Hundreds of millions of people will watch Avatar. They will walk out with an overwhelming neuronal experience, some of it very bad…and I suspect James Cameron is unaware of what he has done. This is not about the film’s B-movie plot; I railed about that here.
Once the eye candy is consumed—and it is uniquely delicious—a residual trace will be left in the wiring of those multimillions who sat down to be entertained, but were unconsciously lulled into the comfort of Cameron’s non-reality. I am not referring to his alien worlds. It is the triumph of the little man over the futuristic military-industrial juggernaut that poisons.
While Cameron is over-stimulating audiences with the endorphin rush of brilliant CGI imagery, he unselfconsciously shows bows and arrows triumphing over modern weaponry. We cheer the underdog, not realizing that this impossibility, while thrilling in Avatar’s fiction, dulls, demeans, and diminishes our real-world concerns about power-and-greed’s relentless quest to take all that is available now without regard for future consequences.
What if Avatar ended with the arrows bouncing harmlessly off the military armor (as they did in the film’s first encounter between the humans and the Na’vi)? What if the military thoroughly destroyed the native Pandorans? It would be honest. It would be a repeat of reality (e.g., U.S. Calvary vs. Native Americans, Australian settlers vs. Tasmanian aborigines, and innumerable other one-sided contests). Audiences would hate it, but they would walk out reinforced in their concerns about their children and grandchildren.
But Cameron, in his quest to remain “king of the world,” has made certain that viewers will feel good, not concerned. When they exit after the planet Pandora is saved from destruction, the warm feeling will stay with them like extra pounds, adding flab to their unwillingness and inability to take charge of their real lives and the real world.
In the middle of the societal and intellectual curve, where most citizens reside, the corporations offer the addictive soma of an Avatar. Who can resist?