Avatar: The Way of Water

Cultural Appropriation?

by Mariana Alvarez, Staff member

The movie, “Avatar: The Way Of Water,” by director James Cameron, has easily become one of the most watched films world wide. But with its increasing popularity, there has been backlash due to alleged cultural appropriation. Native viewers have been calling out the movie for its use of indigenous stereotypes. The fictional universe of Avatar, called Pandora, is populated by the Na’vi, and it visibly takes inspiration from different types of cultures. The problem that is frequently brought up is the apparent lack of indigenous staff and cast. “The film could have benefited from a deeper partnership.”James Cameron did not consult anyone when writing the script, so it appears he based it on his own views of those cultures. This oversight has led accusations of racism and cultural insensitivity.

Another accusation centers on the newly introduced characters, the “Metkeyina,” who are said to be inspired by the Māori. In the film, the new species has tattoos which are a very crucial part of the culture. However, the process of getting these tattoos is a sacred part of the Māori’s identity. The tattoos are not commonly done anymore do to the pain of colonization that the culture has faced. Having these tattoos in the movie opens up an opportunity for people to get these tattoos and use the excuse that it’s from the movie. The general consensus is that sacred cultures should not be used as inspiration for films.

In response to the criticism, Cameron stated: “‘Avatar’ is a science fiction retelling of the history of North and South America in the early colonial period.”