw):

Avatar is very much an anti-imperialist film. This movie does its job properly--it shows the suffering of the people and the destruction they face due to the invasion by the humans. It correctly puts forward the idea that oppressed peoples have the moral right to violently rebel against their oppressors.

The relationship to Native Americans is simply the most prevalent example that can be seen, but Avatar can be related to nearly every atrocity of imperialism. Imperialism, the expansion of economies and nations through force, is the driving motive of the story. The humans attempt to trick the Na'vi into letting them exploit the natural resources of their planet, and when that doesn't work they resort to violence, a pattern that has been repeated many times in history. Most movies that attempt such a thing would end up taking a moralist approach and thus taking the safe path--teaching its American audience to sympathize with the Na'vi while refusing to connect it with real events--but Avatar does no such thing.

It does not show the brutality visited upon the natives as incidental, or disconnected from the capitalist-imperialist system which spawned it. It shows it as institutionalized and inherent in the system the humans have set up.

Here is plastic pals:

This isn't a story about being white or blue, but about following the path of righteousness. I don't view Avatar as another "white guilt" story, but more of the old "Empire vs Rebels" kind of story that is a slam against colonialism, regardless of what race is doing it. The fact it comes from a white director for a predominantly white audience means the main character will probably be played by - surprise! - a white dude.

In Avatar, it is not just white people who are colonizing Pandora; if you look at the soldiers during their conference scenes you will see representatives from many races. In other words, it transcends the "white guilt" story we've seen before and presents us with the simple truth that colonialism itself is about taking what you want from another group of people by turning them into your enemy.  You don't need to look back to the historical record for an equivalent; we are currently living one: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We now know that there were no WMDs, that the majority of the hijackers on 9/11 were actually Saudis, and that the main issue is an oil pipeline through Afghanistan, that the US has used torture. America and its allies are actively engaged in colonialism - it's just not as obvious as (for example) British and French imperialism was in the past.

A latinobro comment at above site, plasticpals:

It is amazing we are so fucking sensitive to race that no one even mentions that this privileged white protagonist is a poor, less-educated, handicapped ex-marine looking for some fast cash as a security contractor having just lost his twin brother. Way to overlook the obvious as we stretch in order to make everything about racial oppression. Typical knee-jerk bending-backwards hyper-sensitive American racism that continues to shamelessly milk White Guilt.

James Cameron himself:

So certainly it is about imperialism in the sense that the way human history has always worked is that people with more military or technological might tend to supplant or destroy people who are weaker, usually for their resources. . . . We're in a century right now in which we're going to start fighting more and more over less and less. The population ain't slowin' down, oil will be depleted - we don't have a great Plan B for energy in this country right now, notwithstanding Obama's attempts to get people to focus on alternative energy. We've had eight years of the oil lobbyists running the country.

Adam Cohen in the New York Times (but note that the mainstream corporate press never specifies how the movie evokes what the U.S. is doing and has done to Afghanistan or Iraq):

The plot is firmly in the anti-imperialist canon, a 22nd-century version of the American colonists vs. the British, India vs. the Raj, or Latin America vs. United Fruit.

Underlying the political message is the running theme of the importance of seeing clearly. "Avatar" opens with the hero's eye snapping open. The movie's title comes from a bit of visual deception. The mining company has developed avatars -- part-human, part-Na'Vi bodies -- that allow its employees to appear more like the natives and help them in winning the Na'Vis' trust.

The central love story reaches its culmination with the lovers declaring, "I see you." The movie's ending, which I will not give away here, brilliantly drives home, one last time, the importance of how one sees things.

The ability to see Pandora's natives for who they are is the movie's moral touchstone. The company's shock troops, who have not seen the Na'Vi up close, view them as nothing more than an impediment to the extraction of ore. When the inevitable battle begins, one employee refers to them as roaches. The two human characters who live among the Na'Vi undergo conversions and come to realize the importance of respecting them and their way of life.

All of this draws on a well-known principle of totalitarianism and genocide -- that it is easiest to oppress those we cannot see. This is one reason the Nazis pushed Jews into ghettos, and one reason that the worst Soviet abuses occurred in far-off gulags.

The movie's rich 3-D technology allows the audience to feel that it has lived among the Na'Vi as well. Through this immersion experience, we undergo the same kind of moral education as the characters who lived with the Na'Vi. The friend I saw "Avatar" with wondered aloud, a bit too optimistically, if people would be able to think of the battles between the developed world and indigenous peoples the same way after seeing this movie.

Even Mr. Insightful, David Walsh of WSWS, who generally dislikes the film, admits that

. . . one of the elements that carries some power is the presentation of the mercenary armed forces in their attack mode. Some water has flowed under the bridge since 1997. Clearly, Cameron is bringing to bear feelings and images generated by the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. (He reportedly dropped his application for American citizenship after the election of Bush in 2004.) The scenes of the brutal ground and aerial assault on the virtually defenseless Na'Vi are chilling and convincing.


Michelle on her side

Tags: 'Avatar', imperialism, Michelle Rodriguez, Trudy Chacon, U.S. Military (all tags)

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