AVATAR: Activism through Fiction

By Lauren Selman | Bio

“Sarah…just saw Avatar, it was great!” “Mark…wants you to see Avatar!” The facebook status updates of my friends keep pouring in. Not interested in another blockbuster blow-em-up movie, I looked to my various communities to see what people think and sure enough the reviews are there too. Young and old, Democrat or Republican, Eco-Conscious and Eco-Hating, the status updates had a clear message, to see Avatar.

Okay, fine! I’ll see it. I had been told it was an “environmental justice” movie while other friends described the movie as a work of “art,” so I didn’t know what I was in for. But per the recommendations of my trusted network, I finally made my way to the movie theater and sure enough it was so sold out. No hope lost, the next week, I tried again. And again. And after three sold out shows and no theater ticket in hand, I was getting the hint that perhaps I wasn’t suppose to see the magnanimous movie. However, I am thankful, because in leu of the other missed performances I was able to see other films that were not in my line up, including the memorable Invictus (not to be missed!).

Sure enough, however, with a little planning and buying tickets three days before the show (so much for spontaneity) I was finally sitting in the plush velvet chairs at the legendary ArchLight Dome cinema in Hollywood with my high-tech glasses wrapped around my face.

Now there are many reasons to go to the movie. Whether the girls invited you out for a night on the town or you are seeking a distraction from a tough day at work, a couple hours in the dark with strangers can sometimes be exactly what the doctor ordered. In this case, going to see Avatar was unlike most movie experiences. For starters, even before the movie began, the theater buzzed with anticipation and eyes were fixed with intent on the screen. “Ooos” and “Aaas” sprinkled across the audience as shapes darted at them through their 3-D glasses.

The movie itself was truly beautiful. James Cameron and his team mastered the art form and it was, not to be clique, an out of this world experience. So much so, I left the theater exhausted, with a killer migraine, but that is minor compared to having your entire civilization blown into smitherings. As many critics have said, however, seeing Avatar is like Fern Gully on steroids… an outsider comes into a community that then falls in love with the adventurous female and together they strive to save their civilization and environment with big bad machines that blow things up and in this case come at you. Avatar also has hints of The Matrix and meets the beauty and deep connectedness we see in a film like Baraka. The movie highlights the drama, horror and pain of environmental damage while tuning into a sense of inner connectivity.

The most powerful element of this film, however, was seeing, once again, the power of activism through storytelling. Fiction in particular allows us to escape the trials and tribulations of our lives and be immersed in someone else’s lives for a couple hours. We then can travel on a journey with the characters and begin to see ourselves in their struggles. Where Avatar succeeded as an environmental film is that it carried a message of environmental awareness without being preachy or “knock-you-over-the-head-fear-factor.” Audiences are then able to get that what happens in the movie is a travesty but they also are not starved of being entertained. There were aspects of the film where there was a strong sense of good guy versus bad guy and it is important when looking at environmental concerns in our modern world that we notice the complexities of the situation. Furthermore, critics have said that there should have been a "call to action" at the end of film like in An Inconvenient Truth, but alas ( maybe they’ll put it in the DVD).

Overall, there are some strong reactions to this film out there which should be considered, but the best review is the one you, the viewer, give the film. We all see it through different filters, so whether you see Avatar through the lens of an artist, an academic, or an environmentalist, the film will heighten your interest and do what the most powerful films in history do: make you think.


© 2010 Lauren Selman. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.