The political import of Avatar — and there’s no waving this aspect away because it’s right in your face start to finish, and especially in the third act — is ardently left. It is pro-indigenous native, anti-corporate, anti-imperialist, anti-U.S. Iraq War effort, anti-U.S.-in-Afghanistan (and anti-troop-surge-in-that-country, or strongly against the thinking of President Barack Obama and Gen. Stanley McChrystal), anti-rightie, anti-Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld, etc.
Yes, it’s very teenaged adolescent in its super-imaginative wacko visions and exuberant energy levels, but politically it’s pure Che Guevara (more the Motorcycle Diaries or Che-in-Cuba version than Che in Bolivia), Naom Chomsky, Hugo Chavez, Howard Zinn, Gore Vidal, Oliver Stone, etc. Cameron is an earth-hugging lefty from way back (the flagrant despise-the-arrogant-rich current in Titanic being but one example) so this should come as no surprise to anyone. I for one am cheered and heartened.
If Sarah Palin sees Avatar and then sits down and actually thinks about what it’s saying (which is always a dicey proposition, I admit), she’ll hate this movie. Because Avatar hates her and her kind. Some righties will pretend to like it (“great popcorn flick! took my kids!”), but they’d have to be in major denial mode not to recognize that Avatar is much more MSNBC than Fox News. It really spits on the Fox News philosophy/worldview. If Cameron had for some inane reason put a Fox News-type character in the film, he/she would end up with a Na’vi arrow through his/her chest, trust me.
Call it the most flamboyant, costliest, grandest left-liberal super-movie anyone’s ever seen — a political tract that cost Rupert Murdoch God knows how many hundreds of millions to make and yet is totally pro-loincloth, pro-native, despise-the-greedy, hug-the-earth, worship-the-earth, down with the soulless short-end, down with the us-first, masters-of-the-universe thinking behind the Goldman Sachs/Timothy Geithner culture and up with the eternal/spiritual in all cultures and all corners of the globe. The tragedy of the Vietnam War echoes all through this film. Somewhere Ho Chi Minh is smiling.
Cameron explains the anti-imperialist current to John Anderson in a forthcoming N.Y. Times Sunday piece: “I’m…a child of the ’60s. There’s a part of me who wants to put a daisy in the end of the gun barrel. I believe in peace through superior firepower, but on the other hand I abhor the abuse of power and creeping imperialism disguised as patriotism. Some of these things you can’t raise without being called unpatriotic, but I think it’s very patriotic to question a system that needs to be corralled, or it becomes Rome.”
Spoiler: I leave it to the community to decide whether there’s a huge 9/11 metaphor in Avatar or not, but I felt one (although politically it makes no sense in the context of the film.) Call it a reverse 9/11 image. I’m not talking about the destruction of a man-made super-structure but a natural one. I’ll leave it at that and wait for reactions.