Why do so many people in so many countries love Avatar? Movie as Rorschach test

by marycw on January 11, 2010

Avatar is acting as a “global Rorschach test”.  What’s  so cross-culturally appealing about this movie that’s  attracting huge audiences in countries as different as US, China, UK, Germany, France, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Japan?

Partly it’s the eye-popping visuals and technological wizardry: it’s earning most of its international revenues from 3d theaters (which charge higher admission). Saturday Jan 9th was the biggest day in IMAX box office history, with China bringing in “staggering and record-breaking” revenues.

But the varied reviewers are finding their own points of resonance with the movie:

Andrew Leonard wrote in Salon that Avatar is “all things to all people,”  with everyone from neo-cons applauding its “deeply conservative, pro American message” to left-wing professors commenting that “the jungle pantheism that now pervades the psychoactive counterculture has gone thoroughly mainstream.”

William Kern in his article in The Moderate Voice pointed to a couple of non-US reviews (links below are English translations):

– from Belgium:  Oscar van den Boogaard in De Standaard describes “feeling like a Neanderthal who’s seen his first airplane,”  the diverse audience, the story line of “the brutality of man…[who] destroys what’s foreign to him…parallels between Iran and Pandora….”

– in the China Daily, Raymond Zhou speculates that “…at the moment a giant bulldozer appeared on the screen,  I had an ‘aha’ moment…that there is a specific Chinese interpretation one could make”  related the ongoing conflicts in China between modernizing property developers and local Chinese who fight to protect their homes.   Here’s another article on how “the Chinese see a message in Avatar” about local homeowners fighting brutal developers.

Meanwhile,The Korean Times has this cartoon of a blue Na’vi befriended by a patched-robe Arab, African and other developing world peoples, while in the background three imperialist figures  (a cowboy, a foreign legion soldier, and a pith-helmeted policeman) watch with consternation.

Dmitri Gorshokov writes in RT (Russian media channel) that Avatar’s message is that “if we don’t start solving our ecology problems we’ll be in big trouble….and those who watch the news…will find the scenario, in which a stronger race invades a weaker one for its resources, annoying familiar.”

William Langly in the UK Telegraph comments on  director James Camerons’ “working class background” and quotes Cameron as saying he tries to  “live with honor” in the Hollywood world where “a handshake means nothing” to most people.

So perhaps the discussions about how the movie could have been so much better with a more nuanced, complex storyline — are missing the point. Perhaps it’s the very straightforward nature of the storyline and characters that allows for such a range of interpretations to be projected upon it.

{ 4 comments }

vivienne 03.22.10 at 9:54 pm

Interesting discussion> I have mentioned your blog in my latest post on the Museum of Anthropology's Blog. Article entitled "Avatar, Oil Sands and First Nations" and have included another side to the discussion, namely that these claims are "fairytales" as posted by the Vancouver Sun. Am interested to hear what you think…

Vivienne 03.22.10 at 9:55 pm
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ethan 11.30.-1 at 12:00 am

Could you please tell me if the following could be true as you have an interest in anthropology::

Groups of Negroids migrated out of North-East-Africa approximately 125,000 years ago, they moved to Scandinavia (West of present day Norways mountain ranges- See map:) and later to India, then Far East Asia and finally Australia. over 90,000 years In Scandinavia they evolved to Aryans (Aryan = A pure race with blonde hair, blue eyes, white but fully tanable skin, towering height and uniform attractiveness). They were able to survive the climate in Scandinavia as the early stages of the ice-age was nowhere near as extreme as contemporary science claims: See Link Blavatsky (They left Scandinavia before the ice age got to inhospitable around 35,000 years ago). As skeletal evidence has proven (see Cro-magnons at Wikipedia:). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cro-Magnon (Cro-magnon means Aryan). This unique race must have evolved in Norther Europe – Scandinavia because the lack of light there is the only thing that can explain the evolution of blonde hair, blue eyes and white skin. There is simply no where else where these traits could have evolved. The encapsulating mountain ranges in Norway stand out as a place of origin.

The original migrations to India, Far East Asia & Australia most likely happened later than the first migration to Scandinavia. Never the less approximately 35,000 years ago there were 5 distinct pure root races on earth: Aryan – Indian – Mongoloid – Negroid – Aboriginal. They had each evolved perfectly to their environment. Approximately 35,000 years ago these Aryans moved out of their habitat (Scandinavia – Norway) as the Ice-age was getting more extreme. They moved South into Europe. There numbers grew and they split up and formed small communities throughout all Europe. Groups of these Aryans then moved into central Asia. Somewhere around where we now know as Afghanistan the Aryan race came face to face with the Indian race that had also left there habitat. What this was like is any ones idea: fighting or friendship. Then the first mixing of races occurred. A new people were formed Indo-Aryans or Arabs, Mostly Indian racial composition.

IndianThese Indo-Aryans (Arabs) numbers grew rapidly, they expanded and moved West occupying Asia and then into North Africa. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabs These Arabs or Indo-Aryans in North Africa moved North up in to Spain, Italy and Greece, mixing with the Aryans already there which formed the basis of the Spanish, the Italians and the Greeks. Obviously brown hair and brown eyes being dominant over blonde hair and blue eyes, which are recessive. that why so many Europeans have these features. Of course this information is a very simplified version of events, there have been to many migrations of ethnic groups to explain briefly. This information is just to give a general idea of events. Because we (Europeans) are part Indian. All civilisation, technology and advancement that there has ever been comes from those who are or are descended from the Aryan race.

MongolThe same thing happened in Far East Asia, Aryans mixed with Mongoloids forming Chinese, Korean, Japanese types, then the Mongol hordes (hybrids) later moved West, Slavic people and Finns are mostly Aryan with small amounts of Mongoloid in them giving them Asiatic features. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavic_peoples The Aryan race had large brains at that time the most likely reason why our European brain size is now smaller than back then is from intermixing with the smaller brained races. Having larger brains does not necessarely mean superiority though.

taken from the website http://www.thearyanrace.com

thankyou for your time

Alix

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