A curt note on the film ‘Avatar’

When Cameron’s Avatar came out, I could find no-one to go and watch it with.  The price of being steeped in Seattlelite counter-culturalism, probably.  Personally, I thought it would be cool to go and watch a mainstream film.  (I call this inclination counter-culturalism-squared.)  Anyway, when, months later, I was finally afforded the possibility of viewing it with a couple of 5-year-olds, this is what I thought:

“Avatar is awesome”.

That’s right.  And on this issue, I’ll take on any of you tree-huggin’ hippies out there.  (First, I’d kick your ass at tree huggin’).

Next, I’d agree that, yes, Avatar is a block-buster movie and thus part of the unsustainable capitalist empire etc. etc.  And yes, no trace of artistic nuance graces the leveraging of archetypes (good|evil; hero-stranger|chieftain’s daughter; etc.|etc.) in Avatar’s rather planar plot.

But consider which entities occupy the archetypes.  Consider the themes that Avatar uses to exploit emotional capital.  Wait, humans as the bad guys?  Indigenous rights, anyone?  Resource exploitation?  These are the issues which speak to the 21st Century’s global audience?

Sure, I’ll go out and say it out loud: Avatar is symptomatic of … of … the changing World Spirit, if you will.  The tide is on Our side.

6 Responses to “A curt note on the film ‘Avatar’”

  1. Joanne says:

    Heya Jelt: will the film influence the tide or can only some people – your side – discern it?
    Would like to watch this film, havent found anyone etc.

    1. Jelte says:

      I see blockbuster motion picture entertainment more as *diagnostic* of “the issues” (the ones that provide film-makers with emotional leverage) than as significant causal agents.

  2. Beth! says:

    speaking of films, have you seen this video yet:

    curious to hear your thoughts on it 🙂

    1. Jelte says:

      No, new to me, just watched it through your link. What do you think about it? What aspects would you like me to comment on?

  3. A Native says:

    Have you ever see Dances with Wolves (which I think does a better job in 1990 of addressing the themes you esteem)? I was not so pleased with Avatar as that I am quite tired of this story of a white man running in and playing hero to the natives. Avatar and Dances w/Wolves were so successful perhaps at least partly because some non-oppressed folks would like to fancy themselves as the hero too. I wonder would Avatar have been equally successful if the aliens alone defeated the humans (or killed Kevin Costner outright?) Would the white/human audience be able to identify and sympathize with this as readily?

    Can’t the natives ever help themselves? Oh wait, they can, Ghandi and MLK, Jr. did a bang up job. But then white man did not find those characters too savory at the time…

    1. Jelte says:

      I’m with you on Dances with Wolves! (But: come on, Kevin had to get a *white* girlfriend!?) Of course, DwW (i) didn’t have the global following that Avatar has mustered; (ii) had bad blue coats rather than bad H. sapiens sapiens; and (iii) didn’t hit the resource extraction theme home quite so hard.
      > would Avatar have been equally successful if the aliens alone defeated the humans
      Here, too, I think you are quite right – *no*, a version of Avatar cleanly cut along cultural/planetary divides would probably have carried greatly diminished appeal. (It wouldn’t have been called ‘Avatar’, obviously). But you have to admit it’s better than the old cowboy movies, right?

      If MLK’s or Ghandi’s or Mandela’s or Malcolm X’s visions had been mainstream then, well, they wouldn’t have been visions, would they? Was it not the force of oppression that, in several senses, made these men what they were and are?

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