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Hey Bro, Fans Have Some Strong Reactions To Avatar: The Way Of Water Already

Unless you are living under a giant pile of moss on a planet far, far, away you are probably aware that James Cameron's blockbuster "Avatar: The Way of Water" hit theaters across the United States yesterday. The online discussion has been mostly favorable, with critiques of the relatively thin plot and more than three-hour run time tossed in with mostly positive comments. 

The second installment in what James Cameron has planned to be a five-film arc also earned kudos for the stunning visual effects and its criticism of Earth's wasteful capitalist ways, but some fans are pointing out that a particular scripting choice is at best unintentionally hilarious, and at worst distracting. The comments on social media also reveal an age-related divide with regard to the terms that older and younger people use to address their peers.

Much of "Avatar: The Way of Water" centers on the children of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), as well as the teenagers of the seafaring Metkayina clan. While the dialogue seems to be one of the most criticized aspects of the film in general (via Rotten Tomatoes), the frequent usage of the word "bro" by the male teenage characters had many viewers cringing.

The Na'vi seem to have adopted the vocabulary of modern American teenagers

In the official discussion thread for the film on the subreddit r/movies, u/d407_328 noted, "Bro... I lost count of how many times they called each other bro..." u/ Mirrordomains jokingly responded by asking "u mad bro?" while u/ticketsfortwopod observed, "that's how teenagers talk. Loved it."

u/NurplePain was less gracious, commenting that the overuse of "bro" was, "My biggest gripe probably. When one says 'That was sick, cuz' I cringed kinda lol. Why do they talk like that? They wouldn't have gotten that from Jake, he is too old to talk like that. Seems like an old man writing characters to relate to a modern teenage audience, but it makes no sense for them to talk like that in that world." James Cameron is 68 and co-screenwriter Rick Jaffa is 66, so this user seems spot on with their analysis. u/WeeabooDude24 was more accommodating to the choice and wrote, "I actually loved that. That's actually how people talk. I'm 28 and I still start a ton of sentences with 'bro...' when I'm hanging with my friends." 

While not every commenter volunteered their ages, those up on more modern slang asserted that actually, teens don't say "bro" anymore. u/critmcfly wrote, "Bruh is the actual saying these days," calling Cameron an "old head."

The point raised about how the teenagers — both Jake Sully's children and Quaritch's son Spider (Jack Champion) would have even learned such language is a valid question. They do not have American pop culture to learn from, and it's a bit of a stretch to think that Jake would have been calling his own sons "bro" while they were growing up. Though that's not entirely out of the question, as Reddit user u/turntrout101 posited, "Well they did learn an entire language from a self-proclaimed jarhead lmao."

There are a few potential explanations for the usage of 'bro'

Even if Jake himself didn't instill the frequent usage of the word "bro" in his children, there are other possible justifications for its frequent usage. Jake isn't the only Earth-born being living on Pandora among the Na'vi. A few of the scientists featured in the first film, including fan-favorite Dr. Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore), also chose to stick around the planet in the wake of the first battle with the Sky People. Jake's children and Spider are shown to have a convivial relationship with these English-speaking humans, so it's possible they could have picked up on their slang over the years. That would also explain why the slang feels dated, if adults like Jake and Norm are their only reference for American culture.

Another potential explanation: at the beginning of the film, Jake narrates to the audience that he understands the Na'vi language so well that it "may as well be English," which essentially becomes a convenient workaround for the entire film not being in a fictional language with Papyrus subtitles. If that's the case, perhaps the English we're hearing isn't actually what's being said, and "bro" is a translation of a more appropriate Na'vi word. It's ... a stretch, and one of those confusing details that you should probably just ignore. One Reddit user u/TheOnlyBongo attempted to figure out what the Na'vi equivalent would be: "I looked up a translator. 'Brother' in Na'vi is 'Tsmukan.' I cannot decide what I like the thought of more if I were hearing it in their native language. Mukan, kan, tsm, or tsmu... I like tsmu. It sounds silly."

Regardless of whether you like or dislike the usage of modern slang, we definitely do not recommend you take up Twitter user @gonzowhomst on their challenge: "take a shot every time they say 'bro' in the new avatar."