Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Deep Meaning in Avatar

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Behind the beauty of Avatars computer animation lies the heart and story of the movie; in a faraway world a beautiful paradise is under threat from a mining company.

The story explores the relationship humans have with nature. Jason Cameron asks,

  • How do humans connect with the environment?
  • Do humans live separate from nature, or are we a part of nature?
  • Why do humans feel separate from other kinds of life?
  • Are corporations heartless?
  • What does it mean to be human and what is our relationship to things not human?

Like any story it's best to begin at the start. Once upon a time in a faraway land called Pandora, humans arrived to mine the mineral unobtanium. Quickly the mining company the goes to work finding the unobtanium, ignoring the native Na’vi's disapproval. Emphasising the corporations value of things over social harmony (see Further Reading). The Corporation has a life of its own; a mining companies survival depends on mining and its needs mines to exist.

The humans who are amongst the Na’vi see the damage being done by the mining operation and try to convince the pencil pushers that mining Pandora is unethical. The mining companies decisions are made by people who have a vested interest in the success of the mining exploration, and so ignore the damage and hurt created to the natives. Are the wrong people making the decisions?

In the movie, Jake has his thoughts transferred from his crippled human body into that of an Avatar; the body of a Na’vi. As Jake becomes more connected to his view of the world changes. At first Jake doesn’t like the Na’vi. As Jake experiences life in the avatar of a Na'vi his values change. Would Jake have felt the same way if he wasn’t in the avatar's body? By the end of the movie Jake chooses to become a Na'vi permanently.

Jakes character explores the origin of thought. Avatar leads us to believe the body is an important part of our identity, asking. “Where do our thoughts live? Are they born in our body?”

  • So do Jake’s first thoughts live in his crippled body?
  • Where do our thoughts come from?
  • What is the source of thought, is life born in the body or is it born from the environment?
  • How does the movie relate to habitus, as defined by Pierre Bourdieu?

One final thought. All of the humans who help the Na’vi, during the invasion have experienced the world through the body of the Na’vi. Except for the pilot of the helicopter, why did she help the rebellion? Was her motivation the same as those who had Avatars?

Further Reading

Eight Principles of Uncivilisation

Side Story (Zombie Economy)

Zombie Economy: A zombie is the living dead. Businesses are functioning organism (organisation). Their main purpose is to extract money. Generally the core of a business is dead and has no soul, it isn’t driven by ethics but purely the desire for profit.

The economy is everything people place a value on. If the only currency of value is dollars and cents, what chance does ethics have in business decisions?

  • Employees in the company will work to keep the company alive.
  • Decisions are made on paper and their is little connection with reality

Empathy: Jason Cameron creates another world for the viewer. The viewer enters the body of the Na’vi, and discovers another perspective of the world. When you watch a movie their is a transference, you see the world through the characters eyes; just as Jake’s experience changed when he lived inside an Avatar.

The Subversive Reality of the Movie

How did Jake become convinced that what the humans were doing is wrong? Was he made blind by love? Or did love open his eyes to the similarities between the humans and the Na’vi? Is it true that everything is connected?

Counter Point

I would also suggest watching Father Barron’s review of Avatar. He watched the movie from the perspective of a catholic priest. It is interesting to see how the meaning of the movie changes according to the background of the person; which is a relevant theme to the movie. People see the world differently, and peoples view of the world is guided by their beliefs.

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