Do you own a culture and everything else that comes with it? Based on your genetics, certain people might say that you do.
This is the basis for “cultural appropriation”: people who have particular bloodlines are essentially entitled to the exclusive rights to the products of their deceased relatives' work. Family trees don't need to be traced—corresponding skin color is sufficient proof.
This explains a film critic's review of the upcoming movie Avatar: The Way of Water – a.k.a., Avatar 2.
Rotten Tomatoes offers a summary: “Set more than a decade after the events of the first film, Avatar: The Way of Water begins to tell the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure.”
After movie analyst Kathia Woods, who had been interviewed by Buzzfeed, NBC News, Digital Spy, and the Philadelphia Tribune, watched the film, she was struck by something. She tweeted: “At some point, [we've] gotta talk about the cultural appropriation of Avatar and white actors are cosplaying as POC.”
“POC,” of course, is a reference to “people of color,” a term used in the present day to describe all humans who aren't Caucasian.
The Avatar characters involved—referred to as “Na'vi”—aren't white; they’re blue. And they're also not humans. However, it could be claimed that they're people if the word “people” denotes works of fiction.
Whatever the case, Kathia lamented the mess: “It's just a mess and so not necessary, and no amount of visual effects/CGI is gonna erase that.”
She continued: “Bad lace fronts/dry synthetic braids.”
Her approach is in sync with contemporary sensibilities. Look at some headlines from the past couple of years: “Adele Posts Herself in a Bikini, the Internet Flashes with ‘Cultural Appropriation’,” “Tom Hanks’ Son Gives Absolutely Choice Answer After Being Accused of Cultural Appropriation,” “Pulitzer Prize Dis-Honors: Racist Coffee, Hateful Milkshakes, and the Worst Bathrooms on the Planet,” “Gwen Stefani Accused of Cultural Appropriation in New Video,” “A Restaurant Goes Out of Business Due to Their Cultural Appropriation of Traditional Food and Their Racism in Trying to Change It,” “Dreadlocked Professor Says White People Aren't Allowed to Have His Hairdo.”
Rewind to woke film criticism: While Avatar‘s native characters are animated, real actors are behind their voices. The main female character is performed by black actress Zoe Zaldana. It's likely that she and her fellow non-white actors didn't steal the belongings of an imagined race. However, her Caucasian co-actors, it seems, were able to perform cultural appropriation by speaking into microphones and following the movements of iridescent, greenish-cyan cat-people.
This is a shame since the film could have prevented the issue.
Responding to Kathia's online critique, users appropriated some sarcasm:
“It’s true. It’s disgusting (that) James Cameron didn’t cast any actual Na’vi actors in a movie about the Na’vi.”
“Only nine-foot-tall blue aliens can play nine-foot-tall blue aliens in movies.”
“James Cameron didn’t even try to find native blue people to play these roles smh.”
At first, Kathia locked her account and made it private. She has since reacted to the criticism, changing her Twitter username to “Kathia Woods, AKA Woke Girl/Blue Advocate.”
She also posted the following: “I’m happy to come on radio, TV, etc., to discuss my advocacy for Blue people and how woke I am. Email is in the bio, and [thank you] for going to the site; traffic has been up. Wanna thank my new promo team, AKA the haters.”It's a great thing for her. Let's all hope that Avatar 3 gets its act together and starts running. There’s no reason for blue cartoons not to be played by other blue cartoons who aren’t those blue cartoons but are nonetheless blue cartoons. #DontAppropriatePixelsOfColor