Schmerheim highlights there is an emergence of skepticism films that construe knowing and doubting the world as it is known using contemporary cinema. The author continues to denote that such films underlie plots that involve characters within deceptive situations, simulated or fake environments, obscure boundaries of the ‘real,’ and systematic self-deception or externally induced deception by other members of the shared world(Schmerheim 11). The films elicit uncertainties about what is believed to be a reality in the world. Avatar produced by James Cameron (2009) can be described to mature a utopia- a perfect world- called the Pandora. It is a portrayal of a classic version of the indigenous populations that inhabited the Earth. The Na’vi (natives of the Pandora) are characterized by a deep sense of spirituality, principled warriors and their connection to the environment at a metaphysical level. In the movie, humans utilize advanced technology to transfer their consciousness into the native bodies(Wade 1).
It can be noted that despite the love storyline as showcased by the movie, there exist a myriad of underlying spiritual, philosophical, cultural and moral values extended by the production. The paper objectifies at unraveling the hidden insights forwarded by the movie, for example, the possibility of betraying one’s race, and becoming a representative of another. It also discusses the notion of whether extraterrestrial life is meantendangers or threatensthe extinction of the human race. It cannot be denied that James Cameron instigates some form of self-doubt among his audience. It can be acclaimed to harness open-mindedness and awiderscope to the universal processes. The significance of a film does not only underlie entertainment but the potential to become a cultural, social and political shock. Therefore, denoting the fact that any movie worth watching has an influence on the majority of its audience, for example, provoking revolutionary thoughts, words, actions, and reactions. The movie Avatar certainly can be credited for evoking the consciousness of the human race from cultural ignorance as the paper discusses in greater detail.
James Cameron centers the film around Jake Sully a former marine who had been hurt during a war in Venezuela(Cameron 1). The individual is chosen to take the place of his brother, Tommy, in the secret Avatar program. The film is futuristic and entails an objective by a human organization- Resource Development Administration- to mine a rare mineral named Unobtanium in the alien planet of Pandora. The planet is toxic for human survival and hence, the linking of the consciousness in humans beings to an Avatar. The interactions with the Na’vi are motivated at building trust to allow for expansion of the mining operations. Upon entry into the Pandora, Scully meets Neytiri, who shows him the beauties and mysteries of the planet. The tree of souls is perhaps one of the most startling and significant features as it is utilized by the Na’vi to communicate with their ancestors. Jake betrays the human race for the Na’vi as evident in an extended battle scene against the Resource Development Administration at the end of the movie in an endeavor to protect the Na’vi land and the Treeof Souls.
It can be noted that the Avatar is not a simple-minded denunciation of the human race and capitalism but aimed at eliciting thought through the creation of an imaginary world that is different from the Earth. It offers a man versus man and man versus nature story with the former highlighting the characteristics of man e.g. greed and violence among others that would most probably lead to his downfall. The racial connotations and peculiarities of racial interaction between living beings of Pandora and humans in the film are dominant. The narrative by the Avatar movie can be mirrored to the colonization period. It is the duration where the white men in thesearchfor material wealth explored and ventured into indigenous communities and lands to exploit resources. According to Mouhoubi, it is a depiction of the transmutation of Western imperialist power and the new shapes of the American hegemonic policies(Mouhoubi 110).Sully is the white invader who couples as the savior at the end resonating other movies such as Pocahontas.
It can be highlighted that presentation of the Na’vi as an indigenous folk was to propagate the notion that the humans were a superior being. However, Sully plays an integral role in illustrating the converse. He embraces a multicultural idea soon as he continually starts to learnthe ways of the Na’vi(Lyubansky 1). He learns the culture of the racial minority group by becoming a part of their culture and trying to comprehend their actions, beliefs, and values. The Na’vi were portrayed as all good in the movie. As mentioned earlier, the film mirrors or is a reflection of the injustices of the white man trying to redeem themselves by becoming a savior. It is similar to the Dance with the wolves where the protagonist assumes the role of the messiah of theclosed community (people of color)(Wade 1). The Na’vi depicted as noble savages to award them some form of credibility(Wade 1). The characters portrayedin the movie, Avatar, lacked in depth and complexity to fully illustrate the complex racial paradigms and interpersonal relationships(Godawa 1).
The Na’vi are a fictional race and so being, are depicted in the most positive of ways. They are fashioned to represent the indigenous communities and in addition, a perfect community that lacked in the shortcomings attributed to the humankind such as greed, power, and political challenges. The interactions between the humans and the Na’vi is progressed from a single perspective. Mostly, from the protagonist (Jake) is where the interactions between the indigenous alien community and the humans can be observed. Therefore, concluded to be generally positive. However, it can be noted that there exist individualities as showcased through group relations as seen through the film. The military views the Pandorians as savages while the scientists though portrayed as ‘good’ in the film, participated in the war efforts against the indigenous folk. The prejudice against the Pandorians is evident as the humans try to trick the natives through Jake assuming a high level of intelligence and technology than that of the savages. However, as Sully falls in love with the culture and way of the indigenous folk he betrays his own race. The issue can be related to the African-American immigrant situation in the contemporary society. Jake Sully is an immigrant and becomes loyal to his host community.
The Avatar also progresses traditional gender roles. The sexualization of females is evident across the board with the depiction of Neytiri as a sexual object. However, it can be denoted that the film did try to ensure a reformist image of gender roles. Neytiri similar to the men participated in hunting and shown as capable of riding the winged beasts.Similarly, Grace and Trudy assume significant roles in the movie with the latter being the rebel and the former a biologist who plays a crucial role in the film. It can be highlighted that regardless of physical attributes, race, religion and beliefs that there exist emotional similarities between creatures. The Avatar as depicted by Cameron can be associated with emotional themes such as identity and escapism. Sully is paraplegic and confined to his wheelchair that can be used to establish his emotional state. He is anxious to become an Avatar as it presents the opportunity to escape from his current personal plight.
Through his character, it is observed that creatures share emotional similarities. The Na’vi embrace being part of their environment rather than separated from it. Jake admires the connections the natives have with the flora and fauna found in the Pandora. It represents the kind of relationship the human race endeavors to accomplish with mother, Earth. Jake prior to his experiences in Pandora is depicted as an indifferent and uncaring individual who is characteristic of the masculine nature. However, his heart changes and consequentially falls in love with nature(Erb 1)and a native- Neytiri- and assumes a feminine side. It shows shared emotion where creatures fall in love with their surroundings and with other creatures. James Cameron is successful at evoking emotion among the human race as regards significance of protecting and connecting with nature. The Na’vi as represented showcase the moral principles required for achieving a high level of interconnection with nature. The ‘noble savages’ are ready to offer their lives to protect their planet from adverse exploitation. It shows the emotional connections assumed morally right for creatures to their environment.
The Avatar movie can be highlighted to be a different depiction of the dangers associated with extraterrestrial life on Earth. Films such as The Matrix display the fear attributed to advancements in technology where machines (artificial intelligence) overthrow the human race and hold them hostage in a virtual reality. On the other hand, The5th waveshows domination by the extraterrestrial lifeforms with humans controlled and manipulated to destroy each other. The human race is reduced to living in adverse survival conditions, in fear and mindlessness by the alien forces. It is a depiction of societal hegemony. The Avatar is a representation of self-destruction perpetuated by the selfishness, greed, and violence of the human race. The film denotes pessimism into engagement in wars as the consequentiality is destruction and the possibility of extinction. As observed in the current society, nations continueto arm themselves with nuclear weapons which when deployed would mean the end of the world. The greed and selfishness of the corporates in exploiting world resources propagate extinction from natural consequences- globalwarming. James Cameron delinks the association of human race extinction to a higher authority and attributes the survival of the humankind to the humans themselves.Paul Erlich forwards the notion that resources should not be spent in an endeavor to de-extinct species, but rather,funds should be channeled towards saving the endangered species from extinction implying the Avatar as a cultural misrepresentation(Ehrlich 1).
James Cameron implicitly depicts sexuality of the aliens through the human male gaze. The Pandorian women are handed such qualities as breasts and hips associated with the human secondary sexual characterizations. Sexual conquest is evident in the Avatar similar to many other James Cameron productions. The movie Avatar does not show any form of sexual intercourse between the creatures. However, it is implied by a large number of Na’vi populations in some of the scenes. The natives seem to multiply rapidly and are in high numbers as depicted by a scene of the Na’vi village.(Grubisic, Baxter and Lee 189) Therefore, it denotes sexual appetite among the indigenous individuals(Grubisic, Baxter and Lee 189).
The gender roles among the Na’vi are simplified. They are monogamous beings with the females responsible for nursing their children for a period of about four months. The Na’vi male is bonded to the female. Sexual intercourse or activity outside the marriage boundaries is not uncommon in the society. The reproductive process remains similar to that of the human being. However, sexual intimacy remains a unique feature due to the physical make-up or appearance (USB-like ponytails) of the native community. The female and male connect queues to initiate an emotional bond, and the connection is attributed to experiences beyond those associated with .human connection. Therefore, the intimacies between the male and female not only entail erotic engagements but stimulating connections and experiences between the partners. The cross-species relationships in the Pandora is also an unusual feature. The remain loyal to one individual for the rest of their lives. Jack Sully is attracted to this form of physical possibilities different from those experienced on earth. The intricacies of monogamy are protected.
The parallel between the Na’vi and the native Americans is noticeable and implicit throughout the movie. As mentioned earlier, it is implied by the connections between nature and man- Gaia hypothesis- where man and nature can become one life form(Godawa 2). The warriors are in touch with their spirits and pure in their thinking and actions. It is shown by their connections to the winged beasts and living in peace with nature. Neytiri fails to kill Sully after she sees an Atokirina settle at the tip of her arrowhead. It reminded her of the ethical implications of the action of taking away life. Jake commends her for saving him from the viperwolves, but this is received by a strike to the ground by Neytiri.She feels guilty. Jake Sully integrates with the Na’vi, and it can be suggested that he becomes a stranger to his own people.
The noble savage stereotypical trope of Hollywood films is clearly implied. The “good” Native Americans are showcased as a symbol of post-colonial redemption. The issue of racism and white dominion are evident(Washington 1). It is plausible to denote that the movie highlights authority as concerns a technologically superior population. The White’s weapons were technically advanced than the weapons used by the Native warriors- bows and arrows. It is plausible to highlight that hegemony is advanced by superiority in technology. The Americans assume a higher authority over regions such as Africa and Asia due to their sophisticated weaponry and other technologies.
It is notable that the Avatar is not only a narrative that encompasses futuristic technologies and prehistoric creatures but a representation of multicultural interaction and the acceptance of the dynamics of a whole new and different civilization.It is a critique of the current multicultural interactions in westernized cultures where the good guys are implied to be primitive and worship nature and the bad entities being greedy energy corporations under the protection of militia(Godawa 1). As aforementioned, many critics highlight the movie to extend the idea of white supremacy on the indigenous communities. Mohammed Mouhoubi acclaims the fact that themain characters are depicted as agents of power heralding an apotheosis of imperialism(Mouhoubi iii). Jack Sully is charged with conducting an ethnographical study on the Pandorians in an objective to gain their trust to enable the expansion of mining operations in the planet. However, he perpetually respects the new civilization as compared to his past one. It is because the new civilization can be attributed to a newly found sense of freedom on his part. On earth his a paraplegic with no sense of direction but in Pandora, a man of great physical ability and a savior. He is also accepted quickly by the community and falls in love with Neytiri, a creature of beauty in the Pandora.
Avatar is a multi-themed movie raising a myriad of issues such as racial inequalities and prejudice, military interference in the lives of other civilizations and volunteer diversion that mirror constant worldwide problems. The Avatar is not veiled in its message and presents a rebellious allegory for what continues to happen and what has happened to the world. It can be implied to represent the naked realities of imperialism, greed, and cultural ignorance. The film relays a robust environmental message denouncing the exploitation and wanton destruction of the environment by corporates and the humankind. It forwards a moral principle of environmental protection in the wake of global warming highlighting the premise of extinction.The Nobel laureate Wangari Mathai suggested that if nature is destroyed then consequentially the end of man is imminent- nature will destroy the humankind.Sassy Bossy raises the issue of political consumerism that is a social movement where individuals criticize traditional consumerism(Bossy 179). The Avatar displays such an agenda by the depiction of an eco-society- ecological utopia- and alternative consumption.
The political and cultural rhetoric is also distinct in the film.In 2010, in the West Bank, Palestinian activists dressed up like the Na’vi to protest against the Israeli occupation(Tang 657). James Cameron portrays the American military in a negative undertone. The film was written against the backdrop of a heightened war between America and Iraq. The mercenaries and the American military are seen responsible for the death of many innocent civilians during the war incited by corporates to protect oil supplies and production- unobtanium in the movie Avatar. However, Avatar initiates a contrary notion where the American military is the perpetrator of atrocities towards the Na’vi and thus, responsible for the acts of terrorism on the native people. The film is an awakening towards anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism, anti-militarism and anti-technology to achieve authority. It is also a challenge towards cultural ignorance and the fear of the different and unknown. Therefore, James Cameron is successful in eliciting a political shock. The author and movie producer aims at opening the eyes of the audience towards their dystopian world and motivate self-doubt to challenge the existing indifference. The war on terror depicts the Americans as the individuals suffering utter injustice and victimization in the hands of terrorist minds.
It can be implied that the humankind tends to be of the belief that they initiated the principles of justice and morality- anthropocentric idea. However, the film thwarts the belief and depicts it as a shared phenomenon amongst all living beings. In conclusion, it is implicit that Avatar is an allegory of the created utopia and brainwashing existing through consumerism among other things. It objectifies at not only being a vessel of entertainment but a mirror and an awakening. It invokes the consciousness of its audience towards their environment and the intricacies of their world. It creates awareness of extinction not through the hands of foreigners but one perpetrated by man’s own hands. It also denounces the corporate institutions and their myopic monetary considerations regardless of the long-term costs to the environment and culture. James Cameron’s Avatar can be deemed a meaningful and insightful film.
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