On The Money with Peter Hebert

February 2, 2010

Thoughts on the Film Avatar

Filed under: Commentary — Peter Hebert @ 4:02 PM

Avatar is a metaphor for the corporate state’s relationship with humanity and planet earth. The plot is fairly simple. Resources must be acquired due to profits regardless of the cost to life, civilization, and the sustainability of the environment. In other words, Avatar’s message is that it is a lie that human population poses a threat to sustainability. The opposite is true: the corporate world actually poses that threat. Opening up Pandora’s box results in painful repercussions. And, it is that context that permits this three-dimensional animation to succeed at the box office.

Those giant, blue-colored aboriginals are the Na’Vi, which I think is a take off on the Hebrew word navim for the prophets. In the movie they are in tune with nature and life, understand their relationship with the tree of souls (as in the well of souls beneath Jerusalem’s TempleMount), and are in harmony with the world as it is – not as the corporate world would like it to be – exploited for profit. The conflict is set into motion when the life sustaining and supporting habitat of the giant Hometree is to be destroyed by the RDA Corporation in order to mine for a rare and valuable mineral. The injustice is resolved when Jake Scully takes up the cause of the Nav’Vi by using the corporation’s own tools, infiltrating and going native, and arguing with the natives that self-defense and survival is essential. In fact, Scully becomes their messiah-like figure, or warrior king, in the process. The crisis triggered by the corporate miners and exploiters serves to not only galvanize resistance, but to also bring about unity among all the tribes of Pandora.

It does not matter if this story is set in Vietnam, Guatemala, Africa, or the Near East, Avatar is a film that champions the cause of underdogs, not dominant establishments that unyieldingly believe they are on the right side of history and technology. The 9/11-like event that takes place in the shock and awe attack on Hometree is the inverse of what happened in the United States. Film viewers are set up to identify with the Na’Vi, not “the Sky People” that cause fire to come down from heaven. Seen in these terms, the movie implies that even though Americans, or for that matter all people on the planet, are not united on issues of concern to many, when confronted by threatening challenges such as fears of irresponsible government, rogue multi-national corporations, impending global government, or looming global conflict under the doctrine of the preemptive strike as part of the just war theory … the grass roots push back will ensure that evil is rooted out so that justice may prevail. Those who have been right will be shown to have been wrong.

Film critics and talking heads, however, would rather exclusively focus on the stunning animation, science fiction themes, and miss the core message. The film, as author Naomi Wolf correctly observes, is an indictment against America, its military establishment, the military’s disregard for its own, and the unashamed support of corporations they defend to rape and pillage other peoples while never understanding why the world hates us. The film’s script writer and director James Cameron insists that his film is not anti-American. But, that is not the issue. The issue is what does the metaphor tell us and what is the truth about America and its relationship with the world. Telling the truth is not anti-American. And, dissent is not un-American … unless you ascribe to the view of the world where it is us against them.

Peter Hebert

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