Beautiful Schlock

Tuesday, January 05, 2010
That is how I refer to Avatar, James Cameron’s new epic to encourage self-loathing for human beings. Many have commented about the anti military angle and the enviro-worship. Rather than repeat that, I suggest reading those links for very interesting commentary. Rather, I’ll address the anti-human angle.

Of course the humans are thinly disguised Americans, but it is the human-beingness that is of interest to me. Humans are the invaders who have ruined their own world, paraphrasing what the avatar-guy says. Humans have nothing to offer the Na’vi, while the Na’vi have everything to offer humans. There is no opportunity for some kind of relationship, only a form of power and control vs. longing. One human takes an interest in Na’vi culture, but none of the Pandoran clans are interested in humans, only interested in getting rid of them. That one human has tried to educate the Na’vi, but about what is totally unclear. The Na’vi are presented as essentially fully evolved; they can develop no further because they are, in essence, perfect. They show only the most minimal of inventions (essentially bow-and-arrow and riding techniques). They neither want nor need technology. They have universal healthcare by tapping into Pandora. The Avatar can become Na’vi and stay but cannot remain human and stay (let alone be loved as a human).

In essence Cameron has penned an anti-human manifesto, similar to those who decry human beings as a plague upon the earth and become apoplectic about the fantasy of overpopulation. The technophobic Na’vi are made the heroes of a movie that showcases the most advanced technology the film industry has ever seen. It is a deeply cynical piece of film-making, as Cameron celebrates a society that in essence has a king and queen and a whole lot of drones, while he is a meglomaniac director who tries to control everyone and everything he comes across. Better to be on top, I guess.

The scenery is extraordinary and the visual effects are magnificent. Of course, so were those for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, possibly the most watched television program in history. Does that mean everyone desires to become a communist? I think not. People are paying to watch a spectacle, and Cameron hopes to sneak in his propaganda. Of course, his work is filled with contradictions. Only a human could have made it.


Luther McLeod said...

"...that in essence has a king and queen and a whole lot of drones."

I would go further and say it was a 'hive mind' concept, as in ants or bees. The only difference being there was a king as well as a queen. But all the rest, especially the beasts of the jungle coming in at the end... hive mind, in essence.

Good post though, Barry. Just couldn't resist putting in my two cents.

Barry Dauphin said...


Yes, I think the bee analogy is apt, although the movie is not the bees knees :>)

Knucklehead said...

I don't think it is possible for me to care less about something than I do about this movie. A very odd feeling. I think it may be that I have nearly exhausted my ability to care about schlock, even in a negative sense. I won't watch it, don't care. If others see fit to spend billions about it, it is other's billions. I won't spend a cent about it.

Luther McLeod said...

I stumbled upon a dissertation from one person on what happened to education in our country. It is a long treatise. And I haven't read it all, not nearly.
It is here.

But a quote I noticed from Maria Montessori... "along with many other enlightened thinkers of our time, foresaw nothingless than the emergence of a new human culture. This new culture, a global, planetized humanity," would be based on a new consciousness of the unity and interdependence of all being, the interconnectedness of all forms of energy and matter. It is a culture of the present
paradigm shift, by which we are beginning to align ourselves to educate the human potential
for conscious cooperation with the evolution of life on the planet.

That would seem to be the plot of Avatar. I wonder if Cameron was educated in a "Montessori" school. I'm sorry, but my HTML skills are woefully lacking. Hope this makes sense.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Really good insight. I've been pondering this the last couple of days.

loner said...

Haven't seen it. Not sure what exactly I'm waiting for as I never have high expectations where screenplay is concerned (and particularly with regard to big-budget movies) these days.

But, really guys, does it matter all that much that the "other" isn't "human" in this comic book/video game age? Dances With Wolves anyone?

More cynicism, please. I've got to hand it to Cameron. Cutting-edge effects and nonsense screenplays 12 years apart result in the 2 highest-grossing (non-inflation-adjusted) movies ever. (And I thought the first one had something to do with the lead actor. I never stopped to consider that what happened to him might have happened to whatever actor played the "non-human" character called Jack.) Genius of a sort, that Cameron.

There is a history in all men's lives,
Figuring the nature of the times deceased;
The which observed, a man may prophesy,
With a near aim, of the main chance of things
As yet not come to life, which in their seeds
And weak beginnings lie intreasured.
Such things become the hatch and brood of time;
And by the necessary form of this
King Richard might create a perfect guess
That great Northumberland, then false to him,
Would of that seed grow to a greater falseness;
Which should not find a ground to root upon,
Unless on you.

Early Shakespeare from a play for which I have little regard. Nonetheless, genius of an altogether different my opinion.

Looks like I'll be moving to Nevada sometime in the next few months. Nothing "main chance" about that. My wife wants to try something new and I agreed to move if the move is part of the job offer. My job goes with me. My experience with moving is that one should make every effort (and then try again) to get someone else to pay for and arrange it.

...and so it goes.

Barry Dauphin said...


No question Cameron has got a certain something as a director/creator, but all the more reason to take it somewhat seriously. Also this is post 9/11, and I think his thinly veiled Hitlerburton angle deserves comment (not least because the movie is so popular).

But now the important question: will you be there in time to vote for the Senatorial election!

loner said...


I'm reminded of "beautiful schlock" I took seriously.

Will Shakespeare lived in post-War-of-the-Roses England. It's a happy coincidence that the observation on the times in which one lives I thought might rightly pertain to Cameron's particular "genius" is in that play. The most interesting and entertaining part of that particular "History" has to do with Cade's Rebellion. A close reading of Shakespeare and of the facts of the actual event were part of my high school education. Hence the "little regard" to which I referred previously.

A couple of months ago I finally got around to watching the latest version of (and listening to all the commentaries on) a movie I decided, after numerous viewings and much debate with its admirers, was beautiful junk over 17 years ago. It's been slightly improved through the versions that have followed the 1982 original, but Blade Runner continues to be beautiful junk because of, with regard to the second adjective in that description, its mess of a screenplay. The contents of the screenwriter and director commentaries contained no surprises.

By introducing organic and realistically humanoid androids in this novel, Dick asks what qualities, if any, are unique to or are able to define what is human and makes readers question their own humanity.

I love many of the novels and stories written by Philip K. Dick. Much of the reason is that they did cause me to do some serious and profitable thinking. The movie adaptations of some of them? Not so much.

On the other matter, I'm not looking forward to the campaign commercials, but, given my viewing habits these days, I'll probably only have to suffer them during post-season baseball.