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James Cameron Explains How Avatar: The Way of Water Is a Feminist Film

The director's long-awaited sequel to the highest-grossing movie of all time arrives December 16.

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Kiri, a Na'vi teen, in Avatar: The Way of Water
Sigourney Weaver, star of Aliens, plays teenager Kiri in Avatar: The Way of Water.
Image: Disney

There’s been a lot of James Cameron in the headlines lately, all due to the fact that maybe the most James Cameron movie ever is about to hit theaters. Avatar: The Way of Water emphasizes so many things the filmmaker is known for, including cutting-edge special effects, high-stakes action, the idea that a sequel can surpass an original, and strong female characters.

Cameron’s past sequels in particular have helped define what a woman action hero looks and acts like: think Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Ellen Ripley in Aliens. Both of those women kick ass, and both of those women happen to be mothers. These themes are, unsurprisingly, a key part of Avatar: The Way of Water, something Cameron discussed with fellow filmmaker Robert Rodriguez—his collaborator on Alita: Battle Angel—in a new Variety interview.

“I was really taken by the fact that [Zoe Saldaña’s character] Neytiri hunts while she’s pregnant,” Rodriguez said, before dropping what’s maybe a small spoiler by adding, “And then you have one of the characters go into battle pregnant,” and asking Cameron why that was a choice he wanted to make.

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“Everybody’s always talking about female empowerment,” Cameron replied. “But what is such a big part of a woman’s life that we, as men, don’t experience? And I thought, ‘Well, if you’re really going to go all the way down the rabbit hole of female empowerment, let’s have a female warrior who’s six months pregnant in battle.’ It doesn’t happen in our society—probably hasn’t happened for hundreds of years. But I guarantee you, back in the day, women had to fight for survival and protect their children, and it didn’t matter if they were pregnant. And pregnant women are more capable of being a lot more athletic than we, as a culture, acknowledge. I thought, ‘Let’s take the real boundaries off.’ To me, it was the last bastion that you don’t see.”

Ending his answer, Cameron—a self-proclaimed fan of Marvel and DC movies—couldn’t resist pointing out that “Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel — all these other amazing women come up, but they’re not moms and they’re not pregnant while they’re fighting evil.”

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Avatar: The Way of Water arrives December 16.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.