What if an alien in the future stumbled upon Avatar? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
Directed by: James Cameron
Stars: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver
Production Co: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Dune Entertainment, Ingenious Film Partners
Written by: David Radcliff & Ben Steiner
Analysis & Directed by: Jared Bauer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Producer & Additional Artwork by: Jacob S. Salamon
Avatar’s Hidden Meaning – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is Avatar, directed by self-appointed King of the World James Cameron (née David). The film stars assorted members of The Blue Man Group, emissaries from the Las Vegas Galaxy.
Drawing upon Earth’s mythology of Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, Avatar tells the story of human male Jake Sully, a broken boy soldier who is hired for a government project because a guy who looked like him died. With almost zero prep time, he is injected into a newer, bluer body, and tasked with infiltrating the Na’vi tribe of Pandora, a planet known for playlists that are close to what you want, but not quite.
Jake’s mission should he have chosen to accept it is to betray an indigenous culture and exploit its natural resources for the benefit of capitalism. However he immediately abandons both of these quintessentially American objectives once confronted with the allure of female nudity. Because aww yeah.
It is only after knocking ponytails with Neytiri, and training her “dragon” that Jake acknowledges the deep spiritual value of the Na’vi tribe. and in the proud tradition of the American male, Jake appoints himself CEO of the natives and “liberates” them from the threat of their oppressors by turning the shit up to warp 11. Atta boy, Jake.
With a running time of 162 Earth minutes, and a budget of $237 million American rupees, Avatar is a scathing indictment of human greed and excess. Where the film’s villains are corporate xenophobes who are all “guns out, buns out”, its heroes are bleeding-heart hippies propelled by community, and that purple drank. The only thing they read about is The Lorax, a book about corporate greed leading to environmental disaster, featuring an anthropomorphic eyebrow.
The film illustrates the collision between nature and technology that would come to define and ultimately doom humankind’s reign on Earth. The Na’vi consume renewable resources like flowers, while the humans stuff their gourds with pre-packaged TV dinners. The Na’vi sleep in cocoon beds, while the humans build themselves into Ikea furniture.
Their lifestyle emphasizes inner space rather than outer space. Peaceful equilibrium over relentless expansion, power, and stupid tattoos. And James Cameron knew a thing or two about stupid tattoos. The Na’vi preach a connectedness with nature, rather than mastery over it.
While you might say that the human oppressors are “blind” to their cancerous effect on the universe, the Na’vi desperately want everyone to know that their eyeballs are functional. Eyeballs are a recurring motif throughout the film, serving as both the opening and closing images. Get it?Opening and closing!For any races without eyes, you don’t get it.
By straddling both American and Na’vi society, Jake is being a real benedict cabbage patch. That said, he recognizes both the humanity in his perceived enemy and the enemy within his own humanity. This experience, known as “cognitive dissonance,” was introduced by Earth’s social psychologist Leon Festinger and characterized much of my early twenties.
Perhaps the greatest legacy of Avatar is its inherent paradox. On one tentacle, the film critiques the use of technology in favor of romanticizing that which is natural and “earthy.” On the other tentacle, the film owes its success to state-of-the-art special effects, and the jacked up prices that come with it. Kinda makes you think, huh? Makes you think about skipping the sequels.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid.