WHEN: December 12, 2014, 8:04pm. (Week 50, December 7-13.)
WHERE: In my apartment in Portland, ME.
FORMAT: DVD on a 19” AOC LED computer monitor; digital download on an iPhone 3.
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Slightly under the weather.
Hey, so I’ve been watching Avatar every week for the last fifty weeks. It’s been rough going. It hasn’t been fun writing about the movie because, by and large, Avatar is not particularly deep. However, it would be wrong of me to imply that it is a film devoid of subtext; it’s just that what little there is is hard to talk about. Is it just me, or is that scene where Jake tames a giant flying lizard full of rape imagery?
If you’ve seen the film, you may remember the scene I’m talking about. Jake has mastered the ways of the hunter and is ready to learn how to fly an Ikran (also known as a Banshee, also known as those big dragons Na’vi fly around on). Having climbed with the other initiates up to the mountain heights where the Banshees make their home, Jake is preparing to walk out onto the nesting ledge when Neytiri shows up with a final piece of advice:
Neytiri: Now you choose your Ikran. This you must feel inside. If he also chooses you, move quick like I showed. You will have one chance, Jake.
Jake: How will I know if he chooses me?
Neytiri: He will try to kill you.
Jake saunters out onto the ledge and eventually settles on the Ikran who seems least happy to have him there. “Let’s dance,” Jake quips.
Jake lunges at the Ikran. He uses his whip to bind its mouth shut, and jumps onto its back. He is tying it, forcing it down. Making it submit.
Their struggle continues, Jake forcing the Banshee down, gripping it between his thighs, as the crowd of onlookers cheer him on. At their urging, he takes out his hair-braid, and overcoming the Ikran’s intense resistance, forces it into its tendril.
As he enters it, the Ikran’s eye grows wide, it stops struggling, and Jake appears to experience a sensation of release.
Triumphant, Jake snickers menacingly and says, “That’s right, you’re mine,” as the camera focuses in on the Ikran’s bound head pressed against the ground. Still spasming with weak resistance, the fight has gone out of it. Jake has exerted his power.
I personally get an unpleasantly sexual vibe from that scene. You? No? Perhaps this scene seems no different than, say, a cowboy lassoing a bucking bronco? Well, should you be of that mind, please remember: Jake is using his dick. They don’t use their penises in the rodeo.
How do we know that Jake’s USB Hair is, for all intents and purposes, a penis? Well, there’s its use in a sex scene that was ultimately cut from the film. Jake makes an undeniable O-face whenever he sticks it into anything. And hell, the first time we’re introduced to that wonky hair appendage, we’re also treated to a masturbation joke.
“Don’t play with that, you’ll go blind.”
HOW TO RAPE YOUR DRAGON:
Alright, so it’s pretty clear that the Banshee didn’t want Jake to do what Jake was doing. It also seems as though it was sexual in nature. Put those together and, well, that’s rape. No real way to get around it. And the moment you make that realization, the entire scene instantly becomes horrible. These are clearly intelligent animals with a complex social hierarchy. Along comes our hero, who corners one, ties it down, and forces himself on it, both physically and mentally. Meanwhile, his companions, and by extension the audience, cheer him on, as though someone has painted the cast of The Accused blue.
Oh, it also bears noting that capturing an Ikran is the final test Jake must pass to become a respected member of the clan. Yes, that’s right, in the world of Avatar, you must rape to become a man.
Whelp, there that is, and it’s pretty terrible. Avatar has one scene peppered with overt overtones of sexual assault. Is that the end of it? Of course not! That scene has weird little implications that proceed to snake their way into other areas of the film.
“THIS WOMAN MUST ALSO CHOOSE ME”:
Okay, so remember how right before stepping out onto the nest ledge, Neytiri tells Jake that once he chooses a Banshee, it must also choose him? Hey, that kind of sounds like she’s advocating consent! Hooray! Oh, hold on a sec, in the next line Neytiri says that the Ikran will express its choice by trying to kill him. The Na’vi, it would seem, have a really fucked-up version of consent.
Jump forward to Jake and Neytiri’s rendezvous in the grove. Neytiri announces that Jake, as a newly minted member of the tribe, may now choose a woman. Jake implies that he’s already picked Neytiri, but then creepily echos her earlier words by saying, “this woman must also choose me.”
“Aww, how sweet. He thinks falling in love with me is analogous to that time he raped a dragon!”
Their ensuing intercourse is consensual, but what if Neytiri hadn’t been interested? If Jake is going by the same logic they were using back on the cliffs, then Neytiri trying to kill him would also count as “choosing him.” And back on the cliffs, the Ikran just snarled at Jake before he started moving in, so would that mean that an expression of distain from Neytiri would equal “trying to kill” him, which would in turn equal choosing him? It’s the ultimate embodiment of “no means yes.” This is awful.
SO WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE US?:
Fuck, I haven’t even commented on the fact that that unfortunate Ikran is now Jake’s brain-slave for life. Oh, and I barely touched on the fact that by equating Neytiri to the Banshee, the film is, for all intents and purposes, saying that women are no better than animals, ready to be domesticated by a simple (and forceful if necessary) insertion of a hair-dick. The ripples of shit spreading out from that one scene are really too extensive to fully cover here. Pretty goddamn uncool, Avatar.
I guess I just find it immensely disturbing that a scene where the protagonist straps down and forces what is ostensibly his sexual organ into an unwilling victim, then walks away laughing at the thrill of it, has been so smoothly inserted into the highest grossing film of all time. Sometimes I wonder if maybe this scene is intended as some sort of commentary that I am simply not reading properly. (Is it an analogy for how the Na’vi brutalize nature as much as the humans, perhaps?) But every time, I come up without any evidence for some deeper meaning. This is just another scene where Jake does something exciting that the audience gets to vicariously experience.
So where does that leave us? Is Avatar a movie where a scene full of rape imagery is flippantly played off as an adventurous good time?
I guess so.