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Book Report: Dune

So. YHB watched Avatar on a 26-inch television with contrast problems, and of course no 3-D. Which meant that although I could more or less enjoy the pretties, for the most part, I had to judge it against other stories, rather than against, oh, videogames or immersive virtual experiences. Probably not ideal. Because as stories go, this one is not only unoriginal, but in its unoriginality it takes onto itself the offensive assumptions of the earlier versions of that story.

I’m not saying that the story itself isn’t potentially exciting: Noble Savages, riven by internal strife, reach their destiny when a colonialist goes native, combining their ancient secrets with his superior training and weaponry. United for the first time under his leadership, the Noble Savages rise up against their colonial oppressors, and succeed against all odds, as was foretold. Very exciting stuff.

The problem is that there is a tremendous undercurrent of racism under all that, and not very far under, at that. Many of the best versions of the story were told by racists—often well-meaning racists, mind you, who viewed this story as a rejection of the eliminationist rhetoric that was prominent in their times. If, say, an white American is patronizing the Sioux in 1880, patronizing is a lot better than killing them, and it’s important, when reading that work, to keep in mind that it is progressive for its time. It’s also important to keep in mind that it’s racist.

When somebody is writing the same story some six score of years later, well, that makes me really uncomfortable, frankly. Now, I am sure that some writers (film-makers, what-have-you) can do that in a way that doesn’t smack of white supremacy, presumably by including a bunch of stuff that explicitly rejects the notion that the fellow from the advanced culture is superior, and makes the natives better just by being so damned inspirationally good. Making the fellow an American Marine, on the other hand, not so much.

Anyway. The point is that, as I said at the time, the movie made me want to reread Dune again, because there’s just so much stuff that Avatar got wrong that Dune got… well, not right, but wrong in so much more interesting and enjoyable ways.

Oh, and I did not, in fact, reread any of the sequels, so that’s all right.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,