Sunday, January 03, 2010

'Avatar' and Hollywood's religion of choice

A great review of the film, Avatar, by Ross Douthat, "Heaven and Nature" (New York Times, December 20, 2009):
... “Avatar” is Cameron’s long apologia for pantheism — a faith that equates God with Nature, and calls humanity into religious communion with the natural world.

... Indeed, it represents a form of religion that even atheists can support. Richard Dawkins has called pantheism “a sexed-up atheism.” (He means that as a compliment.)

... the human societies that hew closest to the natural order aren’t the shining Edens of James Cameron’s fond imaginings. They’re places where existence tends to be nasty, brutish and short.
Indeed, in that one scene the night before the final battle when Jake comes to the Tree of Souls alone under the cover of darkness, he prays to Eywa, the mother goddess who subsists beneath all life forms and their healing energy. There is something reminiscent of a Fundamentalist evangelistic film at this point, where the agnostic protagonist hesitantly approaches the precincts of divinity, saying something like "I don't know if you're there or not, but if you can hear me ..." A Fundamentalist Christian trope, which would be sneeringly laughed out of Hollywood, thus becomes a token of high reverence when Jake prays to the life force of ... a tree. The perversity ... The perversity ...

[Hat tip to E.E.]

3 comments:

GregK said...

I think this is an over-reaction. The film shows that those people on that planet live in such and so relationship with their eco-system / god.

It's a stretch to say that the same applies or ought to apply to humans. They're different. For example, they have that weird USB port thing at the end of their hair. We don't.

Sheldon said...

Yeah, but GregK, what do you think James Cameron is communicating here, and what do you think is the assumption reinforced in the minds of most of the movie-going crowd raised on nature worship and mockery of patriarchy, Christianity, and the assumption than human beings qualitatively differ from other species?

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