James Cameron’s blockbuster, Avatar, was released in China on 2 January 2010, two weeks later than the rest of the world. It is proving popular among the Chinese people. Apart from praising the 3D and special effects, Chinese people also link the story to a controversial social issue in China: forced demolition. chinaSMACK has translated some reactions from netizens. EastSouthWestNorth also contains reactions by some famous Chinese people.
Some popular bloggers in China have also written film reviews on Avatar. In particular, Huang Zhangjin (黄章晋) provides us some interesting perspectives:
In the film, the indigenous race Na’vi on planet Pandora has to be rescued by Jake, a paraplegic former marine of the human race. Huang argues this is yet another evidence of Eurocentrism prevalent in western films:
I believe if Edward Said is still alive, when he sees that Jake is saved by the princess of Na’vi, he would think: this damn screenwriter! Are you not going to let the princess fall in love with Jake, and let Jake rescue the Na’vi ?
From Madame Chrysanthème to Last Samurai to Avatar, when could Westerners stop seeing foreign cultures as female and themselves as male? And when could they stop the cross-cultural narcissism that, no matter how unsuccessful the Western man is, he will be loved by the Oriental woman?
Nevertheless, Huang sees the film as a great effort to spread environmental protection, especially it is shown right after the failed Copenhagen summit. But he thinks the impact could be bigger if the plot is changed:
The main male character has to be from another planet. He is a traitor of his highly civilized planet, where uncontrolled development has destroyed their planet to the point where they could no longer live there. They send a few of them to Earth to continue their species. Because we, the human beings, are sympathetic but also eye their high technology, we decided to start a high-tech energy project which will destroy planet Earth.
The more advanced the technology, the greedier you become. These foreign species would therefore be more evil than human beings. But among them there is this traitor, who, due to various reasons, falls in love with a female human working in an environmental NGO. Because of love, he revealed to human beings that the energy project would destroy Earth. Under his leadership (that it is led by an alien but not an American would be more acceptable to the world), human beings fight against the aliens in an ultimate war.
How would the story be if there is a next episode? Good wins over evil, and nature wins over greed. But Huang reckons that the victory for the Na’vi could be short-lived:
The Na’vi only drove away the English speaking human beings. After one or two decades, there must be another wave of intruders. This time, they will be Chinese speaking, which is in accordance with the current pace of development of different nations. What should the Na’vi do then? We have to know that, in Chinese culture, there will be no one like Lawrence of Arabia or Last Samurai.
So, it is important for us to understand how Chinese people think. In a funny and mocking tone, Lian Yue (连岳) writes a hypothetical notice released by a Chinese official after watching the film, which is reminiscent of the Chinese Communist Party ideology:
1. The first element of any war is human. Learn from the Na’vi, have a winning spirit, and don’t be afraid of any advanced weapons.
2. The Na’vi’s system of hereditary rule proves that democracy is not universally applicable.
3. Na’vi’s collectivism has won over capitalism.
4. Loyalty has to be put in the number place in any appointment of key personnel. Defeat of the human race is due to the irresolute thinking of Jake.
5. The human race’s army has not united resolutely under the leadership of Colonel Miles Quaritch, as a result there is internal struggle. Unity is iron, unity is steel!
6. Dr. Grace Augustine shows the weaknesses of intellectuals, which are not to be trusted.
7. Forced demolition in China is relatively civilized; we haven’t used the army yet.
8. Anyone watching Avatar for the second time will be subject to 20% luxury tax.
9. Increase our effort in research & development. Start Avatar programs in provincial / ministerial levels or above. What we need to emphasize is: useful idealism is materialism.
10. Planet Pandora is an inseparable part of our motherland.