Let me just make this absolutely clear. This is not a movie review. This is not a high-brow discussion of the movie Avatar.
Now let’s get started. I was probably the only human being on earth who was utterly uninterested in Avatar. I did not want to watch it, I did not want to read about it, I did not want to hear about it. I hated the title of the movie even before I found out what it was about. I don’t like movies about alternate identities and virtual reality that somehow merges into reality. Yes, I am that rare species that did not like any of the Matrix movies. I’m not a fan of science fiction, and it’s probably the only genre of writing I never read. The only exception to this blanket dislike was Star Wars — all six of them.
So, when a friend of mine suggested that I should go see Avatar, I resisted. She started waxing poetic about how wonderful the movie was and — get this — how it was my kind of movie. Me!? Science fiction?! Weird virtual-real-worlds?! Never! Then she said the magic words: it’s the kind of fantasy world where you touch a flower and it opens. Oh coooool… so there are flowers in it. It’s not all about some weird robots with hi-tech guns that are trying to take over the world. (You can tell how “sophisticated” my conception of science fiction is.)
So I go watch the movie. And I love it. What was there to love about it? The movie seemed an obvious reference to the war in Iraq in many ways, and that whole mess is enough to make me tired and depressed just thinking about it. Also, the romantic subplot is kind of lacking in — for lack of better word — romance. The natives — which would equal the Iraqis/Arabs — are of course, savages (the Navi) — oh, beautiful in their own way, but still, simple, low-tech “savages” who don’t know how to look out for themselves.
A possibly unwitting parallel that was also made was how these savages didn’t know how to unite. How utterly ironic. We Arabs don’t know how to unite against a common enemy, even if it would be in our best interest in the long run. And, who unites the rather simple Navi and leads them to victory? A white American guy gone native. Hmmm… who’s going to be the white savior of the Arabs who will unite them? Any candidates? Anyone? Maybe we should write up a job description and start interviewing candidates. Then again, the human resource field in the Arab world is probably the worst on earth. And if it’s the Arab leaders who will be doing the recruiting, we might end up with the one of the former guards of Abu Ghraib.
Ok, so I didn’t like it for the rather obvious racism and references to the Iraq war. So what did I like?
Two things: 1. the idea of nature being a living interconnected force, and how uncorrupted by the material world “people” who are in connection with this force are, and more importantly 2. the idea of resistance.
Like the Lord of the Rings, the idea of fighting to the death to defend one’s people or country against obviously evil and militarily superior invaders, is loud and clear in Avatar. Although I highly doubt that this message was meant to be delivered by the film makers, this is the kind of resistance the Palestinians are putting up — resisting in the face of what seems the impossible. Resisting an enemy that is so much more superior in every single material, military, technological, and financial way, that the resistance itself could seem laughable, even ridiculous. But despite all this, the resistance continues, and despite initial setbacks, in the end, they do win.
And it continues.
(Oh, and the flowers that closed — rather than opened — with a touch? Disappointing. But the visual experience? Breathtaking.)