Avatar is about knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing

I finally got around to seeing Avatar this weekend, and while I thought the movie started rather slow, it grew on me. I liked it philosophically: it’s about knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. And I liked the political subtext: the politics of humanity v. the politics of serving the machine of empire.

I suspect, however, that neither religious nor political conservatives, should they see Avatar, will be enamored of it. Its message is decidedly anti-imperialist, anti-demonizing your enemies, and pro-ecological awareness. And the “techno-cowboys” in the film are callous assholes while the forest dwelling “Indians” are in touch with their hearts (pagan tree huggers). From these tropes you can fill in the blanks on the rest of the philosophical attitudes within the two contending camps of “people.”

One thing I hated about the film is the hero used the word “bitch” on one occasion. As someone raising girls, I don’t like to see Hollywood giving cache to sexist language. I know it’s a common word among teen males these days, but it made me feel less sympathy for the hero’s cause. If you’re going to fight for the politics of humanity, you better notice that it applies to women.

Also, the ironic subtext for the film made me decidedly uncomfortable watching it. I’m living very comfy in California even as my country is engaged in two wars with more than a few parallels to the one depicted in Avatar, and I’m being asked to side against technology and empire by a film that was made possible by, well, technology and empire.


About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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