Mercifully (and fairly, I think) you acknowledge, "Cameron probably did intend to be progressive and to advocate but ended up being like the corporate bigwig in his film..." I think there is no doubt that Cameron had very good intentions with this film, but as you said, "educating from on high... only furthers repression."
[Avatar] praises it’s hero for aligning himself with the oppressed but glosses over the fact that should he fail, he would wake up in his real body and lose nothing; while the Na’vi lose everything (a metaphor I don’t think the film makers intended).
Interesting, isn't that exactly our vantage, as moviegoers? We're emotionally engaged, but personally uninvested and unexposed to any risk...
[Avatar] furthers the popular myth that humans are inherently destructive and greedy. By hating ourselves we are allowed to feel moral and by believing destruction to be inevitable, we are spared from actually having to do anything about it. Personally, I think there are too many ‘cautionary tales’ and not enough ‘exemplary tales’, too much cynicism and not enough hope, too many ‘complicated characters’ and not enough role models, too many easy breakthroughs and not enough hard won realizations.Yes! So true. Yet even as I affirm that, I feel convicted of my own impotence to model something constructive. Deconstruction is ongoing, but I want to be simultaneously building and modeling something good and healthy. This is why I admire Wendell Berry so much, who tirelessly critiques rampant capitalism, consumerism and industrialism, but ALSO personally demonstrates a localized, agrarian alternative. And he's the first to say that there are no "huge solutions" to the world's huge problems. Only lots of small solutions. So hopefully we can affect some micro-changes right here in conversation, Brendan.
You're absolutely right. I was just discussing this with our old friend Mr. Fleischer! I conceded that I could be completely wrong about the impact or effect of the movie. I don't believe I'm wrong about the dangers of cultural misrepresentation, manipulation, and some of the other issues at hand, but yes, maybe Avatar will move some folks to be more culturally and ecologically-conscious. I'm not so desperate to be right that I can't applaud something good undermining my thesis! And hopefully we're doing something good here too. Someone else said that Cameron may have indirectly affected good by inciting these types of conversations in the first place. I can't say I agree with that any more than I think the Rodney King beating was "good" because it contributed to dialogue about race in America. Abuse is still abuse... but it can teach us something.
This leads me to share your frustration with the apparent impotence of media. However, media as an awareness altering tool works in subtle ways though. It’s impossible to measure it’s effect. Who is to say whether or not Avatar (despite it’s many hypocrisies) will contribute to a greater sympathy for indigenous rights, or whether your blog will inspire others to more closely examine their role in oppression.
Brendan, I really enjoy your insights and look forward to keeping in touch!
Read all of Brendan's comments, and several others, here!