I have not seen Avatar, nor do I have any plans to. I remember reading the lengthy feature about the movie and the director in the New Yorker, and that was enough for me. Anyway, Brooks has a great column in which he writes that Avatar:
rests on the stereotype that white people are rationalist and technocratic while colonial victims are spiritual and athletic. It rests on the assumption that nonwhites need the White Messiah to lead their crusades. It rests on the assumption that illiteracy is the path to grace. It also creates a sort of two-edged cultural imperialism. Natives can either have their history shaped by cruel imperialists or benevolent ones, but either way, they are going to be supporting actors in our journey to self-admiration.Yep. It makes for romantic escapism, as much as "Dances with Wolves" or "The Last Samurai" were .... Oh, wait, I did go to see those movies! I suppose I am older and wiser now. At least, I think so :D
It’s just escapism, obviously, but benevolent romanticism can be just as condescending as the malevolent kind — even when you surround it with pop-up ferns and floating mountains.