Reproducing Colonial Ideologies in Decolonization

Reading Masculinity in James Cameron’s Avatar


  • Katie O'Connor Peer Reviewer/Copy Editor



Avatar, Post-Colonial Theory, Masculinity, Colonialism


Though James Cameron’s 2009 box office sensation Avatar overtly criticizes colonial capitalism, its conventional masculinist narrative reproduces ideologies that support colonialism. This essay analyzes the film using several post-colonial theorists to display its inability to engage in anti-colonial critique. In doing so, I outline the importance of considering the complexity of gender in literature that addresses colonial violence. Building upon the work of other scholars who have examined representations of gender in Avatar, this paper specifically addresses the masculinity of the protagonist, Jake Sully. Initially, I employ the work of Edward Said and Ann Laura Stoler to consider how the film reinscribes a stereotypical gender binary in its depiction of colonial contact between the humans and the Na’vi, thereby negating the intricate relationship between gender and colonialism. The paper then shifts to focus on the anti-colonial efforts of the Na’vi led by Jake in his Avatar body. Frantz Fanon and others assist in defining Avatar’s problematic appropriation of decolonization into Jake’s masculinity complex. This analysis determines that for creative works to consider colonial violence without contributing to it, they must avoid replicating dominating masculinity tropes formed within the contexts of colonialism.