Why Everyone should go see AVATAR

2010 January 3

by: Michael Parmele          

             So my wife and I just left the theater, having seen AVATAR this evening.  It was a pretty impressive experience.  The effects of this movie are really superb and, as advertised, the animators have finally gotten the expression in the eyes almost perfect, making the animations seem more like actors in make-up rather than generated.  But it is not the effects that prompt my writing this evening.  I could not help but wonder at the film’s conclusion how many people in the audience knew that they just spent three hours rooting for the terrorists?

                Now, we’ve seen this type of film before, from Dances with Wolves, to The Mission, to The Last Samurai.  The basic narrative of the film is familiar to us: the disillusioned patriot who becomes immersed in a foreign culture, discovering that culture to be nothing like the propaganda the hero is exposed to prior to his immersion.  At this point, I must warn people who care about spoilers that, while no specific plot ruination is here, an overview of the plot is required to draw my analogy.

                This foreign planet contains an almost priceless natural resource, Unobtainium, the main deposit of which is located directly beneath the largest concentration of indigenous people, the Na’vi.   The privately contracted mercenary force and the mining company it protects are ruthless in their desire to remove the Na’vi from their village in order to extract the natural resource.  The mercenary force and mining company go to great lengths to cast the Na’vi as savages, incapable of understanding basic economic law, and only desiring to kill the humans who have arrived on this planet desiring a peaceful exchange of goods and services.  Sound familiar?

                Unlike the American demonization of her enemies over the last hundred or so years, the Na’vi are actually 10ft tall, enormous, physically superior beings.  However, the demonization of this race is very similar to the “news” stories we hear about the population in the Muslim world: “unable to govern themselves;” “need a strong dictator to control their hatred;” “hate us for who we are, rather than what we do.”

                The filmmaker does a wonderful job of combining all of America’s historical enemies into the culture of the Na’vi.  From the meaning of the word Na’vi (The People, much like each Native American nation’s word for themselves), to the unfortunate location of the center of their civilization directly above the most important natural resource.

                Of course, as the film progresses, the one Earthling allowed to learn the ways of the Na’vi begins to realize the lie of the powers that be, and to discover that the Na’vi are a peace loving people who only want to be left alone and not have their ecosystem utterly destroyed as the Earthlings have done to their own planet.  When negotiations between the two species is shown to be nothing more than buying time to position military and industrial assets for the destruction of the Na’vi, the Earthling initiate chooses to side with the Na’vi and helps to lead an insurgency style war against the vastly technically superior forces of the Earthlings.

                For the final hour and a half of the film, the Na’vi  wage their unconventional war, fighting large gunships with arrows and whatever is at hand, ultimately destroying the ability of the Earthlings to fight and driving them from the planet.

                And this is where I began wondering about the audiences ability to root for the Na’vi, hoping that they drive out the invaders, hoping that their planet will be saved from the diabolical corporate/military hybrid that has come to their shores to ravage their natural resources and then, to go back to their lives in Annapolis, Maryland, supporting our continued military presence in Iraq, nodding approvingly when President Obama orders an increase in the troop level in Afghanistan, and buying hook, line, and sinker, the propaganda espoused by the majority of news media that we are in a war of civilizations, that our very way of life is threatened, and that we were sitting innocently going about our business when we were attacked without provocation, undeservedly, and unaware.  Is the American people’s ability to suspend disbelief that refined?  Are we now able to sit in a theater and will the victory of a group of people who, if they existed, would be characterized as “evil doers,” “terrorists,” and “savages” by our government, our media, and Christianity?  Can our fellow countrymen be so blind that, as long as the oppressed, assaulted people are blue and not brown, have tails and chipmunk like ears, they can be supported?  But when the same set of circumstances exists in our reality and the same actions are being taken by private corporate/military hybrids, flying the American flag, then those oppressed, assaulted brown HUMAN BEINGS deserve their livelihoods to be destroyed; deserve their families to be slaughtered; deserve their lands ravaged?  How is that possible? 

                So, for those of you who go to see AVATAR wishing to escape the realities of this world by immersing yourself in the dayglo palate of Pandora, please remember, you are watching the actual stories that should be on our nightly news broadcast; You are watching what the United States of America is doing with her perpetual military deployment across this globe; You are watching what your government is doing in your name; and, you are rooting for the terrorists to win!  Please enjoy your night at the movies!

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