It's about our community and our spirituality!

A Different Perspective

Is it too late to do a post about the movie Avatar?  I mean this special effects fest is the ultimate in video graphic eye candy.  Rumor has it that this film uses the absolute latest in three dimensional technology.  James Cameron, the show’s producer, helped to invent special cameras and had helped to develop special graphic software and was instrumental in having special supercomputers built all to bring this new standard in movie making to the silver screen.  The film employs a new stereoscopic filmmaking process that is being touted as a breakthrough in cinematic 3D technology.

The lead visual effects company employed as many as nine hundred people to work on this one film.  A huge server farm using four thousand Hewlett-Packard servers was used to do the rendering.  Rendering refers to the process of generating synthetic images based on a computer model.  The model is only a description of an object in computer code.  The computer code compensates for geometry, viewpoint, texture, lighting, and shading information.  The image ultimately generated is a digital rendering.  Creating the principal occupants of Pandora, the Na’vi characters, and making them appear as the bastard offspring of the Blue Man Group and the Thundercats is the product of more than a petabyte of digital storage and I heard that each minute of footage takes up more than seventeen gigabytes of storage.

Now this may be an oversimplification of the entire process, but the real key to the 3-D generation is the simulation of a visually stereoscopic perspective.  In order to get a true appreciation of the image being filmed, it has to come from two slightly different angles.  And although the angles show a slightly different perspective of the same thing, the two images combined will make a more complete picture than any single image alone.  By looking at an image from two different perspectives, a viewer has a better chance to see depth and develop a better appreciation for size and texture and order of the objects in view.

The people who dreamed of this film were trying to do something big and they accomplished it by learning how to capture and analyze and retransmit levels of data previously unimaginable for a film.  Nothing was too trivial.  The quiver of an actor’s face was captured and regurgitated as the fanciest computer generated interpretation of reality technology can buy.  All of this was done to add the most realistic and complete picture of what’s actually happening in front of the camera.

Now compare that philosophy, the one that the more data gained the more data to put together to build a better understanding of events or happenings, to the popular philosophy of simply ignoring perspectives that are simply too painful or too old or too whatever to add any worth to the conversation.  Instead of looking for a different perspective to expand on the image before our eyes, we cover it up or look the other way.

Hardly a day goes by before I get that standard refrain from generic America that I’m a racist because I am the one keeping racism alive and well by trying to give a different perspective on certain events that appear to be of a questionable racial disparate nature.  When do we see unarmed white people being shot in a hail of bullets from police?  When do we ever see white people being dragged out of their home for being angry at the police?  When do we see tapes of boot camp guards killing young white teenagers while a camp nurse looks on?

Day in and day out we’ll see our tolerance of racial disparity and allow people to chalk it out to white people being so superior.  Unemployment in the black community is higher because black people don’t value school.  Schools in the black community are inferior because black people don’t value employment.  The popular perspective is that the two go hand in hand and before you can do something about one you have to do something about the other, which is probably why it is a perpetual condition that we seem to just tolerate more and more.

A different perspective of the subject doesn’t really matter to a lot of people.  That’s just the condition of the black community and until black people want something different it won’t change.  Do people really think black people want cops to shoot unarmed black people for walking down the street?  I’m pretty sure you’ll get a unanimous vote from unarmed black people who’ve been shot by police that they’d like to see something a little different.

But that’s the type of thinking that might give a better view on the situation at hand.  And that type of view really isn’t something a lot of Americans would like to see.  Not unless somebody like James Cameron does a special movie about the condition of the black community and how it is being overrun by a people who could not care less about the damage being done to the black community’s environment.  Instead of using those four thousand servers to make all the details in the fantastic land of Pandora, maybe he could’ve done something a little more close to home like what’s in the black community.

But then again, for Mr. Cameron to even see the black community he might need a new perspective that just isn’t in his purview at the moment.  Mr. Cameron could use his vivid imagination to paint a picture of abuse and neglect and conflict a couple centuries into the future and a few light years on the other side of the moon.  But based on his choice to limit his perspective, he’d probably be hard pressed to recognize anything resembling that type of abuse and neglect in the black community.

Monday, February 22, 2010 - Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Life, Racism, Thoughts


  1. True, but why should we as Black people look to, or expect James Cameron to take up our cause!? If you look at the storyline of Avatar itself (I’ve seen it twice), it is one more of a long line of movies where the “White man” becomes the saviour of the primitive races, albeit against his own kind. It’s a formula that works for the dominant society, from the first Tarzan movie. It reinforces their addictive superiority complex, while at the same time soothes their conscience and even better for them, it makes money!

    That being said, I understand the power that someone like Cameron has within the hollywood machine, where if he did make a movie about the abuse and neglect directed at the Black community, it would certainly get enormous media attention and some discussion. Then what? Would anything really change for Black people? Sure, he would get a couple of awards, maybe even an NAACP Image award, maybe a BET award, Essence award… and maybe like Spielberg (who made Amistad, a favorite of mine, and The Color Purple), he’ll adopt a couple of Black kids. (lol! okay I’m being facetious!)

    I’m of two minds on this… however ultimately I’d rather we tell our own stories from our perspective. I’d rather Spike Lee do a biopic on Malcolm X rather than Norman Jewison (wo did an excellent job directing “A Soldier’s Story”), who was first slated to make a movie on Malcolm’s life. I’d rather have a Denzel produced and directed films such as “The Great Debaters and “Antwone Fisher”, than Spielberg’s “Amistad” and “Color Purple”. But then again, we have the Oprah Winfrey produced film “Precious”, with a predominately Black cast and a Black director. Is this the type of movie we want to be seen as representating our issues? How many Black people (or even White) do you know who went to see the last Spike Lee joint, “Miracle at St. Anne”, his World War 2 film about an all Black division fighting in Italy? Did you see it? Especially after his war of words with Clint Eastwood about the invisibility of Black soldiers in his WW2 films.

    I don’t want to keep rambling here, but at the end of the day, hollywood is about business, making money. Whatever appeals to the dominant cultures’ psyche (which the majority of Black people have internalized) will get made, because it fills the seats in the theatre and ensures DVD and Blue Ray sales. Sure they’ll produce a few films by us, about us, but that’s more about the illusion of inclusiveness and most important for them, a tax write off.


    Comment by asabagna | Tuesday, February 23, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback asa,

      But neither James Cameron nor Avatar is the real issue of the post. The issue is how many of us chose to see issues from a single perspective that does not allow for the examination of the other side of the proverbial coin. It would be nice if someone like Mr. Cameron would take up a story from a black perspective. But even when that attempt is made, for example Steven Spielberg’s portrayal of black people in the Color Purple, it can fall miserably short. Why? Because even the story of black people told by white people comes from a narrow perspective that refuses to, or is incapable of, understanding the issue from black people’s perspective.

      As far as we telling our own story, what black director/producer/writer gets that privilege without the interference of someone who feels that the black story or the black characters just aren’t black enough? One of my favorite scenes in moviedom comes from the movie Crash when the black director, played by Terrence Howard is told by Tony Danza’s character that he should reshoot the scene because the black actor speaks too well and isn’t black enough. Or the scene in Bamboozled when the executive played by Michael Rappaport tells Daman Wayans character that a black man doesn’t know what being black means. WTF?

      One of the finest examples of what happens when black people start doing for themselves is the rap genre. In its original form, the music could be very positive for the black community at best. At worst, it was benign with somebody singing about going to a friend’s house and eating somebody’s horrible mash potatoes that tasted like wood. That was back when it was relatively simple and a much more accurate portrayal of the black community. Now, rap has been bastardized into genre that focuses on the most extreme cases of sociopathic behaviors of a minority of black people, conditioning people in the black community that such antisocial behavior is some kind of norm for black people. And the people who earn the most money from this negative portrayal of life in the urban black community just so happens to be the record industry that is overwhelmingly controlled by people from the white community.

      And yes at the end of the day Hollywood is about business. No one says otherwise. And that is one perspective. But another perspective is that it is a business that reflects the racial disparity that negatively impacts the black community. But then again, anytime we are talking about anything with a sole focus on getting paid, the black community in general will suffer.


      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Tuesday, February 23, 2010 | Reply

  2. Yes, thank you! This article is a help to me and my efforts to explain to my fellow white guys the problems with the recycled “White guy as savior” storyline of Avatar, and of trying to get them to look past our own privileged status (and we white guys /are/ privileged, like it or not) in general.
    In fact, very recently I was in a conversation where a white friend of mine (most of my friends are white, really) was talking about being in a crowd of mostly black people at a movie theater, and feeling distinctly unwelcome. I told him, “Dude, imagine feeling that way pretty much every day.” I’m not sure I was able to get him to see the different perspective, but I hope.
    Thanks for this post. Thanks for all your posts, really.

    Comment by Jeff | Thursday, February 25, 2010 | Reply

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