I’ve been wanting to do a post on Avatar ever since I saw it in December, but I never really figured out what I wanted to say. I guess I didn’t have any thoughts about it that were sufficiently “Great”. That is until now. I’ve heard varying criticisms of the movie that lament that it’s “un-American”, “anti-military” or that it has American audiences cheering the defeat of American soldiers.
First, I want to address the fact that the humans were not, in fact soldiers defending America. I would guess that most, like the protagonist had been, but they were not the U.S. military in the film. They were mercenaries in service to a corporation. One of my early thoughts on leaving the movie was that this seems to be an accepted method for artistic criticism of militarism. In recent years, I saw that distinction clearly in the late great CBS show Jericho. It appears that ABC’s FlashForward is going in that direction as well. Both have “contractors” that seem to analagous to Blackwater…I mean Xe.
That being said, I can’t honestly say that I sat through the movie thinking things like “Gee…if these were U.S. soldiers and thus accountable to our nation’s civilian leadership, these atrocities would not be happening.” I was focused on right and wrong, the rightness of the N’avi defending their way of life and the wrongness of the humans’ greed. The events in the movie created a clear, frankly un-subtle case for the N’avi defending themselves. They created a clear villain and clear heroes. That’s what authors, playwrights and screenwriters are able to do. They create the justification for the actions that the heroes take.
So for those whose criticism of Avatar runs along this course, I have a question. Would you make the same criticism if the mercenaries were not American? Suppose this were a future where Indian or Chinese corporations were taking the actions depicted in the film and using mercenaries from wars that their countires had fought in the fictional history between now and the setting of the film. Would you be more sympathetic to the N’Avi? If so, then you might want to ask yourself whether the flag on the uniform makes right an action that is otherwise wrong.
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“Great” Thoughts of the Past
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