The Avatar Blues

avatar-movie-posterBy now most of you have seen James Cameron’s blockbuster movie, AVATAR.
The night I saw it I knew this movie would strike a chord with large audiences worldwide. I tweeted that anyone who saw the movie was going to want to live on Pandora, the home planet of the 10-foot tall, blue skinned Na´vi.

The Na´vi people are tall, thin, tribal, handsome and fiercely brave. Pandora, their planet, is as beautiful as it is dangerous. The Na´vi live in a ubiquitous communion with each other and their world. The conflict arises when an evil corporation (surprise!) from Earth wants to exploit large deposits of a treasured mineral located directly under the Na´vi’s ancient home.

Interestingly enough, CNN reports that audiences are experiencing depression after viewing the movie, with some even entertaining suicidal thoughts. Others are experiencing an increased disgust with humanity.

I mentioned to a new friend of mine how I felt that many viewers would want to live on Pandora. He said to me in return that he asked his wife to paint herself blue. To me, these are totally understandable responses. The Na´vi live in community. The Na´vi are exotic, wise, fierce, and sexy. Their planet, Pandora, is filled with cool flora and fauna. Life there is an adventure.

Ok, so the fantastical Pandora is cool. What’s not to like?
But thoughts of suicide? Anger with the humans?

Many of us feel a slight melancholy when we finish a great novel, or when a favorite television series ends. But depression?

Still, perhaps there is something here that we should pay attention to. Sometimes we minimize the distance between the world we live in, the world “as it is”, and the world we dream of, the world as “it could be”. The Na´vi live in the kind of dense community we long for but cannot seem to find. They are exotic, fierce, wise, and sexy. We are not blue, not fierce, often confused, and mostly look awful in thong underwear. Their lush planet and colorful lives are filled with adventure. Our lives seem gray in comparison.

Here’s where it all began to break down for me. The CNN article tells us, “Compared to life on earth Pandora is beautiful and glowing utopia”.

What? What planet does CNN broadcast from?

This copy “compared to life on earth…” is a line written by someone who never gets out. Heck, you don’t even have to go outside. Get the Discovery Channel for God’s sake.

Perhaps part of the problem is that while we wished we could live on amazing fictional planets, we’ve never taken the steps to really live here on this planet.

We are estranged from each other and our world, but not because humans suck and the “world is dying” (as one of the depressed said of Earth). Our problem is that we lack a mission worth giving our lives to, something worth defending, something worth dying for. Without this we often feel an emptiness to our lives and routines. Another part of the problem is that we spend too much time being heroes in fantasy worlds and games. We live action packed lives vicariously through television and movies. Since I adore movies and TV let me qualify this. “Too much time” is a relative. Some of us “experience” adventure before our screens to the exclusion of the surrounding real world that is filled with amazing adventures, vicious predators, and lots of opportunities to die doing something really daring.

Just a couple of days before I heard about the “Avatar blues” I was listening to a new friend of mine, Steve, tell of his experience on a hunt in Africa. He and a mutual friend of ours, Terry, had fired on a Rhino and the behemoth charged them. Steve tells me that you could feel the ground tremble as this angered beast ran at them. Terry, he said, took two steps forward at the Rhino, ground trembling beneath their feet, cocked his gun, and fired.

That’s not fiction. That’s adventure. Earth is as beautiful, as dangerous, as lush a utopia as Pandora. There is a difference. Utopia means “no place”. That describes Pandora people – no place. It’s not real. Earth, however, is real. You just gotta get out now and then.

I wonder what would happen if some of us actually got to live on Pandora? Would we spend our “Pandoran” days playing fantasy games in which our avatars were Earthlings like Steve and Terry who actually went out on a rhino hunt and had adventures?

So put the remote down. Here’s the call: Heroes Wanted in the fight for humanity and for the quest to save the planet. Safe Return Doubtful.

what do you think?

6 thoughts on “The Avatar Blues

  1. DaveO

    My 13 year old and I saw Avatar in Nairobi. I was surprised that he found it just as predictable and endless as I did, amazing though it was for its technical aspects.
    I felt it was syncretistic and stereotypical – that the claim that it fell prey to the “white savior” image had some merit. I find the latter tedious and unhelpful being a caucasian missions person in Africa, where I daily face the effects of this mentality.
    I hope some gifted director will take on C.S. Lewis’ science-fiction trilogy; works that powerfully deal with similar issues from a much more biblical and creative angle.

  2. Peter Pan

    Avatar is really into planet worship….just about puts animals first before humans…Anyway a good movie and that’s all it is a movie…so if anyone gets hung up over this movie in anyway REALLY need to get a life…it…is…a…movie.

  3. Chris

    Phenomenal. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve seen the same phenomenon with other movies as well. Could it also be that we’re believing our own hype about the world, that humanity is only capable of destroying the world we live in? The problem is also victim mentality – that I’m the victim and powerless to do anything about it, which is ridiculous, but it’s easier to believe that then to actually go do something. I sometimes wonder though, how easy is it – really – to “just get out”? That does tend to cost money, take time we don’t have because we’re trying to make the money, etc. etc. etc. …

  4. Tommy

    Fantastic thoughts Alex! I loved the film and the image of a man immersing himself into the Na’vi culture and becoming a part of the tribe and community, eventually leading him to fight against those who sought to steal, kill, and ultimately destroy them. It left me feeling hopeful.

  5. patrick voo

    while i am one of the remaining few who haven’t yet braved the line-ups for Avatar (in 3D or 3D IMAX!), i did just finish watching the movie Moon last night. provocative and well filmed, it presents a character who knows the truth of a world that is more contrived than real, and his resolve to engage the real world in all of its risk and uncertainty (and no, it wasn’t just a remake of The Matrix).

  6. John Gnotek

    [I think] people were depressed because these people didn’t see Avatar in 3D IMAX.

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