Avatar and Cultural Theory

Is there a Four Cultures take on that movie everyone except me seems to have seen? If so, please let me know your thoughts by commenting on this post.

For inspiration you could look at what the anthropology website Savage Minds had to say about it, or you could read about the four cultures of science fiction and a cultural theory interpretation of Star Wars.

And maybe I’ll get round to seeing it, although for truly amazing 3d effects I find it cost-effective to hold my hand at arm’s length in front of my face and turn it slowly. Call me old fashioned. I’m holding out for 5d cinema.

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4 Responses to “Avatar and Cultural Theory”

  1. meika Says:

    The aliens have a usual turned-up-to-eleven single human aspect to make then alien but understandable. Limited internal cultural variety. Apparently the original ‘scriptment’ (available on bittorrent) has more background on the humans home world and a plot complexity which would have made it a bit less like Ursula K Le Quin’s “The Word for World is Forrest” Vietnam war allgory. (No unobtanium under the native home tree). Usual Romance of the Lame saves the world byline.

    Humans are sectioned into Marine Mercenaries, Management, Science Eco-Shaman-Nerds. No focus on Isolates anywheres, usual invisibleness. Worthington’s character, of course, slips across these groupings on his journey to becoming-blueman.

    Looks amazing.

  2. fourcultures Says:

    Thanks for that Meika. So no human isolates, huh? Does this make the humans more or less credible? And the idea of an alien culture with limited internal cultural variety. Does that make the aliens more or less believable? In other words, when thinking of aliens (intelligence but not human intelligence) do we expect the nuances of human culture, or do we expect less subtlety? And do we even recognise the human nuances in the first place? Reminds me of a great bit in a Vernor Vinge novel (A Deepness in the Sky?) where it suddenly turns out the aliens aren’t very human-like at all since the human interpreters have just been using extreme dramatic license. Tonight I saw segment of the Colbert Report on the Avatar movie. He stole my hand in front of the face gag and pointed out that Avatar must be the best movie of all time because it’s made a billion dollars. Citizen Kane would have been a better movie in colour because then you’d have been able to tell which of the characters were supposed to be blue.
    By the way, I won’t have anyone implying anything bad about Ursula LeGuin. I just won’t. Although admittedly not having read The Word for World, I’m talking out of my hat again…

  3. Paul Gillen Says:

    I expected the awesome 3D spectacle, and wasn’t surprised by the wit of the script, but _was_ rather taken aback by the vehemence of its denunciation of imperialism, and quite specifically of _US_ imperialism. The futuristic US invaders are spoofed in a way quite close to Dr Strangelove.

    Compromised scientists , fuzzy new age values, money mad speculators, destruction mad armies, ancient cultures swept aside – all very familiar. But then there is a successful insurgency led by treacherous counter-insurgency experts and ‘the aliens return to their dying planet.’

    Oh yeah, those aliens are _us_, more or less. The more you think about this movie, the curiouser it gets. It displays great savvy about Teutonic mythology – Siegfried, Brunnhilde, the world tree, Ragnarok etc are all there. Wagner would have adored it, esp in his Bakunin phase.

  4. fourcultures Says:

    Thanks for your insights Paul. I was intrigued that China seems to be banning the movie, either because it’s too subversive – apparently people see the invective as being aimed at rapacious developers in general and in China specifically – or because it’s knocking Chinese films off the leader board.
    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/1ead44d2-06e0-11df-b058-00144feabdc0.html

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