Avatar 2: The Way of Water sparks controversy with the Indigenous community 

By Katie Bernardo

Movie director James Cameron of “Avatar 2: The Way of Water” has been accused of cultural appropriation. 

“Avatar 2: The Way of Water” is the long-awaited sequel to the first “Avatar” that was released over a decade ago. Once the movie was released and fans were reintroduced into the world of Pandora, some audiences were left upset rather than wanting more. 

Indigenous people have accused Cameron of using their history and imagery for entertainment purposes. This appropriation can be seen especially through the theme of colonization heavily present in the film where a white man tries to force land from Na’vi.

“There is a ‘fine line’ between celebrating a culture and appropriating it,” Cameron said according to The Wrap. “We had a lot of discussion about cultural appropriation. How much is too much?” 

Yuè Begay, a Navajo artist of the Nomadic People Clan, has taken the role of a main activist for the culture appropriation shown in this film. 

“Do NOT watch Avatar: The Way of Water. Join Natives & other Indigenous groups around the world in boycotting this horrible & racist film,” Begay tweeted. “Our cultures were appropriated in a harmful manner to satisfy some man’s savior complex. No more Blueface! Lakota people are powerful.”

After Begay’s tweet, which received over 47,000 likes, many others called for a boycott of the film. 

Begay’s view that the film is racist stems from the stereotype of the white man savior complex. In this trope, the white man liberates or saves non-white people from an enemy. In this film, the savior, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), is a human in the avatar of a Na’vi who becomes the hero yet again in the movie. In the film, the humans are the conquering force who victimize the indigenous Na’vi, such as when the humans raid colonies of the reef people in order to find Jake Sully and his family. 

Not only is the white man savior complex highlighted, but the movie is also accused of misinterpreting lifestyles of Native American and Indigenous people by romanticizing colonization.

 “It very much romanticizes the idea of what not only Maori are going through but many Indigenous cultures around the world and almost downplays the suffering,” Cheney Poole, a Maori from New Zealand, said to the Washington Post. 

As a result of this, the movie has additionally been accused of lack of indigenous representation throughout the making and production of the movie.

“The films have also been accused of cultural appropriation for the way in which they bring together disparate elements of Indigenous cultures in their portrayal of the fictional Na’vi. While ‘The Way of Water’ does draw inspiration from the Māori, Echo-Hawk said the film could have benefited from a deeper partnership,” according to Harmeet Kaur of CNN. 

Despite the hatred and controversy this film caused, many fans continued to watch “Avatar 2: The Way of Water.” Because of this, it is now the tenth highest grossing film in 2022, surpassing films such as “Top Gun,” making over $1.5 billion, according to NBC.