Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thoughts on Avatar

I saw Avatar tonight with some friends.

As a heads up, if you have not seen the movie, but wish to, I don't suggest reading this post until you've seen it. I'm no holds barred in my discussion of it.

I thought that it was an incredible movie, first off. It's long, however--about three hours, to be exact. But I don't feel its length took anything away from its worth. I feel it would have actually detracted from the overall affect of the movie if it had been shorter.

The movie's plot line has to deal with the hostile attempt (by humans) to takeover a Planet named "Pandora" where a native humanoid population resides. The native "Na'vi" are much larger than humans, but not as technologically advanced... or at least that's how it's initially portrayed. However, as the movie progresses and tensions rise between the Na'vi and the humans who want to displace the Na'vi from their "Home Tree" in order to access a huge deposit of a precious stone worth millions, the audience gets to learn more and more about the Na'vi and the planet Pandora. Sigourney Weaver, who plays the character Grace (a "Xenobiologist") is the one who announces that there is an incredibly complex "neural connection" within the planet and it's beings--a connection that far surpasses even the neural connection of the human brain.

Anyway, aside from synopsis:
After taking two sociology courses this past semester ("Principles of Sociology" and "Race Relations") and an LGU course ("Intro to Leadership and Global Understanding") the entire movie made me incredibly upset for several reasons.

First, the Na'vi are, not coincidentally I think, portrayed as very primitive and very tribal like. They definitely have numerous similarities to rural African peoples, wearing very little clothing, tribal jewelry, and using bows & arrows with poison as weapons. Several times throughout the movie they are referred to as "savages" by the "bad guys."

Second, there is an obvious superiority complex on behalf of the humans. And again, not coincidentally I think, from what I could understand, all of the humans were American, or at least Americanized. There could be any number of explanations for this portrayal of humans, but I just found it interesting. The United States was a country founded on slavery and colonialism, and here is a movie showing that, once again, people from the United States are attempting to colonize another place and destroy its native inhabitants.

Third, the humans believe that they have the right to destroy a habitat in order to obtain "unobtainium" (cleverly named) the precious stone worth $20 million a kilo. How could this not be upsetting? In order to make money and get rich quick, our species has no second thoughts about completely obliterating another species' habitat and even the species itself, if it decides to stand in the way.

Granted, this is all in context of the movie.

However, it's not completely unlike us to act in such ways and be ruthless towards those different than ourselves (general statement, I know).

Anyway. Those were just some thoughts I had while watching the movie. Thanks to my major, I'll never be able to live life without thinking sociologically about anything ever again, and honestly, I don't mind it.

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