After being turned away on Saturday night Sam and I managed to secure tickets to Avatar on Sunday afternoon. The hype is warranted, I mean what an incredible production, I found myself swatting at 3-D bugs that seemingly hovered just in front of my nose. On the other side of the coin, however, the story line was at best predictable, but I’d go so far as to say it was trite and insulting.
I’m not giving away any plot secrets when I say that the story is the white Messiah myth wherein the white warrior finds empathy with his foe, switches sides, becomes leader of the “savages” and then leads his newfound brethren in an effort to defeat the more technologically superior, yet emotionally inferior, invaders. The storyline is similar to Dances With Wolves with one very important divergence: in Dances With Wolves Dunbar doesn’t become their leader, instead he’s just another warrior, albeit a very good one.
Cameron was politically correct enough to make sure that the bad guys were not U.S. solders but were instead mercenaries hired by a private corporation, so at least the main character wasn’t a traitor to his nation; he was only a traitor to his “race.” Despite this, the references to the treatment of the American Indian and our current debacle in Iraq are unmistakable.
The conservative right’s outrage over this film is understandable as it questions the right-wing theory of might makes right. I listened to Michael Medved review the movie on To the Point during which he stated that the fact that Pissaro was able to conquer the Incas was proof that sixteenth century Spanish culture was superior to that of the Incas. Pissaro was able to conquer and subjugate the Incas not because his culture was superior but because he had guns and steel – might makes right in Mr. Medved’s eyes. The former Soviet Union and Nazi Germany could have used – and probably did use – the same justification.
Mr. Medved was especially distraught about the fact that Avatar glorified treason, of course it did that was the point. When a warrior becomes empathetic to his enemy all bets are off. The system breaks down. If you see your enemy as something slightly less than human, as a Hun, a Jap, a Krout, a Gook, a Raghead it becomes easier to drop those daisycutters. If, on the other hand, we view our enemy as one of us, in other words feel empathy towards them, it’s almost impossible to wage war against them. Think about how quickly we went to the aid of those being murdered in the former Yugoslavia – white folks – but we as a nation did nothing to stop the bloodshed in Rwanda, East Timor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia.
Endless was is good for military contractors, what’s good for military contractors is good for the rich and powerful, what’s good for the rich and powerful is good for the Republican party. It’s no wonder that Conservative pundits are getting all wound up about a blockbuster movie that calls into question the idea that superior technology creates superior culture. I’m not even getting into the fact that Avatar celebrates earth worship pantheism - I can save that for another day.