January 17, 2010

Does Avatar's agenda matter?

Does Avatar's Political Agenda Matter?

By Andrew PriceWhere these critics see deliberate allegory, I see uninspired storytelling. The movie's morality is black-and-white, sure, but that means it's a simplistic script, not insidious propaganda. They're taking the political message of the movie more seriously, I suspect, than Cameron did himself.

But here's the real question: What are the stakes? I can't imagine the voter who would change his or her opinion about cap-and-trade legislation or the justification for the war in Afghanistan or the ethics of private security firms based on Avatar. Are any Roman Catholics going to switch to Gaia worship because Home Tree seems nicer than Giovanni Ribisi's headquarters? There might be a few 10-year olds who start considering these issues thanks to Avatar, but I think we can safely assume that by the time they're 18 other influences will outweigh this movie in shaping their political identities.

I don't think Cameron set out to make "an apologia for pantheism"; he set out to make a spectacle that would look cool in 3-D glasses and hung it on a hackneyed story with an "environmental conscience" because green is in right now. But even if the movie were propaganda, it would still be a far cry from effective propaganda.
Comment:  This sounds about right to me. I'd say the big-name pundits have spent too much time spinning Avatar's political agenda. I think the movie is doing more to promote indigenous stereotypes (Native as tree-hugging children) than environmental awareness. Children may start thinking about the issues, and that's good, but no one else will.

For more on the subject, see Avatar Proves That Natives Sell and The Best Indian Movies.

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