David Brooks Sees Racism In Avatar; Body Presumed Snatched

By Channing Kennedy Jan 08, 2010

File under WTF — David Brooks, conservative New York Times columnist, has written a column about James Cameron’s visually stunning, politically gross Avatar. That’s not weird in itself, but check this out:

“Avatar” is a racial fantasy par excellence. … would it be totally annoying to point out that the whole White Messiah fable, especially as Cameron applies it, is kind of offensive? It 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. 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.

Yeah, David Brooks wrote that. And the WHOLE COLUMN goes on in that manner; nonstop analysis and deconstruction of the post-colonial apologism and soft racism of Dances With Smurfs. Granted, Brooks doesn’t touch on the themes of ableism in the movie — the big happy ending in which Jake Sully gets ‘freed’ from his old broken body — and he seems just as mad that the colonists are represented as inherently bad as the natives are represented as one-dimensionally good. But by and large, he’s espousing our party line on this one. This is the same David Brooks who wrote a column called "No, It’s Not About Race" about last year’s town hall protests against ‘socialized medicine’; protests which featured many a poster of Obama with a bone through his nose. No racial subtext there, David! So, David — Good job! You understood and espoused some basic principles of intermediate-level racial analysis. Does this mean you get a pass on future columns? Hell to the no — now that we know you can do it, we’ll be holding you up to this standard, week after week. And before you ask: no, this doesn’t mean you get to be the new leader of our tribe.