The reasons why Jake Sully is not a typical character

In 2009, Avatar dazzled the public with its formidable visual section. But it was also the center of considerable discussion regarding its characters. Especially Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who was considered the umpteenth incarnation of the so-called “white savior”. The figure, usual in adventure movies, usually shows a man from a foreign culture who ends up saving a completely different from his own. An old trope in Hollywood that became traditional and is even part of great epics about social assimilation.

In fact, Sully was immediately compared to the main characters in Dancing with Wolves Y The last Mohican. For better or for worse, his effort to preserve the Na’vi culture, the center of James Cameron’s story, made him the object of analysis. One, moreover, that made it clear that Avatar it was a narrative that used colonization and the perpetuation of the wild native stereotype to support its premise.

The debate put James Cameron’s story at the center of criticism, despite its high ethical content and features of an environmental epic. But the big question was inevitable. It could work Avatar, or the universe that was expected to be created from the original film, without the perpetual idea of ​​a savior? Even more so, from a figure that came from a different culture, who was capable of showing himself as a symbol of power.

Why Jake Sully is not the classic “white savior”

Jake Sully doesn’t really fit — at least not entirely — into the old Hollywood trope. In fact, he reinvents it into more benign spaces and endows it with a strange imperfect beauty that is perhaps his greatest attribute. Much more when the general idea of Avatar it was — and is — celebrating a kind of ethnic relevance that is not part of a race, but part of an ideal.

With all his big and small problems, the character of Sam Worthington became a man capable of overcoming prejudice to be something more. Even in the simplicity of a script that did not sufficiently explore the emotional world of his main figures, James Cameron got Jake Sully to break an old stereotype. And if that wasn’t enough, also create a new one.

jake sully started his journey on Pandora without knowing exactly what was expected of him, what was the greatest demand of his responsibility in the human colony on the planet. Which put him in an ambivalent situation. He had no clear—not immediate—responsibilities, nor a specific goal. In fact, Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) makes it immediately clear that he is not welcome.

The scientific and military environment are completely separated in the argument. Which makes Sully a bit of a fringe, even within the human conglomerate. Especially for having a severe motor disability and being in the project Avatar due to his relationship with one of its members.

A wounded man in distant lands

Jake Sully doesn’t want to learn about Na’vi culture or Pandora. As a low-ranking member of the military, his mission is to obey and, during the early stages of the film, it is clear that this is his goal. He even puts himself under the direct orders of Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), whose mission is to rampage the native population.

Cameron not only avoided making Sully come across as a man capable of immediate empathy for an alien and seemingly aggressive people. He also highlighted the character’s loyalty to his race and his need to gain some benefit. With his physical disability as a bargaining chip to spy on the group of scientists, he accepts a dirty and selfish deal.

The character Jake Sully in Avatar

But unlike what happens in Dancing with Wolves, The last Mohican and other such accounts, Jake Sully does not claim to understand, save, or rescue the Na’vi. He doesn’t think it’s necessary to do it either. Even Pandora’s aggressive environment (despite all her beauty) is indifferent to him. She until she occupies an artificial body and she manages to establish contact – from the biological point of view – with a powerful habitat. One so far removed from all her appreciations and visions as to link a total idea of ​​life completely unknown to her limited experience.

How Pandora changes the way Jake Sully sees the world

Actually, what differentiates Jake Sully from the usual white savior from so many other similar movies is that your connection to Pandora is personal. The character discovers that the body he occupies gives him a completely redemptive and biologically different perspective.

So powerful that it changes your perception about your mind and individuality. Sully’s journey to becoming a Na’vi does not begin with her direct sympathy for the native people. It’s actually a total makeover that rebuilds the character as an observer and then part of a larger ecosystem. Complex enough to make her understand a measure of his own spirituality.

In one of the most remembered scenes of the 2009 movie, Jake Sully connects with the Tree of Life and Eywa. A complete and powerful shake up of his belief system and his way of assuming his very existence. That communication allows him to show the mysterious divinity the world from which he comes and what could happen if Pandora is colonized. The perception of Sully’s spiritual character and his moral growth drastically separate him from many other similar characters.

Avatar 2: The path of water

A reborn man who knows the power of the earth

By the time Jake Sully makes the direct decision to belong to the Na’vi, his inner transformation doesn’t make him immediately accepted. Cameron carefully avoids transforming his character into a hero who achieves enlightenment through the seizure of power. Sully’s straightforwardness in admitting that he “loved” the tribe and the planet is not born from a condescending perspective. At best, he is an elaborate construction on a portentous spiritual illumination.

Although, in the end, Jake Sully ends up linking his life completely to Pandora and saving the planet, it is not a heroic act. Not, at least, one that could be interpreted from the point of view of a man who saves an alien culture in a supreme act of kindness. Actually, he saves himself. To the newfound meaning of his life and, ultimately, to the total and formidable power of his understanding of his identity. A small but considerable achievement that James Cameron achieved by delving into the man as part of something much larger than his own existence.

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The reasons why Jake Sully is not a typical character