‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ is contradictory about environmental issues


Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” is a gorgeous film but its production and promotions go against the movie’s message of saving the environment and preserving cultures. 

The new Avatar movie has already reached $1.17 billion globally and is predicted to continue bringing in thousands of fans into the box office with its stunning graphics and heart-wrenching story. 

However, as the film continues to get a flurry of praise for its message of the importance of protecting the environment, it also finds itself failing for many environmentalists and Indigenous people. 

While James Cameron is a long-time vegan and climate protecting advocate, some of his production and promotional decisions are getting called out. 

In 2019 Cameron made a message that encouraged people to “wake the f— up” when it comes to the climate crisis. 

Cameron and his wife have long found ways to encourage sustainability, especially in regard to food sources. The pair have been vegan and motivate others to do so as well to decrease carbon emissions. 

This is why so many of Cameron’s supporters were shocked to see the dolphin show for the promotion for the Japan premier of “Avatar: The Way of Water”.  

The act included performers standing on the dolphins’ noses, something considered extremely painful and cruel for the animals. 

To make matters worse, Cameron later claimed that he would like to be in the show and to also ride the dolphin, referring to the experience and show as spectacular.

Another clip can be found with Cameron joking about dolphin captivity, saying “I’m sure everybody asked their permission to be in the show.”

Japan has a long history of dolphin hunting, with many performance spaces often buying the appealing dolphins from hunters and sending the rest to be killed. 

The entire performance has been viewed as hypocritical, as one of the main points of the film revolves around the Tulkun, an animal that resembles that of a whale and dolphin.

In the film, the animals are hunted by the sky-people and killed for the serum within them that provides immortality.

This has caused many viewers to question, then, why Cameron would choose a captive dolphin show for the premier of the film given so much of its meaning. 

The film also faces backlash from Indigenous communities. 

The oceanic Na’vi tribe in the film is based on the Māori, the indigenous Polynesian people in New Zealand. 

However, despite Cameron claiming to base the Na’vi directly on them, he does little to provide accuracy with the facial markings and instead combines traits of other Native American communities.

Many indigenous people say that by combining tribes it promotes the idea that Native people are the same. 

While Cameron claims to have wanted to avoid the white-savior motif that many opposed in the first movie, many say he failed as Jake Sully, the protagonist, is now seen as the leader of the forest Na’vi. 

Other Indigenous people are encouraging people to boycott the film, after finding anti-Indigenous comments made from Cameron in earlier interviews.

Moreover, much of the cast is white, with the movie having zero indigenous actors. 

While some claim it isn’t necessary as everyone is turned into the blue alien race, others claim that the accents that they put on and the mannerisms reflect Natives. 

There is no denying that the new Avatar film is a stunning work of art that provides a call to action to protect the planet; however, there is also no denying that the production and promotions for the film directly promote the narrative the film fights against.

Sarah Elise Shea is a freshman English literature major who can be reached at [email protected]

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