Taking Avatar Way Too Seriously

Apparently, there are people who have become genuinely depressed that the real world is not more like the world depicted in the movie Avatar. They want to live in a world of pristine beauty with a simple way of life and to experience harmony with nature.

And then there’s this:

I would like to think that the behavior in the video above is fiction, a scripted bit for some sketch comedy show on TV or the net. But like a Poe, it is actually somewhat difficult to tell whether I’m seeing a glimpse of reality or satire.

Nor do I think that a reminder that “It’s only a movie” will do any good. What these folks are doing is projecting their desires and hopes, and those are real enough. Longing for a simple life and wishing to be surrounded by beauty are perfectly understandable things. What disturbs me is not that people would want that or even that they might engage in fantasy role-play based on it. It’s off-putting, though, for people to describe suicidal ideation and insist that what is depicted in the movie is real.

For the record, the image of the noble savage who lived in harmony with nature is an idealized fiction. The reality of Native American life was that Native Americans deforested most of the Rocky Mountains and surrounding plateaus in what is today the southwestern United States, with ecological effects that last to this day; early Native Americans hunted their best available food and clothing source, the wooly mammoth, to extinction; and left to their own devices, native peoples like the Aztecs, Incas, and Anasazi urbanized and formed stratified, monetized, slave-based economies that included ritualized human sacrifice as a significant part of their social fabric. Which is not to say that they were worse than the Europeans who supplanted them, only to point out that what you are looking at in the movie is a fictional analogue to a vision of history that has intentionally had all of the unpleasant bits edited out from it in the name of “dramatic license.” The real-life Native Americans were people just like us, no more and no less than human beings, with all of the same moral falliability and short-sightedness that goes along with being a human that people experience today and that they have always experienced for as long as there have been people.

And there is no way to connect oneself neurologically with a “tree of life” and acheive communion with an actual, physical, living god-who-is-also-the-entire-planet. Like it or not, you are human beings and you lack those nerve endings at the end of a tail that the entirely fictional Na’vi characters in Avatar had — and which, by the way, they completely ignored when they had sex.  A signfiicant error in storytelling, if you ask me — if such a thing existed, wouldn’t that be the ultimate form of intimacy, the ultimate expression of love and interpersonal union?  But it’s not what happened; instead, we got about fifteen seconds of PG-13 level heavy petting.  So let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that the Na’vi represent an ideal society because they really dropped the ball there.

If you’re among the number of people who have seen Avatar and think it depicts and idealized, better world, great.  I think that rather than sighing into your webcam about how you wish you could fly one of those pterodactyl-looking dealies while shooting arrows (note that the Na’vi practice chemical warfare in total violation of the Geneva conventions) you’d be better off finding some way to work to make the world that you actually live in become a better place in some way.

Oh, sure, go have fun painting yourself blue and practicing archery for some escapist recreation, if that’s your idea of a good time.  But adults ought not to mistake fantasy for reality — that’s one of the very definitions of being an adult.

Hat tip to Stephen Green for the video.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

One Comment

  1. Don't be too hard on the people who wish they could live in the idealized world of Avatar. I have the same feeling every time I watch Weekend at Bernie's.

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