By: Marlee Kostiner
It’s the fierce biggest movie of the year, filled with fantasy, romance and subtext relating to the environment and corporate greed. But that’s not all Avatar has to offer. I’m not talking about the fact that it has the best graphics or plot.Avatar is full of strong, inspiring women. I’m willing to bet that many viewers didn’t even notice. I know I didn’t.
When you walk out of the theatre, the presence of strong, capable and independent women doesn’t stand out because the characters fit into the plot of the movie like puzzle pieces.
The story and the visuals never compete against each other for attention. The film encompassed so many underlying messages that somehow managed not to overwhelm the plot. The concept that the human race is continually destroying Mother Nature due to corporate greed is a biggie. But the fact that all of the main female characters were strong women portrayed as heroes as opposed to victims, fit seamlessly into the storyline and didn’t seem like a new concept, something that is rare in mainstream films.
A key character in the film is Dr. Grace Augustine, played by Sigourney Weaver. Grace is the avatar program’s science lead, and the reason she’s interested in Pandora is to learn about its wealth, but unlike the military leaders, she isn’t referring to money. She is fascinated by all of the life forms on Pandora. She is strong and quick-witted. She doesn’t take shit from anyone. When she arrived on Pandora, she opened schools to teach the Na’vi children English. She is tough when it comes to her science, but when she links to her avatar and is with the people, it is as if she melts. She is warm and caring in the most sincere way. At the end of the movie she sacrifices everything to do what she believes in.
Trudy Chacon is another strong character in the film, played by Michelle Rodriguez. Rodriguez tends to play strong women in films and she doesn’t let us down in this one. She is on the military side of things at the human base. The military chief’s reason for being in Pandora is to dig up a very valuable substance that is buried under the ground where the Na’vi live. It is clear that once Trudy realizes what’s going on, she goes on her own path to do what’s right. When she speaks in the movie, she has a strong personality. She is funny and doesn’t take life too seriously but no one would dare mess with her. She is good at what she does – she’s a Marine pilot. In one of the key action sequences, Trudy is supposed to help blow up the tree that houses the Na’vi people. It is a turning point when she is about to press the button and then realizes that she knows it’s the wrong thing to do. At the end of the movie, like Grace, Trudy also sacrifices everything to fight against the “monsters,” who ironically end up being men of her own race.
Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana, is a young Na’vi woman (Na’vi is the name of the blue people) who is angry that the humans are trying to take over Pandora, their planet. She is ferocious, strong, and smart. The first time we see Neytiri in the film is up in a tree looking down on Jake Sully, a human who “linked” to an avatar. This means that his mind is in a Na’vi body so he can explore Pandora and get close to the Na’vi people. By seeing Neytiri secretly looking at Jake, we automatically see that she has the power over him. She knows Pandora, and he doesn’t. The next time we see her, she saves Jake from ravenous dog-like creatures (really scary ones). Jake would have definitely died without her help. She is beautiful, powerful and confident. She is comfortable with her emotions, as we see her mourn the death of the creature after she kills it. She screams, she cries, she’s stubborn and she is also a warrior.
Neytiri’s mother, Mo’at played by CCH Pounder is the spiritual leader, “Tsahik,” of the Na’vi’s Omaticaya clan of Pandora. She interprets the will of Eywa, which is their deity, the mother of life. She has a crucial role in her clan but also in the film. She is someone that the people respect. She is very wise – tsahik actually means wise in Hebrew. She is firm but not unreasonable. She doesn’t have faith in the “Sky People” (what the Na’vi call humans) because they have not given her any reason to trust them. “We have tried to teach other Sky People… It is hard to fill a cup which is already full,” she said to Jake, when he told her that he wants to learn. She has a position of power in her clan and her opinions are valuable and respected. When it comes time for the Na’vi to fight for their freedom, Mo’at is right there with everyone else. She is strong spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and physically.
These four women are inspirational in so many ways. The characters speak for themselves. I suggest that if you have not seen Avatar that you go and see it, not merely to see four strong women, astonishing visuals or plot. One should see them all combined into one film that can blow you away.