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China: Bloggers’ Reviews of Avatar

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:

1. Orientalism?

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:

我想,假如萨义德老先生如果还活着,他一定会和我一样,当看到杰克被纳威人的公主救下来时,就会心中暗叫:这个该死的编剧,接下来难道你会让公主爱上杰克,并且让杰克来领导纳威人并拯救纳威人吗?

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 ?

从《菊子夫人》到《最后的武士》再到《阿凡达》,西方人什么时候才能改掉这种将异质文明视为女性,自己为男性,且一个无论如何操蛋的西方男性都会被一个地位神奇的东方女性爱慕的奇怪自恋呢?

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?

2. Environmentalism?

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:

男主角得是一个外星人,当然,他会是外星人的叛徒。在这部电影里,某个拥有高度文明的河外行星,由于那里的人们肆无忌惮地发展经济,他们的家园被污染得无法继续生存,只好选出一小撮人做种子,跑到地球来。由于贪恋他们的高科技以及地球人的同情心,地球人打算接纳他们并打算合作搞某一个注定要对环境造成巨大破坏的能源基地。

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.

由于科技越是发达人心便越是丑恶贪婪的缘故,这些外星人比地球人要贪婪邪恶得多,而这个外星人中的叛徒,由于某种原因,爱上了一个环保组织的女地球人,由于爱情,他幡然悔悟,告诉地球人那个能源基地其实会破坏掉地球的环境,于是,在他的领导下——由一个外星人而不是美国人领导地球人当然更容易让全世界接受——地球人与外星人发生了一场终极战争。

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.

3. China?

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:

他们赶走的和教育好的,只是说英语的地球人,那么十年二十年后,一定会有第二波地球人来,这一次,一定会是说汉语的地球人,按照真实世界各国发展水平,美国人之后中国人一定会来。那时,他们该怎么办?要知道,中国的文化里,可不会出现杰克这种人,不会出现《阿拉伯的劳伦斯》,不会出现“汤告鲁斯”的《最后的武士》。

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. 战争的第一要素是人,学习纳美人,要有必胜信念,不惧怕任何先进武器。
2. 纳美人的权力世袭制证明民主制度没有宇宙普适性。
3. 纳美人的集体所有制战胜了资本主义制度。
4. 关键岗位选人一定要把忠诚放在第一位,人类军队败就败在有个思想动摇的杰克。
5. 人类军队没有紧密团结在以迈尔斯指挥官为核心的领导层周围,出现了分裂。团结是铁,团结是钢。
6. 格蕾丝博士证明了知识分子的软弱性,不能过于相信。
7. 我国的拆迁相对来说,算是文明的,没有出动军队。
8. 对看第二遍的观众征收20%奢侈税。
9. 加大科研投入,启动省部级以上官员的阿凡达计划,需要强调指出的是:有益的唯心主义都是唯物主义。
10. 潘多拉星球是我国领土不可分割的一部分。

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.

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