The Heresy of James Cameron

deep in the woods

Why Avatar bombed at the Oscars

 

For awhile now I’d been prophesising that 3D fantasy Film “AVATAR”

would win nothing but technical awards at the Oscars. And so it came to pass.

And why? Well, my feeling was that despite its big budget studio origins and

record attendances, it would ultimately prove to be too politically subversive for Hollywood to swallow.

The much bally-hooed 3D eye candy is really just the frosting on the cake. A novelty at first, you soon forget about looking for it, your brain accepts it as normal after about twenty minutes and it becomes an effective tool for creating an immersive environment.

 

My initial response after seeing the film was to joke to my companions on the way out, “Nice to see a Western where the Indians win”, a throw-away comment but one that nails it I think. The script & plot line could come from any chapter in Dee Brown’s classic history of the American Wild West, “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee”-

only this time around it’s like the Indians win. With the help of renegade whites and runaway slaves perhaps. A coalition of the dispossessed that stopped the West from being won..Now put that plot into the future..

In Avatar’s case the soon-to-be-dispossessed by progress and civilization are called the Na’vi, blue skinned, cat tailed, Noble Savages. “Savages” perhaps only in terms of technical development, for they have a rich tribal culture and a deep connection with and knowledge of the other life forms of their planet. A connection that goes beyond the narrow, isolated consciousness of the alien and alienated human kind.

I think Auden’s lines on the civilized headspace still applies;

and each in the cell of themselves

is almost convinced of their freedom.”

 

Surely the idea of making the Na’vi seven foot tall was to mirror their moral stature as compared to the pygmy humans’ petty, ‘small minded’ mentality, an equal mix of greed and violence for the most part. Humans with a more enlightened attitude are a small, powerless minority, derided as ‘tree huggers’ who are traitors to the all important profit motive. As the craven Company rep clearly states re., the mining companies relation with the indigenous inhabitants on site: ‘The shareholders hate bad publicity, but they hate a bad quarterly return even more.’

 

Like every mining and forestry company in the world today, its fuck the natives when they’re in the way. Cockroaches before Civilization’s Bulldozer of Progress.

Meanwhile, the usual hero of so many Hollywood Blockbusters, that Aryan superman, the military saviour with a machine gun (or rocket launcher),

the machine-marine, the more than human cyborg in uniform, a matrix-jacking, killing-machine that saves the day in oh so many movies”(think Predator, Aliens2, to Terminator, Rambo, even Saving Private Ryan et al), is here cast as the Enemy, and clearly portrayed in its real guise,

a pathologically aggressive, xenophobic, soulless, heartless monster. The Tool of Moloch.

This is heresy! Hollywood rule number one; the marines are always the good guys, not Saurons stooges. This ‘cynical’ portrayal of marines as mere mercenaries serving “the Company” for cash is betraying our boys in Iraq/Afghanistan/Saudi Arabia/ South Korea et al. Who are out there winning hearts and minds! This is against patriotism. This is off message. George Bush would be appalled. Both of them.

Incidently, it is for not dissimilar reasons why British cult series, Doctor Who has never been bought and remade in America for American palates. Why has it not been Dumbed down and homogenised for the all important American market, like so many other productions have been, from Ab Fab and Kath & Kim, to Life on Mars and even way back to Wim Wenders Wings of Desire, etc, etc. the list goes on? Why you ask?

Because, you see, that damn Doctor just won’t pick up a gun! What kind of an American hero is that!

 

Hence I believe, the push to promote the Hurt Locker by the Hollywood Hierachy and thus pretend to be ‘relevant’ & keen to promote awareness of social & political issues, etc, while still having lots of guns and explosions going off. And you can identify with the marines again. Nice, safe territory.

Ostensibly not glamourising war, I argue a film like the Hurt Locker does just that. It plays the “gritty glamour” card. Saving Private Ryan again. And again. Films like this play at humanising the face of war, and try to tug at our heart strings for the poor average Joes just trying to do their job so they can go home. And encourages us to adopt a footsoldiers mentality ie, Sure, gripe about the politicians and the generals but don’t question them too closely and ultimately obey orders. Ours not to know, just do our duty and go home, repeat the mantra. Bring the focus in close so all you see is the individuals struggle and pain. It’d be churlish not to identify with them, wouldn’t it.. Well…I don’t know. You don’t want foreigners shooting at you then don’t go down a career path with that job description. One of the best moments of Avatar was the gunship pilot who finally DIDN’T obey orders, who made a moral decision not to follow a questionable command. You think the generals want that attitude in Afghanistan? They want patriotic stars coming out to entertain the troops. Shows with plenty of razzle dazzle to improve the mens morale. And Hollywoods always loved putting on a uniform.

Yes, for for all its “liberal” posturings, when it comes to the rub, Tinsel Town is as patriotic as any winner of a small town Beauty Contest with perfect teeth.

 

I thought Sigourny wonderful in her role, which is a sort of weird composite of her roles in Aliens and Gorillas in the Mist. Sort of as though Dianne Fossey had a bit of Lara Croft in her makeup. Defending mountain gorillas from poachers with an AK47.

 

This movie moved me to tears at times, but then

I’m a god-damned tree-hugger and god damned proud of it! (Who’s with me?)

I know what it’s like to stand in front of a bulldozer

trying to protect a tree, so James I’m with you there.

A potato up the tailpipe fixes those bastards.

(I mean metaphorically of course)

Ultimately in the movie, the planet itself rises up and saves the day,

crushing the puny insect “Company” and its fragile

technological toys with its awesome latent powers. Now if that isn’t a metaphor to take to heart I don’t know what is.

Yes this is a movie with beauty, guts and heart.

Its a fantasy of course, pure escapism,

but even the most committed eco-warrior

needs time to escape. Its called dreaming,

and if you don’t have a dream,

then your just a machine.

 

ps.. In regards to tree hugging it should be noted that some trees

are best just to pat. And never shake hands with a stinging nettle.

 

 

*********************************************

THE REVEREND HELLFIRE WILL BE APPEARING

AT THE BLACK STAR CAFE, WEST END, 20TH MARCH, 7PM

*********************************************

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~ by reverendhellfire on March 13, 2010.

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