Avatar and the Public Consciousness
The film 'Avatar' by director James Cameron has recently become available on DVD, and unless you have been living in a cave for the last 6 months, you know about this film. My wife and I were one of the hold-outs to see this movie. We waited until it left the theatre (too bad for us!). This is an intense film. We know James Cameron from such films as Terminator, True Lies, and Aliens. He is an American Icon. He makes American Icons.
What was interesting about this film was the way it seemed to perfectly encapsulate the American cultural consciousness (also evidenced by the number of people that went to see this film, and its success at the Oscars). Now don't get me wrong, this movie was visually stunning -- a great action and cinematic achievement. I even enjoyed the fact that Cameron cast Sigourney Weaver as the scientist; a throw-back to her role as sci-fi scare queen in Aliens I'm sure. But as I watched scene after scene, it became clear that Cameron had an agenda. It seemed to be as follows: 1.) cherish nature, 2.) big government is bad, 3.) respect the mysterious unnamed Spiritual force.
It reminded me of the battle-cry of today's post-modern thinkers: "Don't tell me what to think, get the military out of my face, and please recycle while you're at it!" Now I am not just poking fun at this, I think Cameron was on to something here. I think that is why this film was so successful. It was not only pretty to watch, but also struck a cord with its viewers by tapping into the current cultural vibe. The most interesting thing however, was the fact that the Navi (the alien race of avatars) were extremely spiritual. They would bless animals after killing them for food. They would respect all things natural, and in fact had biological appendages that they used to literally and spiritually connect to other living organisms and access this spiritual power.
The Navi would in effect pray, but these prayers were directed to a large tree in the center of the forest. The Marines (the bad guys; big government) often referred to their sacred locations by referencing the term "deity." In no way (at least that I could see) was any serious reference made to any one all-powerful God. Just a life-force, or tree, or sacred location. Even Eywa was more or less an incarnation of the "mother-earth" belief. And in this manner, I think the film accurately reflects what many in the viewing audience either agreed with, or were at least comfortable positing. I am in no way detracting from this film. My wife and I both enjoyed it. In the end I suppose it lived up to the meaning of its title -- avatar means a literal descent of a god from heaven to earth. Cameron does accomplish this task in his film. There was no god to save the Navi, only the forest and the mysterious life force.
When the film was over, we went to bed; and I thanked God for being real, and being God.