Art as an Avatar for My Life
Reflections on the Film Avatar by a Veteran of the War on Terror
Dances With Wolves, Last of the Mohicans, Last Samurai, Fern Gully, or whatever you want to compare Avatar with, its all good shit. Avatar had some great new special effects. It moved science fiction to the next technological level.
Now for my personal thoughts. I didnt need to see it right away, at least when it came out, since the plot and the fantastic alien imagery is pretty much what goes on inside my head since i can remember. heh when it came out, i was too depressed by my real-life military vs pagan conflict, and was afraid the re-enforcing energy i would have gotten from the film would depress-anger me further into something drastic. As it is, i barely made it out without Hulking out totally. If i had been free at the time, i would have gone to see it with friends, hell i would have organized it. i was too drained… feeling better now though 🙂
5 years of tolerating military intolerance was a huge sacrifice for me, my ways were “wrong” and the more i expressed myself the harder it was. The ideas defended in Avatar were in direct opposition to the War on Terror and martial laws that i had to learn and practice. Now that i have my citizen liberties back, i can enjoy my life more through these movies that i like; art and life as one. I may have had more direct influence on the military from within, but i have a wider range of influence with citizen liberties fully restored. For example, James Cameron could not have made that film if he was in the US Military. Enough said.
As one friend put it “It’s really good, as long as you don’t think too much about it. :)” That recommendation works for the complex experience of Avatar. It works in part for me, because I DO THINK about things too much, often. As I found myself inevitably analyzing Avatar (as i knew i would), understanding the story and relating it to my own feelings; I realized just like in real life, I am most at peace and happy when i can just relax and enjoy the experience. As soon as i find myself not coming to satisfactory conclusions about certain points, its time to shift. Sometimes the only satisfactory conclusions on issues are the satisfaction that there is not much I can do about anything except to share my thoughts with anyone that will listen, in their own time. So I can just leave things out there, to share with others.
I think comparisons are ok, but i feel like while we get the messages about multi-cultural acceptance, there are perhaps not enough movies like it to counter the amount of population that loves to hate other cultures and praise military action above all else as though it was just a sports game. That is why i am not usually harsh on fiction that has some lessons, regardless of how ‘cool’ it is. I hate to say it, but for many people no amount of lessons about cultural sharing will be enough to stop Wars. I dont blame films for that. Films like Avatar may change the minds of some, perhaps, and for that they may help to avoid real life suffering, especially if the values get passed on. Entertainment has effects on culture, for better or for worse.
If I take stories too seriously, I blame Joseph Campbell. The fact is I like stories, and love powerful fiction stories very much because we can talk about serious real issues that we can relate to, without the trauma risk that makes non-fiction too personal for debate. So I will go into the issue progressive people have with the “White Male Hero”.
What Avatar has in common with Dances with Wolves, Last of the Mohicans, and Last Samurai; one “White Male Hero” is the catalyst embracing the underdog culture. It may be silly but that is the tool to engage traditional white viewers that would not be able to bridge the cultural gaps any other way. Sad, but true.
We progressives of course would be able to see a film where the aliens win, without having a saviour that is ‘one of ours’. In reality it often happens that negotiators and important figures can relate to both sides… being of mixed blood or simply mixed cultures. I do feel the “White Guy” character was over-used when Last Samurai came out years ago. An important detail to note about the “Last” movies, is that the last of the Mohicans and Samurai had figures from those cultures that actually were the “Lasts”; its just that they were the secondary characters. So it could be argued in those films that the white actors were not really the “lasts” and their importance in the plot was overblown for the sake of engaging a white audience.
There was a line about “this isnt some pagan voodoo” that bothered me, because it seemed to be negating the point of the film in relation to reality; in other words explaining that things we have dismissed as “magic” or “supernatural” can be scientifically or psychologically explained as having functions; so i would have preferred Weaver to say “This isnt pagan voodoo in the WAY YOU THINK OK IT”, so to me it was either bad writing or it was written as though she just responded off the top of her head, in either case it didnt support translation to real world morality or comprehension regarding different cultures as much as i would have liked.
Another problem is about the “leg challenged”, and Avatar seemed to ignore the fact that we can be heroes without legs or virtual reality avatars. Unfortunately Avatar does not take that problem on. So a miss there.
I guess im saying the “White Guy Hero” issue and other problems are like dirty bath water, and the other strong issues about the environment, ecosystem, nature, science, communications, non-violent conflict resolution, etc are the Baby. So we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water, do we?
So yes we should have more films with indigenous heroes. It was just impossible to go from the old school “We the Cowboys good, they the Indians bad” movies to “We the Cowboys bad, They the Indians good”, at least for a population made to say the National Anthem since they were kids, members of the military, or politicians etc. The message we want probably is NOT suicide. Right?
So of course we need to find a middle road in the real world, between Good and Bad, where 2 cultures can coexist without War. Ongoing War across the Globe is one of the great challenges we face, and minds must be opened to peaceful options with peaceful tools like film entertainment, video games, and other modern engaging forms of stories. More direct political or religious approaches often seem to have less effect on War than ART. We should not give up on Peace, and we must use all of these thought-provoking tools, despite the fact that the most important messages may be lost on many.
If you can make a better film than Avatar, do it. Or if you have something already that meets the most important moral messages for our time, name it. So we progress to the next level of evolution through cosmic awareness, let’s get it on!