The Politics of Avatar: America Bad

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Whatever qualms you may have with James Cameron, you’ve got to admit: He know how to work an emotional payoff. From Sigourney Weaver stomping some alien ass in Aliens to a dramatic underwater resuscitation in The Abyss, he knows how to get under your skin. Even when the surface story is a little obvious. (Techland exlusive: James Cameron almost died making The Abyss)

The first time I saw Avatar, the comparisons to the American invasion of Iraq seemed obvious. Cameron seemed to be saying that the mineral on Pandora is the equivalent of oil here on Earth, and the marines were marching all over the Na’vi, just as so many said we had swarmed into Iraq. It was a pretty overt theme – the imperialist invaders vs. the native environment.(Read the James Cameron interview: Avatar sequels!)

But when Lev originally said here on Techland that Avatar is essentially Aliens from the aliens’ perspective, I don’t think I quite thought through how remarkable that is, for now the second most successful American film of all time to advocate essentially an anti-American message. I mean, the marines are the bad guys here. We boo the American soldiers in favor of the dragon-flying blue guys.

These are precisely the thoughts so expertly laid out in post by Joe Klein on our sister blog Swampland. Quoting:

Still, it was SOMETHING for a mainstream–indeed, a blockbuster–motion picture to have you rooting for the blue dudes flying about on birds painted like Chinese fans…and rooting against the humans, none of whom had the requisite Eastern European or Arab villain accents…read more

Klein is a political guy, but he still hit the nail on the head with his mini-Avatar review. Just as Cameron went straight at the class issue of Titanic, he uses his interstellar 3-D experiment to effectively turn the audience’s point of view against their own country.

Sure, it’s a collage of CG-generated blue blobs, but Avatar has some heavy stuff going on.

More at Techland: The 5 Most Underrated Sci-Fi Movie Masterpieces

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