Saturday, January 9, 2010

Avatar Misses the Mark

I don't really follow the media. Don't follow the news or pop culture gossip. I really enjoy going into a movie knowing absolutely nothing about. So, for awhile there I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about over a movie adaptation of Nickleodeon's Last Airbender Series. But, everyone was saying "You have got to see Avatar!" I was told it was a good to see High, someone said "Whoever made this movie has definitely done ayahuasca!" Indeed, what I saw last night started out as a psychedelic joy-ride. I was reminded of my own psychedelic experiences (2 decades ago) where I felt I could see the life inside everything: watching a rose unfold, a leaf uncurl, the wonder of existence. Yes. I got sucked in. The exoticized, native peoples of Pandora (with their gestures appropriated from tribal cultures of Africa, the Americas, even the Hawaiis) appealed to me. The child in me that had dreamed of (or remembered) running with the Sioux, living in harmony with the Land, with the Web of Life, the young man that mourned the loss of a simpler way of Living, not so far from Center, identified.

Let me make something perfectly clear. I am a tree-hugger. I have felt the screams of trees as they were felled. Decades later, I still experience the wonder of living things, and still experience the movement of Life. As a Yoga teacher and Qi Gong and Reiki practitioner I have direct experience of the "Network of Energy that flows through all living things" Frankly I don't understand critiques like the one posted here ( ) that use lines like this from the film to undermine the authority or inegrity of the film. In fact I can't really comprehend the vehemence, the anger of right-wing criticisms of the film as "Radical Environmentalist" and Anti-Military Propaganda. I don't understand how concern over the environment is anti-christian (when and how did this happen?)

But I must say: Avatar is NOT Radical! Yes there is an exocticized concern for the environment. Yes there is a beautifully graphic depiction of the interpenetration of the Life-Force ("Chi for Complete Idiots" someone described it to me). But when the going gets rough, James Cameron's imagination falters at the critical moment of conflict resolution and the beautiful big-eyed Innocents, that say "This death was not Neccesary" the same peoples that believe "all energy is borrowed" (granted these same peoples would kill a man for being Other, just as the "alien" Humans would) raise a call to arms, and they go to war. They kill. They murder. Within the logic of the film this murder is justified because the Humans/Americans have been codified Bad by there associatiation with the Materialist Military Complex, but this is just a simple role reversal, not a revolution in Philosophy.

Cameron makes empty gestures towards Gaiaism and the Cult of the Mother ("They [the Human/Americans] have killed their Mother [Earth]") but fails to comprehend that the coming of Big Woman Power is a complete philosophical revolution in terms of how we define Power. In the coming Age, in the reversal of Patriarchy, power will no longer be defined in terms of Strength or Force. Power will not be represented in a position of "Against". As we all begin to take our place on the Medicine Wheel, as we step into the Web of Life, and each of us begins to experience directly that flow of life-force that runs through everything, we will see that there is no Seperation, we are All One. There is no Other, no Enemy. To hurt, or wound, or kill anOther is to hurt Myself, to wound all of Life. Power in the Age of Big Woman will not be defined in terms of one individual (the Hero) but in terms of the Collective. It will come from the Heart Center (the Seat of Love, Compassion) not from the Solar Plexus Center (the Seat of Will).

Watching the film, I hated the Military Commander perfectly from the moment he entered the narrative. Cameron did a fantastic job of creating a character that embodied everything I find despicable in Masculinity. However, at no point in the film did I wish to see him killed. I did not feel the need to see him "get his". Cameron's narrative rapidly collapses into the same old recycled hyper-masculine Oedipal trype of Hand to Hand Combat, Man against Machine, Hero against Villain. Granted the Heroine, steps in to save the day, but in purely masculine terms.

Rather, I wanted desperately to see this military man fall to his knees and weep. I wanted to see the beauty of the Tree of Souls touch his heart and break him open. I wanted to see the demon Ravenna, from the Ramayana, in the moment of defeat fall to his knees at the feet of Rama, bowing before the Divine. I wanted to see Giovanni Ribisi's character redeemed, welcomed home to Eden, not expelled once more. This is not the way of the Mother. The narrative failed in terms of accountability: once the HomeTree is destroyed, it is forgotten. The planets attempts to maintain balance are sinmply more violence.

Violence is not the answer! War is not the answer! I wanted to see people walking from the theater with a feeling of the weight of their responsibility to this world, to each Other, to Life Itself. Instead they clapped, and said wee, that was so Coool and so pretty, and left there empty popcorn boxes on the floor where they lay.

Please, people, demand more.

1 comment:

  1. woo hoo !! have not seen it but wow what a critique. thank U so much!