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Avatar: blue smurf racist propaganda done right

Avatar, James Cameron's new movie (he has previously created things like the Terminators and Titanic), has become the fastest movie ever that has surpassed the USD 1 billion dollar threshold. I watched it tonight (in English - and with Czech subtitles which are still helpful for me at some points). And it's a pretty impressive piece. I will begin wit a ton of spoilers and end up with some comments about politics.



Spoilers

A terrestrial corporation with a lot of soldiers needs some important minerals from a jungle in Pandora near Alpha Centauri - over 4 light years from the Earth. As you can see, people needed to travel by speeds exceeding c/30 if they got there by the year 2154 when this movie takes place. ;-)

Jake Sully is a marine whose twin brother just died. The late brother had an unusual mission: he was controlling an avatar, a bio-gadget that I will explain shortly. His goal was to penetrate in between the native blue tall humanoid inhabitants of Pandora - the so-called Na'Vi (I will call the wild people "smurfs") - and convince them to allow the corporation to get the minerals from their holy place.

I must tell you what an avatar is. It is a body that physically resembles a smurf but its DNA is mixed up with the terrestrial humans. Consequently, an avatar can be remotely - or "telepathically", if you wish - controlled by the concentrated thoughts of a semi-hibernated human. So Jake Sully got the avatar that used to belong to his twin brother - which was a pretty smooth transition, despite Sully's lack of training.

The avatar survived a night in the jungle of Pandora. He sees lots of interesting and pretty animals and plants - which are nevertheless morally similar to those on the Earth. A female smurf saves his life at some point. After some arguments and a lack of confidence, they fall in love with each other and this love is the underlying theme of the rest of the movie.




Of course, Jake Sully's avatar is learning fast. He is ultimately accepted by the wild smurfs.

There are many challenges that he was able to master. Lots of airborne jellyfish which are actually seeds of a magic tree landed on him - a sign for his future blue wife that Gaia liked him. (Gaia is renamed as "Eywa" in the movie.) Also, he was able to tame a horse (the smurfs also like to connect their own tails with the local horses' tails, to improve the synergy flows).

Finally, he also tamed up a flying horse - and at the end, he also mastered the biggest flying horse that only a few prophets in the smurf history have been able to drive. That has transformed him into a genuine smurf authority. ;-)

All the life and hunting is romantic and merciful. Hunters thank their victims for the dinner and peacefully send the dinner's soul to the Gaia. There are also beautiful floating mountains - which are just like ordinary mountains except that there is air both above them and beneath them.

The scientific and military leadership of the corporation (on the spaceship) initially admires Sully for his achievements in his smurfy socialization. But they eventually learn that Jake Sully has crossed the line and betrayed them (the critical point occurs when Jake Sully the Avatar breaks a camera system of the corporate spaceship). He becomes the leader of the rebellion of the primitive blue tribes against the nasty white people equipped with the heavy military, robotic fighters strengthening human arms, bizarre helicopters, and other stuff.

And of course, after lots of horror, he and his new people win. The white imperialists are forced to return to their declining planet, the Earth. ;-) His new wife asks Gaia for reincarnation (it didn't work in the case of the female scientist on the spaceship, the boss of the Avatar Project - who loved science and disliked some cruelty by her local military boss) and Jake Sully becomes a smurf so that he no longer has to use the hibernation gadget to control his body as an avatar. (But his blue wife apparently loved him in his ordinary human body, too.) Not sure what happens with his mixed DNA - but it seems that they have some offspring at the end. ;-)

The tough military boss of the corporation is finally killed by Jake Sully's loving blue wife. Before this final achievement, he asks Jake how it feels to be a complete traitor - a rhetorical question which was both cynical and right.

Politics

I had mixed feelings about the question which civilization I preferred - were the relatively nice people from the commercial sector better than the wild blue people from the local jungle, with their mysterious religious myths and moderated natural cruelty? Of course, as the movie was escalating, I increasingly despised the militant attitude of the terrestrial corporation. What they were doing was nasty. And I was feeling some positive emotions towards the primitive smurfs - although I have never quite identified with them.

Now, some conservative commentators have decided that the movie is a propaganda piece to attack the white race, capitalism, America, the U.S. army, and the technological life on Earth as we know it. On the other hand, the movie celebrates Gaia, primitive tribes, and white traitors.

Well, the story may surely be interpreted in this way - as a pure far-left propaganda - but I wasn't really annoyed by this obvious interpretation. Why? Simply because I didn't have the feeling that the corporation reminded me of the real corporations that I like in our world. It didn't even remind me of the armies on the Earth that I respect. ;-)

On the other hand, the smurfs were primitive but their life was a life in freedom, a very primitive form of capitalism where you have to earn your flying horses, and so on. In this sense, I think that the corporation in the movie was analogous to the people who promote the Big Government, to the climate alarmists, and all this stuff. They also wanted everyone to work for one predetermined technocratic goal.

I am simply not offended by any suggested analogy between the corporation in the movie on one side and the advocates of advanced capitalism on the other side because there's no strong similarity.

The nasty people from the corporation are more similar to the staunch champions of political correctness. You may even say that the mineral that the people from the corporation were trying to obtain - while killing thousands of indigenous people and many animals as well as interconnected trees because of that - symbolizes the carbon credits that are being put above everything else today, above all the diversity of different values in people's joyful and colorful lives, values that were symbolized by the smurfs and their nice environment.

So the interpretation can cut both ways.

There is only one technical aspect which I can't interpret oppositely: the perpetrators of the violence were white while the victims were ... people of a different color, namely blue in this case. Well, this anti-white bias was surely there but I don't think it was the first movie that satisfied this property. Vinetou and hundreds of other movies suffered from the same bug.

Moreover, I suspect that a movie where the white people would be the victims and the colorful people were the evil ones couldn't get published in the U.S. at all. ;-)

From a technical perspective, the movie was very good. There were some pretty original concepts in it, too. Of course, it's a work of fiction so most of the movie science is incompatible with the laws of physics. And the political content is really sick and radical if you interpret it in the "paranoid" fashion - but I choose not to.

It's a movie about the evil equipped with a brute force and the good equipped with love to Nature. If someone understands the movie as a reason to dislike the white race, industry, capitalism, corporation, or space research in the real world, it's his or her own decision that doesn't really follow from the movie.

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reader TDK said...

The problem with reinterpreting the movie in the way you do is that it doesn't actually change the underlying reality. James Cameron has a history of movies that involve wicked big business - Terminator, Aliens. Most commentators take the crude environmental propaganda at face value. Like Alice they already buy into the idea so the movie reinforces their prejudices. The unconverted will either ignore the "message" or find it irritating.

What you in fact illustrate is that most socialists idea of capitalism is so simplistic that it becomes just a cartoon caricature. Such propaganda fails when it is so overt - no one became anti-Semitic because of Jew-Suss. It can only work when it is subtle enough to give people the impression that everyone already thinks like that. If Avatar has some effect in that direction it will be because it joins a series of similar films like Wall-E and Pocahantas. The effect will stem from the constant drip drip of unchallenged assumptions rather than the overt statements.

Socialists completely fail to understand that the principle motivation for people on the right is freedom and individualism. Thus the leftist artist will characterise capitalism as being about conformism and central control, all typical features of socialist societies and all demands of the modern Green.

Avatar is thus a typical vision of the modern left. It indulges in the myth of the noble savage. At one time many on the left would have decried this as a racist. However, in post modern fashion, the "other" is never judged in universalist terms except when used as an exemplar of the "others" superiority over the west. All cultures are equal, except we are the worst. To reinforce this inverted racism, the westerner only becomes true to himself when he abandons the west.

The final irony being that he becomes an even better native, than the aborginals. Hurrah - the west is best after all.