Friday, January 01, 2010

Avatar - some impressions

We went to see Avatar at an Imax theater last night. Prior to seeing the movie I'd heard:

1.) It's an incredible movie, one of the best ever seen - great insight into racism, environmental issues and how we relate to them,
2.) 2 1/2 stars - local newspaper - spectacular visual effects - but weak, stereotypical plot,
3.) Blasphemous movie - which is strongly counter to "Good Christian Values".

In some ways the movie was all of these things and perhaps more. It certainly had an appeal to it as it portrayed the importance of us being "with" nature and respecting others. It strongly, strongly put down the Zenophobia and "might is right" mindsets that we can best see in our U.S. Government-Military-Corporate culture. It could be seen as empowering confronting "the establishment" and not feeling disempowered by the Powers one faces in activism.

The mythical planet and its people and animals were portrayed in an incredibly beautiful way. Watching the movie for its images alone could result in one feeling incredibly enriched. The "education" of the hero can show a viewer how our life realities are rigidly ethnocentric. We can see how important it is to understand others as they are and how they view themselves.

The movie also is "very Hollywood" in some of its worst ways. The "good" are stereotyped as "very good" and the "bad" are "very bad". While there are surprises and unexpected nuances much of the movie is Very predictable. Perhaps more troubling is the naive, limited view of how change is brought about.

A few allies of the "hero" join him in taking on the rest of the "bad guys" from whence they came. It is not difficult to see how well-meaning people could take from such a movie - if they viewed it "directly" how we can for example use technology to help "those poor people" in Africa or wherever. While the movie pushes an image of "respect" and understanding our ethnocentricity, it also has an underlying image of "we can use our knowledge for good" which is limited.

Building systemic change requires grassroot organizing and building support to avoid cooptation and insignificant change which doesn't help (much) and may hurt things in some instances. We need significant campaign finance reform in the U.S. and our failure to end corporate dominance infects us over and over again - as can readily be seen related to healthcare reform legislation. It is no coincident that Connecticut has major insurance company "strength" and that Joe Lieberman looks out for the insurance companies' interests.

The movie is certainly a nightmare for rightwing Christians who believe in "the Lord" and "the natural order" of both the environment and private enterprise. It does strongly confront these stereotypic views and indicate that we need to respect the environment and people who are different from us.

I'm glad I saw the movie! I'd recommend it to others. It can "help" in some ways. To me it isn't "the answer", though that is a next-to-impossible thing to have. To reach "the masses" the message can't be 'too deep' or in some ways 'too radical'. I'd give the movie either a B+ (if looking at it's weaknesses) or an A- or even an A - if looking at its strengths and beauty.


No comments: