On not seeing “Avatar,” “The Last Airbender,” or “The Social Network”

As anyone who’s known me longer than two months can attest, I’m a huge movie buff. Up until very recently, going to the movies was my weekly thing. Every Friday and/or Saturday, I’d hit up the local cinema, pay full price, and see a movie I may or may not like. So when I say that I’m not going to see something – that I flat-out refuse to spend money on it – that’s saying something.

Consider Avatar. Avatar has a lot of things that would be like catnip to a fantasy and sci-fi enthusiast like me. A new level of worldbuilding. Stunning visuals. Blue cat people. Zoe Saldana. Sigourney Weaver. Nevertheless, when I realized what kind of story I’d be getting (hey there, Mighty Whitey), I knew the only thing I would get if I saw Avatar was pissed off. Now, if the film started off from the Na’vi point of view . . .

The racebending going on in The Last Airbender was enough for me to say, “Hell no” to that shit. And I heard that the movie was a giant steaming pile of triceratops dung. Again, if I spent my money on this movie, I was only going to leave pissed off.

Are we starting to notice a pattern here? As soon as I saw the preview I knew I wasn’t going to see it. The posters and glowing praise from the expected sources (read: White and male-dominated media aka the mainstream) – all but calling it the the Citizen Kane of the 21st century – only made me even more suspicious.

First of all, I’ve seen enough The Rise of a Great White Man flicks to last me a lifetime. I do not need to see yet another movie telling me how unique and interesting all these rich, straight, able-bodied, White cisgender men are. I get it. Really. I’ve been hearing that same message since elementary school. Do I really want to put myself through that yet again?

I’ve been a nerd for a real long time, so Hollywood’s infatuation with wounded manchildren is neither new, nor interesting, nor meaningful to me. Geek angst is merely the most recent trend of it. There is no room in these stories for people like me (read: queer Black zaftig women). Once again, why would I put myself through that?

Then I hear about the fact that in The Social Network most of the women there serve as props for the male characters. Seriously. The writer himself said it. So basically, women are not characters in their own right. They’re in the movie to be “prizes” for men or to act as the conscience these men lack.

I should probably do a follow-up post about this trope. For real, why do women have to do all the emotional and moral heavy-lifting for male characters in so many films?

That did it. I’m not going to bother spending my meager disposable income on a ticket to The Social Network because it’s just going to piss me off.

What’s that, you say? It’s so well-made? The script is great? The acting was terrific?

And . . . ?

Some things are more important than entertainment. How about a break from the constant reminder that rich, straight, able-bodied cisgender White men rule the world?

18 thoughts on “On not seeing “Avatar,” “The Last Airbender,” or “The Social Network”

  1. Who implied that ‘The Last Airbender’ was the new Citizen Kane? I can think of only one mainstream reviewer who thought that it was worth its salt (can’t remember his name or find him online, but the guy also thought that ‘Transformers 2′ was one of the best films -ever-, so I’m not going to take him seriously).

    Otherwise, I am in agreement. I saw Avatar (simply because my ticket was paid for me in exchange for a rather unflattering review), and was bored. ‘The Social Network’ seems to be ‘look how we all got incredibly rich by being dicks’ hunkajunk. Will give it a miss.

      • Oh, ok. I thought for one horrifying second that someone had said that about ‘The Last Airbender’, and I was going to have to go to jail for GBH.

        I can sort of understand having that sort of thing on an advert for ‘The Social Network’, though, from a soulless marketing perspective. It’s not true, by any means, but it ‘works’.

        Still haven’t seen There Will Be Blood. Just doesn’t appeal to me.

    • ‘The Social Network’ seems to be ‘look how we all got incredibly rich by being dicks’ hunkajunk.

      LOL! So true! But the weird thing is that “There Will Be Blood” was sorta the same premise, but – I dunno, I guess it really hammered home just HOW evil an asshole Daniel Plainview was and the irony of the fact that because he’s an oil tycoon, life as we know it is more or less based on his, er, contribution.

  2. i think critics were calling avatar the citizen kane of our time. Even though i am in IT the social network is of no interest to me, especially when the guys are such assholes and sorkin himself said that the women are trophies and not really supposed to be people.

  3. People at work were baffled at me when I expressed a lot of disdain for Avatar, despite all the rave reviews at the box office and everyone wanting to see it in 3D. Like you, every single thing I saw in the trailer confirmed what kind of film it would be, and made me want to see it even less than if I never saw a trailer.

    The Last Airbender… Yeah, with all the racefail around the casting, no way would I have been interested.

    Before knowing that the women were only props, I was already uninterested in it, given what I know about Mark Zuckerberg’s (Facebook dude) views about women. Since I’m in the community management/social media business, I think people would naturally think I’m interested in this film, but it just appears to be a standard IP/law drama/gossip film, with added misogyny.

    When I hear about new films coming out, most of the time it inspires weariness because I know it’s going to be more of the same, more narratives about white men.

    • That’s what I’m talking about. People look at me all funny when I tell them that I have zero interest in some films – even if they fall within my “area”. After the D&D movie, I learned my lesson and skipped Eragon.

  4. Eragon?

    I need to set aside a block of time and post my full review of that movie. I did a Faceless Enemies analysis of Eragon, but that doesn’t begin to cover just how borrowed and boring the entire movie was.

  5. HeavyArmour I liked your reviews on faceless enemies and women of colour in sci fi as well as all the work you did on the original battlestar galactica

  6. RVCBard,

    Of course, you are well within your rights to not see a film that you think will make you angry, but I would just interject that, having seen the film, that’s it’s a portrait and critique of exclusivity and misogyny by a writer who has a long history of writing three dimensional human kickass female characters. In order to focus this critique, he creates a world in which (as he says in that Colbert interview) “women are prizes” and one of the most impressive things he and Fincher do is portray both why people find these exclusive, misogynist worlds so compelling/desireable and why they’re horrible and dehumanizing. That being said, it’s a difficult needle their threading, and not without unfortunate side-effects (i.e. there only being one three dimensional female character in the film).

    In a weird way, it’s kinda like Dollhouse, which had a lot of issues with being both a male power fantasy and a critique of male power fantasies at the same time, only smarter and much more self-consciously constructed.

  7. I should follow this up by saying that I totally think the point about not being reminded that straight white dudes rule the world (and not wanting to really go to the multiplex and get that nailed home once again) makes total and complete sense. But the movie is NOT about how awesome it is to be a rich douchebag, even though it has lots of scenes of rich white douchebags partying and making money.

  8. Aaron Sorkin comments on a blog about the misogyny of the characters in “The Social Network.”

    I never saw Sorkin himself as misogynist, and I’m fully aware of the fact that the world he creates actually exists (c’mon! I play D&D!!!). It’s not the presence of these things that I can’t stand – it’s the fact that these things require me to compartmentalize myself in a way that its intended audience (such as it is) doesn’t have to. You can, for instance, say, “Wow, Mark’s a fucking asshole. I’m glad I’m not like that.”

    I can’t do that all the time. It’s exhausting.

  9. I might be too late, but you might want to skip True Grit, too. It is a really good movie, yes, and the real protagonist (the person who makes everything happen) is a whip-smart 14 or 15 year old girl, who gets men to do what she wants through unyielding determination, not sexuality. However. The racist treatment of Native Americans was repeatedly and self-consciously played for laughs. It’s like the Coen brothers were saying, “look how racist these people were, but hahahaha! Lolz!”

    • The funny thing about these sorts of discussions is how easy it is to go, “Screw this” to a lot of stuff because of their fucked-up issues with race, gender, sexuality, class, and ability.

      Something I’ve had to learn how to do, as a marginalized person, is grow comfortable with contradictions. I can maintain opposing ideas and feelings about a particular work and still view them as valid. In general, I find that privileged people have a much harder time of it.

      Of course, the difference is that a marginalized person doesn’t really have a choice in the matter if they want to participate in society at all.

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