Primitivism and Contemporary Popular Cinema
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This dissertation is a postcolonial analysis of four films: The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980), Dances with Wolves (1990), The Last Samurai (2003), and Avatar (2009). While previous scholarship has identified the Eurocentric worldview of early 20th-century ethnographic film, no book-length work has analyzed the time consciousness of turn-of-the-21st century films that feature portrayals of the colonial encounter. By harmonizing film theory with postcolonial theory, this dissertation explores how contemporary films reiterate colonial models of time in ways which validate colonial aggression. This dissertation concludes that the aesthetics of contemporary popular cinema collude with colonial models of time in such a way as to privilege whiteness vis-à-vis constructions of a primitive other. Contemporary primitivism works through the legacy of classical Hollywood style, nostalgia for the western film, the omnipotence of the white male gaze, and a reverence for technology.