Avatar, Pantheism and vlogging

Merry Christmas.

For something entirely different (but you are still stuck with me and Greg)- we went to see Avatar in 3d. Amazing visually.

Of course, the movie wraps up a sugarcoated version of religion and politics as a subtext- which gives us something to talk about.
They even have a vlogger in the movie….
You can also read this article by Ross Douthat of the NYT to further add to your confusion:

“Avatar” is Cameron’s long apologia for pantheism — a faith that equates God with nature, and calls humanity into religious communion with the natural world.

via Ross Douthat: Hollywood’s religion of choice found in ‘Avatar’.

A lot of people will see this movie over the holidays, how many will draw parallels to our world here is the question.

Science fiction was always a place to make political commentary under the guise of fiction. Is Avatar just a movie, or a political statement?

Enjoy!

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10 Responses

  1. David Lauri December 25, 2009 / 7:47 pm
    LOL @ “Is Avatar just a movie, or a political statement?”
     
    Whether one agrees or disagrees with the statement Avatar makes, I don’t see how anyone could disagree that Avatar is indeed a political statement. You don’t need IMAX or 3D to see there’s a political statement, or two or three, in fact.
     
    BTW, you guys said you saw it in 3D, but did you see it in IMAX 3D?  I did and quite enjoyed it.  I’m a sucker for sci fi and enjoyed the depictions of future technology.  The plot, however, was rather weak.  Besides hitting us over the head with the aforementioned political statements (even if you agree with the statements, which in general I did, subtle this movie is not), the plot was predictable.  I don’t want to give too much away here for those who haven’t yet seen the movie, but I don’t think it’s saying too much to say that if you like happy endings, you won’t be disappointed by Avatar.
  2. jstults December 25, 2009 / 8:17 pm
    From an early American pantheist:

    TO HIM who in the love of Nature holds

    Communion with her visible forms, she speaks

    A various language; for his gayer hours

    She has a voice of gladness, and a smile

    And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
    5

    Into his darker musings, with a mild

    And healing sympathy, that steals away

    Their sharpness, ere he is aware.

    William Cullen Bryant, Thanatopsis

    Admiring nature as God’s creation is different than believing Nature is God.  Early American pantheism grew out of romantic idealization of the Noble Savage in communion with Nature; polite society’s  salve against the brutal reality of colonization and westward expansion.  It was a weak-minded pseudo-religious escape then, and it remains  so today.  Idolizing the Noble Savage’s devotion to Gaia is a diversion for an effete leisure-class that is uninterested in either recognizing the brutal facts of our condition or undertaking the hard work that solving our problems requires.

  3. Greg Hunter December 26, 2009 / 12:37 pm
    Ok, You are correct about pantheism, but the fact still remains that men and mostly religious men claim they believe in God and his Creation while destroying it or rationalizing actions taken to debase the creation.

    but I don’t think it’s saying too much to say that if you like happy endings, you won’t be disappointed by Avatar.

    And if you would like some realism and a much more subtle message about relationships and life “Up In The Air” is Great!

  4. Brian December 26, 2009 / 10:18 pm
    @DL, where did you (or can I) see Avatar in IMAX 3D?
  5. David Esrati January 8, 2010 / 11:08 am

    David Brooks of the NYT nails the “White Messiah” complex on Avatar brilliantly in this editorial: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/08/opinion/08brooks.html?emc=eta1

    Still- liked the 3d and effects-

    but- as far as a “worthy” movie- still think- no.

    Also heard a great bit on NPR about it as a derivative movie- bits and pieces of everything from the “Wizard of Oz” to “Braveheart” etc: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122261912

  6. Robert Vigh January 8, 2010 / 12:04 pm

    I thought the first hour was amazing. I had low expectations and the first hour that introduced us to the new technology and character development was really good. It was on par to be an excellent sci-fi piece. The 2nd half of the movie is a completely different story. It flips from sci-fi to fantasy with floating rocks, becomes annoyingly predictable and becomes the typical movie about fascism. I liked the article that DE posted as well. 
    Visuals are stunning. 
    In the political and philosophical realm it can bring a couple interesting questions to bear. 
    #1) At what point do we grant property rights? For it is about 90 minutes into the film that the natives declare this land is ours.
    #2) Since the tree acted to defend itself through supposed communication with wild life, at what point do we decide something or someone is sentient and able to declare ownership?

    Those are the best questions I could think of watching the film.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  7. Greg Hunter January 8, 2010 / 3:36 pm
    “White Messiah”

    The “White Messiah” complex is a Freudian response to the white man virtually wiping out every hunter gather society it has ever run across.  White people are guilty, they know it, but they make themselves the hero of the hunter gathers in the movies and it makes them feel good about not having ever done it when meeting “so called” inferior cultures in real life.  Geez aren’t we so altruistic.  But hey, we brought them the White Jesus, so it is all “OK”.  The White Man’s bible condones the same response.  You have to love it!

  8. jstults January 9, 2010 / 4:11 pm
    OK, I went and saw it (in 3D, which was very well done, not a distraction at all); the graphics are great; worth the expensive ticket just for the technical awesomeness.
     
    The off-putting thing about the plot that wasn’t mentioned by either of the linked reviews was the anti-intellectualism; which is pretty standard fare in American entertainment, so I guess it doesn’t even merit comment any more?  The hero’s early Will-Smith-style “who’s your daddy” comments made it pretty hard to do anything but smirk at his later speeches.  Maybe this is meant to show his growth as a character, but it just didn’t work for me.
     
    Feel good pseudo-religion plus anti-intellectualism and a big explosive finale; Cameron certainly has the American blockbuster formula nailed down tight.  The first thing I thought after it was over was “Fern Gully meets Pickett’s Charge”, except in this version the idiot leading the charge against the superior firepower is victorious, and there’s little recognition of the tragic cost of such tactical stupidity, err, I mean, courageous ass kicking (contrast this with the great show of sadness when the leading lady had to kill a couple feral dogs early on).
     
    Avatar: Nature, red in tooth and claw, unless you are blue
  9. David Lauri January 9, 2010 / 11:11 pm
    The Movie Club” on Slate.com that just wrapped up a discussion of 2009’s movies has lots of good commentary on Avatar and Cameron. Well worth reading just for that alone, it’s also a great way to learn about the movies from 2009 besides Avatar that you might want to queue up (or stream) on Netflix.

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