Avatar Encites Political and Religious Criticism

Avatar has come under attack by a number of political and religious criticisms since its come out, but any time one of those organizations has the opportunity to soapbox they will try.

The religious assumptions that this somehow offends Hindus because of the word Avatar (which is descriptive, not specifically holy) and comparisons to Hindu or Native American traditions can be made, but not offended by. This is fiction – not a holy war.

But still we get a wide range of soapboxing online enciting everything from Anti-American assumptions, and even anti-god. Good thing this isn’t a true story huh?

/Film shares some of them with us:

Big Hollywood has a piece which bluntly concludes that “the bad guys in the movie are the United States Marines,” broadly missing the point that the characters in the film are ex-Marines who have been employed by a private company.

Cameron is from Canada, so clearly he has an anti military agenda to his films. Funny that people compare the corporate entity in Avatar to the same theme he used in Alien, but there was no agenda then.

MovieGuide (”A Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment”) review of the film. The quotes in this one come fast and furious but I think we can start here: AVATAR has an abhorrent New Age, pagan, anti-capitalist worldview that promotes goddess worship and the destruction of the human race.

Now MovieGuide is run by Dr. Ted Baehr a hardcore rightwing christian fundamentalist that takes offense to everything that doesnt directly sing god’s praises and therefore this movie is just going to piss him off. Its amazing this guy still thinks he has credibility. (Yes, I have had interactions with this rocket scientist before – while criticizing with me he asked for a donation to his organization so he could continue sending traffic to this site – a classy hypocrite)

AV Club writes: The movie’s most seditious act is to evoke the specter of September 11, only with the terms reversed…Cameron’s willingness to question the sacred trauma of 9/11 is audacious, and his ability to do so in a $300 million tentpole movie is nothing short of shocking. If Avatar has a claim to revolution, that is where it lies.

Yeah, because ANY film that shows a building (or bigass tree) falling down is clearly an offense to the victims of 9/11. Stretch much?

I guess movies are not allowed to have badguys in them anymore, because Zod forbid that they might be identifiable by some sort of negative trait.

At some point people will wake up and realize that fiction is just fiction. Sometimes there is a message in it.. sometimes you GET a message where one wasn’t intended. Sometimes its intended and it goes right over your head.

Now I am not saying that you need to turn off your brain when watching a movie (unless its Jackass – that will upset you if you try to THINK at all during that) but when criticizing its merits, at least make sense.

Its the same generalization we abhor in public life but its now acceptable when reviewing a film? Someone presents an evil heartless military leader and clearly it is meant to represent ALL of one nation’s military mindset?

If I met an Irishman and asked him why he wasn’t drunk and trying to start fights, he would be greatly offended. Just because ONE Irishman did that, doesn’t mean all of them share that trait. So why is it ok to do in a film? A single character is represented as being a heartless military meglomaniac, and suddenly its a statement assuming that the United States military is all like that?

Nice double standard.

Now if James Cameron was quoted in an interview saying “I think all American Military personelle are heartless violent warmongers, and that is what I wanted to present here” then fine. Call it what it is. Otherwise you are just HOPING that is the case so you have a soapbox to start preaching from.

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50 thoughts on “Avatar Encites Political and Religious Criticism

  1. There is nothing Political about this movie and absolutly nothing Racist either.
    It is people that will find racism and political things in a box of Pop Tarts.
    The Movie was about corpart greed nothing more nothing less.
    Obama and the Political Machine was not implyed in this movie.
    This movie was about greed and servival of the Navid and their planet and way of life nothing more.

  2. I just saw the movie. I’ve been busy. I read the comments about anti-religion and anti-war and anti-military and honestly I don’t see any of that. This is a made-up world with a made-up set of morals of a made-up set of people. What does bother me about the movie is the obvious ease and relish we have for an ex-marine who betrays his own people after only three months of exposure to some alien race. That particular moral issue is real. The guy was a traitor. Last time I checked that was a bad thing. We in America put that kind of person in jail or even to death. We don’t honor them or give them a happy ending. Whatever else is wrong or right about the movie, doesn’t anyone care about loyalty? What happened to the audience’s moral standards concerning selling out your fellow man? What if we replaced the pandorians with American Indians and the mercenaries with 1880 gold rush miners in the Black Hills and some guy comes along and betrays them to the Indians and they all get wiped out or sent back home? Oh yeah, what happened when the Indians did kill the soldiers sent against them?

    I’m not saying that what happened in 1880 to the Indian nations was right. But if a white man or a black man or any man other than Indian betrayed and someone made a movie about it saying he was a hero because he did that, would we have the same happy feeling about the outcome?
    Maybe, I don’t know. Avatar is a really good story-telling movie. It is wonderfully created. It deserves the accolades it gets. But I do wonder about us as a people that we find such joy in the happy ending of an out-and-out traitor. Okay…hit me!

  3. Write Comment here. Before you do, review these rules:
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  4. Thanks for the reply. Certainly not eveyone will enjoy the movie, nor think the underlying messages are pertinent to our times. But the world would be an extremely boring place if we all thought alike.

  5. Let’s face it…..the comments about Avatar quoted in the well written commentary above are merely the rantings of self serving people on their soapbox jousting at windmills and seeing ghosts in every dark corner. Taken at face value their comments are nothing more and nothing less.

    Enough said about that.

    Yes, I believe the movie has some strong messages that Cameron intended to use Avatar as a vehicle to deliver.

    Are the messages important? Yes. Will everyone agree with them or in some cases even get them? No.

    The mere fact that the movie sparks the kind of discussion taking place here certainly makes the film a success on one level.

    Draw as many parallels as you like..Avatar is still at its heart a beautifully crafted film about a wonderful story that is worth experiencing as it unfolds before our eyes. What more is a movie supposed to do?

  6. “but people who get offended over a goofy cat people movie are taking life way too seriously.”

    Ditto. It’s like some people who I’ve had arguments with over Star Wars because they think it’s bad or whatever. Just makes you wonder about some folks.

  7. it is quite amazing that cameron he has managed to make american audiences embrace and cheer a film that, no matter which way you look at it, features native insurgents killing american soldiers (i know mercenaries but soldiers nonetheless) and driving them out of their homeland.

    if you think cameron is not directly trying to make parallels or say something about the current conflicts around the world then you are crazy. i mean he has actually said so in interviews and it is all there on screen with the subtlety of a nail through the balls.

    but people who get offended over a goofy cat people movie are taking life way too seriously.

  8. Cameron admitted the movie was at least in part about critiquing the Iraq war:

    ___________________________________

    “According to The Times, the Avatar director is linking his new film to the Iraq War and the wider war on terror, “declaring that American had a ‘moral responsibility’ to understand the impact that their country’s recent military campaigns had had.”

    As Cameron himself put it, just before the London premiere of Avatar:

    We went down a path that cost several hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. I don’t think the American people even know why it was done. So it’s all about opening your eyes.

    Avatar is the story of a US military expedition to exploit mineral wealth on a far flung planet in the middle of the 22nd Century. The humans resort to “shock and awe” tactics against the native Na’vi tribes, in order to secure the planet for business interests back on earth. Cameron draws a direct analogy between the war in his film, and the war on terror in real life, declaring:

    We know what it feels like to launch the missiles. We don’t know what it feels like for them to land on our home soil, not in America. I think there’s a moral responsibility to understand that.”

  9. why is it if anybody wants to defend the view that the environment needs protecting it is somehow “left wing” . I believe that capitalism is superior to marxism. so what? Capitalist countries with education have looked after their environment better than the communist ones in the recent past. But now that the US is in so much debt will it be able to continue to do so? What will be higher on the political agenda over the next 10 years. Jobs or the environment .. But why won’t the US move away from the SUV & RV loving culture that is driving it into more and more debt ?.
    Anyway if this movie had a Russian or Indonesian mining company that was trying to kill the Na-Vi would critics say it was anti-military?, but then it wouln’t make the US look at itself in any way to change course. And if the Na-vi had looked like lizards it wouldn’t have worked as well either. So it is a brilliant movie for being controversial and original and absorbing and beautiful all at the same time!
    Deserves an Oscar for best picture.!!

  10. The movie was about native americans, the Iraq war, and environmentalism. Those were its three main themes. And for every one it took a left-wing, liberal stance on the issue. If you cannot see that you’re blind. My guess is you agreed with the message of the movie and thats why its not obvious to you that the movie was propagandizing. I’m not even a conservative (I voted for Obama) or a Christian (Im an atheist), but that was obvious to me. All these issues can be debated from the other point of view or from several other points of view. There probably isn’t just two sides. The movie is so one-sided though that its laughable. Its essentially a cartoon. If it would have had at least a little objectivity and didnt make the humans look so evil and the native aliens look so noble it would have been a much better movie imo.

    1. You say Iraq in that? Hmm, I don’t recall any desert, more like Vietnam with all that jungle. Native American’s? Ok, but why not any indigenous culture that’s had it’s way of life, land and resources exploited, there have been lots of cultures this has happened to.

      I did agree with the message but didn’t feel the film was propagandizing rather than making a point. Nothing wrong with trying to get the message through that you should take a bit more care of your environment, Al Gore has been doing it for a long time and won an Oscar for his efforts.

      So don’t go around telling people they’re blind because they don’t see the same things in a film that you do. Most people don’t go to films to get some kind of message out of them, it’s all about escapism and entertainment.

  11. Ugh, these people concerned that Avatar has a different god than the god of the bible need to lighten up. Hey, everyone has freedom of religion and a right to believe what they want. But you have to admit, that worship dance thing in avatar was REALLY cool

  12. Seen this movie twice in Australia-Brilliant
    I have read one American critics on newspaper comparing the na-vi culture with Maori, but to me it seems very obvious that it is like American Indian culture. American Indians were displaced by greed for land. Historical fact. Movies Theme is about danger to environment and sin of excess of uncontrolled greed. But it says a lot by being set in 2154- Earth will have environtmental harm ,seems very feasible to me. Caused by unchecked and unregulated greed. And a mineral worth 20 mil/kg.! Ha ! Gold is worth a fraction of that and lots of mercury damage occuring today to jungle around mines in Borneo. Also swathes of mature trees being cleared daily for timber mills. And do Christians think conversion of native peoples is worth it at a cost of removing all the trees? No way . Aborigines were shot in Australia by settlers 150 years ago. Indians in US past. Orang-utans are killed today in Borneo, unregulated 3rd world today. Unregulated mine offworld in 2154 ? Easy to believe it could happen.
    Indians in US, oran-utans in Borneo -offworld natives 4 lightyears away – stand no chance unless regulated. Earth should regulate today to prevent mining companies killing trees with mercury or employing mercenaries or killing orang-utans. What right do any humans have of any political party or religion to value Timber or Gold above life of native species or the pristine jungle, which is home to thousands of people as well as various other primates.

  13. The average movie-goer can draw some sort of parallel/message in almost all Hollywood movies … if they really try to. The fact remains that this movie should simply be seen and enjoyed as sheer entertainment and not some diatribe on America, its military, or religion.

    I am a Christian and I am definitely on the right side of the spectrum politically, but I had no issues with any of the underlying themes of “Avatar”. And there ARE some underlying themes. When Michelle Rodriguez actually uses the term “shock & awe” …. come on now …. it’s there.

    That being said, however, this story has been done before, and I personally find it very intriguing when a movie can convince me to root AGAINST the humans/military force. You could compile a mile long list of movies that have a few “bad apples” in that film’s fighting force that cause you to think badly of that force as a whole. Men get corrupted by greed & power. It happens. Some Americans in authoritative positions have been just as guilty of this over the years and to ignore that fact would be ignorant.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and have since recommended it to others. As I said, almost ALL movies can be interpreted as some sort of “message”, but I refuse to let that get in the way of enjoying the movie going experience! Lighten up and just enjoy the movie, people!

  14. I like your “If I met an Irishman and asked him why he wasn’t drunk and trying to start fights, he would be greatly offended. Just because ONE Irishman did that, doesn’t mean all of them share that trait.” comment.

    same thing could be said even if over 50% of Irishmen did that.

  15. As of today, 12/30/09, Boxofficemojo.com reports that “Avatar” has now grossed 726.6 million worldwide in 12 days. Wow. That’s fast.

      1. I’d say 1 billion gross isn’t too far fetched for Avatar. I’d could see the movie reaching that amount in two weeks time.

  16. I am extremely disappointed in this post.
    On both sides of the fence.

    First, let’s get one thing clear: not every born again Christian (such as myself) hates Avatar. While I generally am independent politically I do tend to swing a bit to the right. Yet I still liked Avatar. Everyone has a different walk with God and nobody’s perfect. But I’m going to have to say this, and you are not going to like it.

    On the spectacle/FX alone it’s a 3 star rating (I looked it up- took me a minute, but what you generally quote is the “rating system” which, to be fair, is extremely silly.) But still…

    This was his opinion of the movie. He may be way off the deep end, but he seen the film, and he gave his critique. I respect that. I’m not going to mock him or shout him down because I think his review was a bit harsh. Do I think Cameron’s involvement with quasi-doc filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici a few years back (Lost Tomb Of Jesus) might have played a hand in it? Hard to say. It isn’t mentioned once in the review, that much I could tell. From what I could see from the review is that a film critic-respected or not- gave a review.

    Generally, it’s a subjective review. If you saw a movie which offended you or ticked you off any way, would you mention it in a review? Of course you would. Same thing as if you saw something good you would mention it.

    Let me make this 100% clear. I am not necessarily endorsing that review, as I think it is a bit extreme. I am, however, stressing that I think it is equally extreme to call him and the review out because he has given an opinion. It does not matter if his voice is among a minority. It’s his review, and we should leave it at that.

    I’m not sure where the AV gets the 9/11 thought, but as much as I feel that is even more ridiculous, that’s also a subjective viewpoint. Or at least I’d like to think so.

    Eco/save rainforests theme? I’m with ya, people.
    Dances With Wolvs/Last Samurai and even Battle For Terra ?
    Heck, how about District 9?

    Movies are meant to be enjoyed. Some films are open for debate and interpretation. Some things are PC, some are not. Some reviews aren’t PC but are called PC? Bottom line is that is it subjective. Even if they are overblown and grasping at straws.

    1. I see your point. But it is also people’s responsibility to stand up and challenge other people’s subjective opinion when they see them as ignorant and wrong. No one like confrontation but we can’t all hold hands all the time. People can’t hide behind “thats just my interpretation (belief), and you should respect it.” If I said I think raping children and beheading Hindus is the right thing to do. It is time for YOU to stand up and say that’s wrong. Rodney has every right to his subjective opinion about another person’s subjective opinion. In this case calling out the idiot for his absurd attack on Avatar is the right thing to do.

      PS. I really liked the mercenary guys in Avatar and was hoping they kicked the crap out of the Navi. (and they did:)

  17. I saw an environmental message in the film with the one line from Sam Worthington (I think) how “they” have already killed their mother. I liked that message because it is true we are hurting the Earth, there is truth to that statement.

    WALL E had the same issue with its message about Earth and was criticized for it.

    Honestly, these criticisms are an attempt to censor Avatar, and censorship is ignorance when it is trying to hide facts.

    But of course some of these accusations are unfounded and taken to the extreme.

  18. “Sacred trauma.”

    WTF? Years after 9/11, I think it’s safe for us all to try to move on…

    As for the movie, if anything, it’s more a treatise against corporations like Blackwater and Halliburton than it is the military.

  19. I really didn’t think this movie was attacking any group. the show avatar wasnt attacked by hindus for its usse of the word

    1. Hope you’re being sarcastic… BTW I haven’t heard or read any concern from Vatican regarding this movie, that mean they’er cool with it. Most of the jab come from right wing Christian fundamentalist. There is a different beetwen Catholic Roma & Christian.

  20. Why is it that when a film makes ridiculous amounts of money, there is always the “religious and political consequences” controversy that is attached to it. In 2004, it happened to Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. Now this to James Cameron’s Avatar.do you notice the pattern, guys?

    1. Absolutely. These soapbox nuts attach themselves to something popular to get their message heard.

      Sadly for them we just laugh at them for it and it ends up making them look more like nutjobs.

      1. After all is said and done, and after Avatar ends its run in theaters, these protesters are nowhere to be found and their complaints fade to black. Same old story .

  21. Nonsense.

    Just to clear things up, I’m writing this from Greece, I’m Greek and people here hate all the last wars US started the last decade. People including me that saw the film they liked the whole anti-military message in the movie (yes there was an anti-miltary message in the film).

    But being anti-military (well maybe more anti-war) doesn’t mean being anti-American or that you hate all soldiers or whatever. Messages like this in movies like Avatar meant to be against the extreme face of military, the ones that don’t even want to hear critism about their wars. I don’t believe everybody in the army enjoy war, it is just something they have to do.

    People offented from messages in films like Avatar clearly just can’t see the whole picture of that. Cameron doesn’t like wars exept the ones on the screen (who in his right mind does? ) and he is telling us this thing through his art. The fact that he is using for his heroe an ex-soldier is making his point even more clear.

    Just hope i made my point here with my poor english. :)

    1. There is no anti military message in the film. There is an anti-badguy and moral message, but that the badguy happens to be military is coincidence.

      He simply has the tools to execute his poor judgement.

      1. Maybe i didn’t tell it right because of my english. Maybe the right word is anti-militaristic/anti-war message. The thing is… THERE WAS such a message in that film and it was LOUD AND CLEAR. I don’t blame Cameron for that, the oposite i really liked it. It made Avatar a better film.

        This is art and Cameron trought it made a statement as all big artists do. But i don’t think he turn himsef against all military or against US, or against humaninity by that (for god’s sake). I believe all those accusations are ridiculous and pointless and those people just like to see problems where there isn’t any.

        But even more ridiculous is this “badguy happens to be military is coincidence” Are you kiding me?????? so if he was a fisherman this would be the same movie?????? There is no director in this world that respects his art who would do something like that.

        Cameron DID NOT just made the bad guy military by coincidence and of course he didn’t make his big heroe ex-military by coincidence too, not if he respect his art and his creativity… and he is certainly does.

        Big directors and artists like Cameron became BIG because nothing in their art was a “just coincidence”.

    2. I don’t like how people are apparently freaking out about how the movie is challenging the Christian faith. It’s a movie, and the director created a made up people who worship a mysterious god and are deeply in-tune with nature. While we’re at it, the people up in arms over this might as well attack Star Wars for having “The Force.” Honestly, it’s ridiculous. If anything, these critics are just proving the director’s point, that sometimes (again the movie is an extreme case) people have the mindset that they must annihilate any culture different from their own. It’s a movie, meant to take people away from reality for a few short hours, not a challenge to any faith.

  22. I think it’s kind of ironic that your main point is that people shouldn’t generalize, but then near the beginning of the article you say that one of the reasons James Cameron is anti military is because he is Canadian. I myself am Canadian, and by no means am I offended or anything and it’s perfectly clear to me that you didn’t mean to offend anyone, I just thought it was kind of funny. But other than that I totally agree with what you’re saying.

  23. Nicely written, Rodney. Half the time I think they (the extremist opinionators) are just trying to get attention and traffic their way.

  24. The funny thing is that all this type of crap does is heighten the public’s awareness of the movie, not that Avatar needs the help. The only thing these people are doing is driving even more people to the movie to see what all the fuss is about. For every person they drive away from the film they’ll probably drive ten more to it. As for the people that are driven away from the movie, they probably weren’t going to see it in the first place. There are few things sadder than people trying to further their own agenda by stretching the truth in order to ride the coat tails of something totally unrelated. It’s fiction people, let it go….

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