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Avatar - blatant ripoff of The Word for World is Forest

Discussion in 'Ursula K Le Guin' started by TedKeller, Mar 25, 2012.

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    TedKeller

    TedKeller Active Member

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    Am I the only one who thought that while watching a Vietnamish drama played out with the Naavi?
     
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    TedKeller

    TedKeller Active Member

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    And the other 50% were from Harisson's Deathworld, but that's for another thread.
     
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    pyan

    pyan Great Old One Staff Member

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  4.  
    TedKeller

    TedKeller Active Member

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    Geddon's Wall

    Geddon's Wall Keeper of the Hooded swan

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    From what I saw it was also very like an episode of Stargate SG-1, the name of which currently escapes me.
     
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    J-Sun

    J-Sun

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    Nope.

    But I think, as is obvious from the posts on this thread, it sounds like it's just generally derivative and uninventive rather than a specific ripoff of any one thing, but I still haven't seen it, so still don't know. I don't mind Cameron's thievery any more than Lucas' or Tarantino's when it's in a good cause (and comes from a good source), but Avatar just doesn't appeal to me and I don't like "WFWIF" any more, either. Maybe they'll show it on network TV sometime.
     
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    As I've noted before, this isn't unusual with Cameron (and, for that matter, Hollywood in general)*, who takes a lot of elements in his films from sff he read and mashes them together. I wouldn't have that much of a problem with it if: a) he tended to give credit to the influence of these writers by name; b) the stories weren't promoted as so "fresh" and "original"; and c) the "borrowed" elements were less blatant. All writers, directors, artists, etc., are influenced by the things they've read and seen to one degree or another; it is just the lack of respect for the original writers which bugs me....

    *Harlan Ellison recounts some interesting examples of this tendency in several of his books; Moorcock has referred to it (see Letters from Hollywood); and numerous other writers have given examples of it, at least since the early sound era.....
     
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    J-Sun

    J-Sun

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    Those are good points but isn't there a necessary hypocrisy for "a"? You have to be very careful how you acknowledge your sources or you risk being effectively sued (or, if up front, of having to license dozens of works at exorbitant prices). I think the lack of acknowledgement may fall under "plausible denial".

    "b" would be a problem - I don't read a whole lot of movie people interviews so I don't know how he talks about them - I'd give them passes if it was just the promotional departments/studios but I know Lucas likes to act like he created the entire universe. Whereas Tarantino does risk violating "a" by acknowledging some of his influences (though maybe only after he gets caught - I dunno).

    For "c", it'd depend on the frequency/proximity. For instance, I wouldn't mind Cameron swiping "liquid robot" from a van Vogt story - I don't see trying to "disguise" that ripoff by itself because it's a pretty atomic idea. But there's a lot more lifted from the same story for T2 and I will admit that gets pretty gratuitously blatant. But, as a reader/viewer rather than a pilfered author, it at least made for a great story and a great movie. But, yeah, fundamentally, speaking of "liquid", a creative person should do a better job of melting down their influences and recasting them rather than just breaking them into blocks and piling them up.
     
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    Aaron Stone

    Aaron Stone ...Enfyre Anwatter

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    If you really want to read a book that Avatar completely ripped off, utterly and completely, down to the last grain of an idea (Alright, not really, but I'm rather angry) - http://thebestreviews.com/review7562 - Manta's Gift.
     
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    J-Sun

    J-Sun

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    This goes back to my "generally derivative" point. Given how many things Avatar is supposed to be a ripoff of, I'm reminded that "stealing from one source is plagiarism, but stealing from many sources is research," or, as Pete Seeger has Woody Guthrie saying about a guy who might have stolen a song of Guthrie's: "Oh, he just stole from me. I steal from everybody."
     
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Not really. The note acknowledging the influence of Ellison's work on Terminator is a good example; it gives credit for the inspiration, without naming specific works, which could pose a problem. Another good example was the old animated Ghost Busters series, which tended to give a nod to the writers which influenced different episodes by mentioning them by name in the script (I recall mentions of Matheson and Jackson for one, Lovecraft, Smith, etc., for another, as examples) -- hence not only giving credit where credit was due, but even bringing these writers to the attention of viewers who might not otherwise have been aware of them.

    I'm not a fan of Tarantino, but if memory serves, he openly acknowledged his indebtedness to various works/artists. I feel he hews too close to the original too often (occasionally may be hommage; when it is too close too often it becomes copying with a lack of creativity). But, from my understanding, it took a lot of badgering before Cameron gave even the most general of mention of influences, as in "the sci-fi I read when I was a kid" sort of thing. It doesn't take that much for a research department to find the proper name; they have plenty of resources for that sort of thing....

    That's the thing -- a number of Cameron's films have been chock-full of such instances; Aliens, for instance, "borrowed" heavily from Heinlein's Starship Troopers, including specific terminology and characteristics. Somewhere on the 'net is a site listing such instances in his films... it's quite lengthy, as I recall....

    Don't get me wrong: I think Cameron does have talent; he can make very entertaining, visually arresting films. As an example, I am particularly fond of Aliens on a lot of levels. My problem is with the cavalier attitude toward the writers who created these things that Hollywood steals so blithely -- enough so that it is common knowledge that such goes on quite frequently. One of the most blatant examples which has come to my attention is the film Idiocracy, which is about as obvious a ripoff of C. M. Kornbluth's "The Marching Morons" as it would be possible to imagine: not only the majority of the plot, but large chunks of dialogue, and specific details throughout are at best very thinly puttied over to "hide" their origins; yet Kornbluth isn't even mentioned in the credits at all. To make matters worse, it is a crap adaptation of a very biting satire, completely dumbed down to the level of the morons the original story depicts.

    But, as has been said as long as there has been a Hollywood, to the movie business, writers are chattel; damn few are willing to admit that, without the words which those men and women put on the page, you might have some stunning cinematography and some pretty faces, but damn' little else....
     
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    J-Sun

    J-Sun

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    Not to disagree with anything else in your post but that credit was actually the result of one of Ellison's many lawsuits. If they'd put it in as "Thanks for your stuff, Harlan!" beforehand, I don't think Ellison would've stopped with the out-of-court settlement. :) That said, I'm not familiar with the animated Ghostbusters method - though that might fall under the "Hey, it's just a joke" protection that satirical works can get.

    I dunno - anyway, I'm not a lawyer or Hollywood person, so it's all speculation for me.
     
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    There are conflicting stories about that, and how Ellison would have reacted is, of course, speculation; but given previous instances where the influence of his work was acknowledged by other writers or media, and he was fine with that... I don't think it is a given he would have sued on this one. It was, from what I understand, the fact that Cameron allegedly stated that it was an Outer Limits episode ("Soldier") which was involved, which brought about the threats of lawsuit (which, incidentally, according to several sources, was never actually filed as a suit).

    Ellison is, of course, known for being a bull-dog about protecting copyright to his work, and for going after those who try to circumvent those rights; but he has also been clear on various occasions that if someone works with him (gives credit to begin with), it is quite another matter.

    No; the stories weren't handled as parodies or satires, but clearly based on the writings of the various authors mentioned, handled as adventures of the group (with the usual quirky humor associated with the film), but relatively straightforward. What you did have was people who respected the writers they were inspired by, and who had no problem acknowleding their indebtedness; not relegating it to the tiny print in the end credits, but actually having the characters mention them by name. As a result, they, in turn, have been accorded not only respect by the fans of such writers, but kudos for such an above-board handling of things as well.
     
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    TedKeller

    TedKeller Active Member

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    Robert McCammon's brilliant short story Something Passed By has this favorite bit at the beginning:

    "The doomscreamer had a loud, booming voice that echoed in the stillness over the town that stood on the edge of Nebraskan cornfields. It floated over Grant Street, where the statues of town fathers stood, past the Victorian houses at the end of King's Lane that had burned with such beautiful flames, past the empty playground at the silent Bloch School, over Bradbury Park where paint flaked off the grinning carousel horses, down Koontz Street where the businesses used to thrive, over Ellison Field where no bat would smack another softball."

    Can't get more respectful than that :)
     
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    That's a lovely bit of tongue-in-cheek atmosphere there....
     
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    zlogdan

    zlogdan Hex data reader and pawn

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    I had the book The Word For World Is Forest in my not read list until early this year. It happened that I started reading it just to see if it was good and I ended up reading it all. Since them I started quite disliking Avatar, since the atmosphere, the politics, the settings were all on Leguin's book. Besides the other works that James Cameron obviously ripped off to create that mess called Avatar. This had quite influenced my apprecation of Cameron's films, these days the only one I would watch is Terminator, all the rest lost my interest and enjoyment. Just need to clearly say that Ursula is one of favorite authors btw.
     
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    Hardlight

    Hardlight Science fiction fantasy

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    Just wondering.... what would be considered the first story like this, a tribal society resisting a high technology one. I think it also draws a lot more from the Zulu vs. the British in Africa.
     
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