The Shallow Propaganda Pool That Is 'Avatar: The Way of Water'

Avatar: The Way of Water is a pandering and one-dimensional environmentalist propaganda piece by director James Cameron that feels like a three-hour version of a TikTok video where a blue-haired Leftist lectures you about the evils of colonialism. The film's plot is a beat-for-beat copy of the first film, except in this iteration, the evil humans aren't hunting for the precious metal known as "unobtainium" but rather Pandorian whale brain fluid, which can stop human aging in its tracks. Plus, humans need to return to Pandora because, of course, they've made the earth uninhabitable and need a new home.

The villain is the same as the first flick in the form of agro Marine Quaritch (Stephen Lang), except this time he's back in a Na'vi body. The protagonist is the same, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) who is still in his trans-human-Na'vi form. His wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) returns, and there is the added bonus of a bunch of interchangeable kids the two have, some of whom are adopted, including a human youngster raised with Na'vi values. Like the first film, Quaritch is hunting Sully, who moves from his tree wonderland to the lush setting of the sea.

Midway through the film, the audience is introduced to the character of Mick Scoresby, the captain of a whaling vessel there to pillage the whale brain liquid gold. (That's not a metaphor, the brain fluid in the film is literally portrayed as liquid gold.) Every time his boat goes into action, he yells to his crew "let's make some money!" Later, the audience is treated to the character's dismemberment and likely death at the hands of a revenge-fueled whale who once escaped his clutches.  

It is possible that the character of Scoresby will return. Cameron has lifted from literary sources for most of his films, such as cribbing from Harlan Ellison's work for the Terminator or Robert Heinlein for Aliens, and a dismembered sea captain returning for revenge against the whale that wronged him may be too much of a Mody Dick move to pass up.

The entire third act of the film finds the blue and green Na'vi, two Pandorian BIPOC groups, fighting alongside the whale and uniting to slaughter the humans for the evils they've brought to their idyllic planet of perfect harmony. Avatar's metaphor extends well beyond critiques of Western colonialism and makes mankind a villain beyond salvation or reproach. But Cameron, like all those who choose to demonize the societal foundation to which they owe both their fertile consciences and materialistic prosperity, clearly views history as an a la carte buffet, picking whatever seems tasty to better build the strawman argument against human conquest.

At its core, the Avatar films are an exercise in the debunked myth of Rousseauian utopia. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was an 18th Century philosopher who proposed the idea that humanity was inherently good and it was society that tarnished him over time. In his book "Discourse on the Origin of Inequality," he elaborated on how the indigenous tribes in the Americas typified his concept of the uncivilized equating to harmonious living.

As the Newsweek article 'The Legacy Of Rousseau' from 2000 points out, internecine war in the Americas existed long before Westerners showed up, and "native peoples were responsible for the extinction of species on a huge scale long before Europeans appeared on the scene."

But in Avatar, the Na'Vi were so in harmony with the whales that they exchanged song ballads, as the whales were secret artistic geniuses who shared their craft via telepathic tentacled mind-melds.

Similarly, Cameron's Na'Vi owe as much to Rousseau as Howard Zinn's whose book The People's History of the United States spearheaded the myths about European exploration in the Americas, including the idea that Christopher Columbus aimed to subjugate the natives the moment he arrived. "Zinn’s portrayal of Native American cultures is an extremely simplistic, romanticized caricature that demonstrates how willing he is to forgo any attempt at legitimate, objective history in order to perpetuate his 'European white people bad, Native Americans good' narrative," wrote Casey Chalk for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

The humans in Avatar are the offspring of Zinn and Rousseau, perfect villains terrorizing the natives who previously lived in perfect harmony.

The irony is that Cameron's career was built on the back of technology that was uniquely born of the pioneering spirit. Of course the tools of moviemaking, such as electricity, film itself, and the ability to tell time down to the minute all have their literal origins of in Western ingenuity, Like the explorers of old, Cameron pushed the boundaries of CGI and filmmaking techniques with a zest that is unequivocally born of the urge to explore and conquer new frontiers.



 

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