Monday, July 5, 2010

In the Na'vi

An interview in today's Daily Telegraph led me to this article by Slavoj Žižek on Avatar and its alleged racism or "brutal racist undertones." But how brutal can an undertone be?

Certainly the film presents a fantasy of race: it's us (white, greedy, violent, technological, and led by the lead singer from Green Day) versus them (a tall, blue, generic native people who live in peace and harmony with nature). It's all rather Late Heidegger/Julian Young. The real point seems to be the clash between forms of life, not the clash between life forms. Except that the Na'vi's ecological life is actually rather technological--they plug themselves into animals and plants, and are described as being part of a huge network. The clash is a military one too. So the film sort of says one thing (dependence on technology + military aggression = bad) but shows another, or says what it says in a techno-military language. I suppose the message "We are bad and everything we stand for is bad" (I'm exaggerating) is a hard sell. A commercial rejection of commercialism is tricky too.

I enjoyed the film, but perhaps it goes to show how hard it is to produce a message that genuinely goes against the grain of our culture or times.

3.5 stars out of 5.

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