Results 1 to 13 of 13

Thread: 'Avatar': Why do conservatives hate the most popular movie in years?

  1. #1
    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    13,468

    Default 'Avatar': Why do conservatives hate the most popular movie in years?

    'Avatar': Why do conservatives hate the most popular movie in years? | The Big Picture | Los Angeles Times

    It's no secret that "Avatar" has been stunningly successful on nearly every front. The James Cameron-directed sci-fi epic is already the fourth-highest-grossing film of all time, having earned more than $1 billion around the globe in less than three weeks of theatrical release. The film also has garnered effusive praise from critics, who've been planting its flag on a variety of critics Top 10 lists (it has earned an impressive 83 score on Rotten Tomatoes). The 3-D trip to Pandora is also viewed as a veritable shoo-in for a best picture Oscar nomination when the academy announces its nominees on Feb. 2.
    But amid this avalanche of praise and popularity, guess who hates the movie? America's prickly cadre of political conservatives.
    For years, pundits and bloggers on the right have ceaselessly attacked liberal Hollywood for being out of touch with rank and file moviegoers, complaining that executives and filmmakers continue to make films that have precious little resonance with Middle America. They have reacted with scorn to such high-profile liberal political advocacy films as "Syriana," "Milk," "W.," "Religulous," "Lions for Lambs," "Brokeback Mountain," "In the Valley of Elah," "Rendition" and "Good Night, and Good Luck," saying that the movies' poor performance at the box office was a clear sign of how thoroughly uninterested real people were in the pet causes of showbiz progressives.

    Of course, "Avatar" totally turns this theory on its head. As a host of critics have noted, the film offers a blatantly pro-environmental message; it portrays U.S. military contractors in a decidedly negative light; and it clearly evokes the can't-we-all-get along vibe of the 1960s counterculture. These are all messages guaranteed to alienate everyday moviegoers, so say the right-wing pundits -- and yet the film has been wholeheartedly embraced by audiences everywhere, from Mississippi to Manhattan.

    To say that the film has evoked a storm of ire on the right would be an understatement. Big Hollywood's John Nolte, one of my favorite outspoken right-wing film essayists, blasted the film, calling it "a sanctimonious thud of a movie so infested with one-dimensional characters and PC cliches that not a single plot turn, large or small, surprises.... Think of 'Avatar' as 'Death Wish' for leftists, a simplistic, revisionist revenge fantasy where if you freakin' hate the bad guys (America) you're able to forgive the by-the-numbers predictability of it all."

    John Podhoretz, the Weekly Standard's film critic, called the film "blitheringly stupid; indeed, it's among the dumbest movies I've ever seen." He goes on to say: "You're going to hear a lot over the next couple of weeks about the movie's politics -- about how it's a Green epic about despoiling the environment, and an attack on the war in Iraq.... The conclusion does ask the audience to root for the defeat of American soldiers at the hands of an insurgency. So it is a deep expression of anti-Americanism -- kind of. The thing is, one would be giving Jim Cameron too much credit to take 'Avatar' -- with its ... hatred of the military and American institutions and the notion that to be human is just way uncool -- at all seriously as a political document. It's more interesting as an example of how deeply rooted these standard issue counterculture cliches in Hollywood have become by now."

    Ross Douthat, writing in the New York Times, took Cameron to task on another favorite conservative front, as yet another Hollywood filmmaker who refuses to acknowledge the power of religion. Douthat calls "Avatar" the "Gospel according to James. But not the Christian Gospel. Instead, 'Avatar' is Cameron's long apologia for pantheism -- a faith that equates God with Nature, and calls humanity into religious communion with the natural world." Douthat contends that societies close to nature, like the Na'vi in "Avatar," aren't shining Edens at all -- "they're places where existence tends to be nasty, brutish and short."

    There are tons of other grumpy conservative broadsides against the film, but I'll spare you the details, except to say that Cameron's grand cinematic fantasy, with its mixture of social comment, mysticism and transcendent, fanboy-style video game animation, seems to have hit a very raw nerve with political conservatives, who view everything -- foreign affairs, global warming, the White House Christmas tree -- through the prism of partisan sloganeering.
    But why is it doing so well with everyday moviegoers if it's so full of supposedly buzz-killing liberal messages?

    "It has the politics of the left, but it also has extraordinary spectacle," says Govindini Murty, co-founder of the pioneering conservative blog Libertas and executive producer of the new conservative film "Kalifornistan." "Jim Cameron didn't come out nowhere. He came on the heels of all the left-wing filmmakers who went before him, who knew that someone with their point of view would have the resources to finally make a breakthrough political film. But even though 'Avatar' has an incredibly disturbing anti-human, anti-military, anti-Western world view, it has incredible spectacle and technology and great filmmaking to capture people's attention. The politics are going right over people's heads. Its audience isn't reading the New York Times or the National Review."

    I suspect that's a good explanation. But if I were trying to get to the bottom of conservative complaints with "Avatar," I'd offer three more key reasons why the film has set the right's hair on fire:

    1) Glorifying soft-headed environmentalism:
    If you hadn't noticed, the conservative movement has become the leading focal point for skepticism about global warming. The Wall Street Journal's ardently right-wing editorial pages have been chock-full of stories ridiculing everything including government sponsorship of alternative energy, nutty Prius enthusiasts and scientists who allegedly suppressed climate change data that called into question their claims about global warming (a flap the WSJ dubbed "Climategate").

    Ever since Al Gore took center stage with his documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," conservatives have been falling over each other in their attempts to mock liberal planet savers, taking special pleasure in slamming Hollywood environmentalists who fly private jets or live in huge houses. (As soon as Climategate erupted, two Hollywood conservatives surfaced, asking the academy to take back Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" Oscar, even though, inconveniently, the Oscar had actually gone to the film's director, not Gore.)
    So Cameron's giddy embrace of a primitive people who live in harmony with their land -- and his scathing portrayal of a soulless corporation willing to do anything, including kill innocent natives, to steal and exploit their planet's valuable natural resources -- is the kind of anti-technology, pro-environment dramaturgy that sets off fire alarms. If "Avatar" had been a western that showed sympathy for the Indians (many have in fact compared its storyline to Kevin Costner's "Dances with Wolves"), conservatives would probably have been up in arms too.

    As it is, they have been content to hoot at Cameron's portrayal of the Na'vi's one-ness with nature, with Podhoretz writing: "Like the Keebler elves, the Blue People all live in a big tree together and they go to church at another big tree, under which we learn lives Mother Earth, only since it isn't earth, she isn't called Mother Earth, but the Great Mother or something like that."

    2) Godless Hollywood triumphs again:
    Conservatives have complained for years that Hollywood ignores, laughs at or disrespects religion. And to be fair, they are not so wrong. It's almost as rare to see a film with a sympathetic portrayal of an openly religious character as it is to see a film with a leading role for an African American actress. I think it's a stretch to call Hollywood godless, but it would certainly be fair to call it an extremely secular world.

    Conservatives are always quick to point out that when someone actually made an openly religious film -- and of course we're talking about Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" -- it made hundreds of millions of dollars. Of course, they usually fail to mention that when Hollywood made 2005's "The Nativity Story," a sweet, very respectful religious drama, it earned $37 million in the U.S., just about what it cost to make. Ross Douthat is probably right. Moviegoers are far more comfortable with a fuzzy, inspirational form of pantheism than they are with an openly biblical message.

    3) Hollywood's long history of anti-military sloganeering:
    There is no doubt that "Avatar" portrays its military contractor characters as barbarous mercenaries, willing -- even eager -- to wipe out innocent natives in their pursuit of Pandora's precious resources. It almost feels as if Cameron is drawing parallels, not only to the Iraq war, but to Vietnam, where the military found itself in the nihilistic position of destroying villages just to save them. Even the New Yorker's David Denby, hardly a die-hard conservative, found himself in awe of the film's "anti-imperialist spectacle." But while Hollywood often makes antiwar movies, "Avatar" is something different -- a peaceful warrior film, celebrating the newly aroused consciousness of a Marine turned defender of a higher faith.
    What's fascinating is that the American people, who have almost always shown strong support for our foreign wars, would happily embrace a film that portrays its military characters in such an unflattering light. My guess is that audiences have seen past the obvious because the film is set in a faraway, interplanetary future, not in present-day America. When Russian political dissidents wanted to criticize their oppressive regimes, they would often write stories or make films that were set in the past, inoculating themselves by using a 15th century czar as a stand-in for the tyrant of the day. Cameron has done the same thing, but by moving forward into the future, creating a safe distance for his veiled (and not-so-thinly veiled) social messages.

    "Avatar" has, of course, far more on its mind than its politics. It's a triumph of visual imagination and the world's first great 3-D movie. But it is fascinating to see how today's ideology-obsessed conservatives have managed to walk away from such a crowd-pleasing triumph and only see the film's political subtext, not the groundbreaking artistry that's staring them right in the face.

  2. #2
    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    fellow traveller
    Posts
    51,882

    Default

    well they hate it because it's pro-environment and all that. just like they hated wall-e, which was awesome. i hate avatar because the story sucked wet hairy balls but i admit it was pretty to look at. well except for the blue people, i just didn't like them much.
    I'm open to everything. When you start to criticise the times you live in, your time is over. - Karl Lagerfeld

  3. #3
    Silver Member oltifreakinbaby's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    in dah nile:]
    Posts
    393

    Default

    I saw it the other day and I thought it was okay. Nothing that special. The first two hours were boring, and the last hour was the interesting one.

    Also, idk why but I got the feeling it was about how the colonists treated the Native Americans when they first got to this continent. The blue people wore feathers and they had war paint and their whole habitat was stolen and destroyed in order for the benefit of the Americans?

  4. #4
    Elite Member
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    4,250

    Default

    I haven't seen it yet.

    1) Glorifying soft-headed environmentalism:
    If you hadn't noticed, the conservative movement has become the leading focal point for skepticism about global warming. The Wall Street Journal's ardently right-wing editorial pages have been chock-full of stories ridiculing everything including government sponsorship of alternative energy, nutty Prius enthusiasts and scientists who allegedly suppressed climate change data that called into question their claims about global warming (a flap the WSJ dubbed "Climategate").

    Ever since Al Gore took center stage with his documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," conservatives have been falling over each other in their attempts to mock liberal planet savers, taking special pleasure in slamming Hollywood environmentalists who fly private jets or live in huge houses.
    The conservatives have been doing that for years! Dan Quayle was calling Gore "ozone man" back in '92. Cheney scoffed at conservation in '01.

  5. #5
    Silver Member sue_trask's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    iowa usa
    Posts
    399

    Default

    i love it and going to buy it when it comes out on dvd. i dont see most of all they say its about

  6. #6
    Elite Member cupcake's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Tampa Bay florida
    Posts
    4,804

    Default

    I dont know, I go to apretty conservative chuch and Im one of the few that hasnt seen it. I havent heard any Christian friends talk negatively about it. It just doesnt appeal to me. No other reason
    My grace is sufficient for you, for my my strength is made perfect in weakness...I love you dad!
    Rip Mom

  7. #7
    Elite Member katerpillar's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    2,568

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by oltifreakinbaby View Post
    Also, idk why but I got the feeling it was about how the colonists treated the Native Americans when they first got to this continent. The blue people wore feathers and they had war paint and their whole habitat was stolen and destroyed in order for the benefit of the Americans?
    To be fair though... once upon a time even the Celts wore war paint when fighting against Roman invaders. It's a pretty universal trope.

    The ironic thing is, I've read articles by a couple of super-leftie pretentious twats having a rant against Avatar themselves. In their eyes, it's condescending and borders on racist by being all "white guy saves the natives and shows them how to be a strong leader" a la Dances with Wolves.

    I think people are just reading too much into a movie that's only intended to be entertainment!

  8. #8
    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    fellow traveller
    Posts
    51,882

    Default

    ^^^
    nothing is 'just' entertainment. any time you tell a story, there are motivations and agendas in there as well, conscious or not. and when you spend 500 million dollars and tell a story that millions and millions of people are going to see, the agenda and motivations behind the story are important.
    i think your friend's have a point. i wouldn't say it's racist but it is very 'white man's guilt'. and condescending.
    When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?


    Critics have called alien epic Avatar a version of Dances With Wolves because it's about a white guy going native and becoming a great leader. But Avatar is just the latest scifi rehash of an old white guilt fantasy. Spoilers...
    Whether Avatar is racist is a matter for debate. Regardless of where you come down on that question, it's undeniable that the film - like alien apartheid flick District 9, released earlier this year - is emphatically a fantasy about race. Specifically, it's a fantasy about race told from the point of view of white people. Avatar and scifi films like it give us the opportunity to answer the question: What do white people fantasize about when they fantasize about racial identity?
    Avatar imaginatively revisits the crime scene of white America's foundational act of genocide, in which entire native tribes and civilizations were wiped out by European immigrants to the American continent. In the film, a group of soldiers and scientists have set up shop on the verdant moon Pandora, whose landscapes look like a cross between Northern California's redwood cathedrals and Brazil's tropical rainforest. The moon's inhabitants, the Na'vi, are blue, catlike versions of native people: They wear feathers in their hair, worship nature gods, paint their faces for war, use bows and arrows, and live in tribes. Watching the movie, there is really no mistake that these are alien versions of stereotypical native peoples that we've seen in Hollywood movies for decades.
    And Pandora is clearly supposed to be the rich, beautiful land America could still be if white people hadn't paved it over with concrete and strip malls. In Avatar, our white hero Jake Sully (sully - get it?) explains that Earth is basically a war-torn wasteland with no greenery or natural resources left. The humans started to colonize Pandora in order to mine a mineral called unobtainium that can serve as a mega-energy source. But a few of these humans don't want to crush the natives with tanks and bombs, so they wire their brains into the bodies of Na'vi avatars and try to win the natives' trust. Jake is one of the team of avatar pilots, and he discovers to his surprise that he loves his life as a Na'vi warrior far more than he ever did his life as a human marine.

    Jake is so enchanted that he gives up on carrying out his mission, which is to persuade the Na'vi to relocate from their "home tree," where the humans want to mine the unobtanium. Instead, he focuses on becoming a great warrior who rides giant birds and falls in love with the chief's daughter. When the inevitable happens and the marines arrive to burn down the Na'vi's home tree, Jake switches sides. With the help of a few human renegades, he maintains a link with his avatar body in order to lead the Na'vi against the human invaders. Not only has he been assimilated into the native people's culture, but he has become their leader.


    This is a classic scenario you've seen in non-scifi epics from Dances With Wolves to The Last Samurai, where a white guy manages to get himself accepted into a closed society of people of color and eventually becomes its most awesome member. But it's also, as I indicated earlier, very similar in some ways to District 9. In that film, our (anti)hero Wikus is trying to relocate a shantytown of aliens to a region far outside Johannesburg. When he's accidentally squirted with fluid from an alien technology, he begins turning into one of the aliens against his will. Deformed and cast out of human society, Wikus reluctantly helps one of the aliens to launch their stalled ship and seek help from their home planet.
    If we think of Avatar and its ilk as white fantasies about race, what kinds of patterns do we see emerging in these fantasies?
    In both Avatar and District 9, humans are the cause of alien oppression and distress. Then, a white man who was one of the oppressors switches sides at the last minute, assimilating into the alien culture and becoming its savior. This is also the basic story of Dune, where a member of the white royalty flees his posh palace on the planet Dune to become leader of the worm-riding native Fremen (the worm-riding rite of passage has an analog in Avatar, where Jake proves his manhood by riding a giant bird). An interesting tweak on this story can be seen in 1980s flick Enemy Mine, where a white man (Dennis Quaid) and the alien he's been battling (Louis Gossett Jr.) are stranded on a hostile planet together for years. Eventually they become best friends, and when the alien dies, the human raises the alien's child as his own. When humans arrive on the planet and try to enslave the alien child, he lays down his life to rescue it. His loyalties to an alien have become stronger than to his own species.
    These are movies about white guilt. Our main white characters realize that they are complicit in a system which is destroying aliens, AKA people of color - their cultures, their habitats, and their populations. The whites realize this when they begin to assimilate into the "alien" cultures and see things from a new perspective. To purge their overwhelming sense of guilt, they switch sides, become "race traitors," and fight against their old comrades. But then they go beyond assimilation and become leaders of the people they once oppressed. This is the essence of the white guilt fantasy, laid bare. It's not just a wish to be absolved of the crimes whites have committed against people of color; it's not just a wish to join the side of moral justice in battle. It's a wish to lead people of color from the inside rather than from the (oppressive, white) outside.
    Think of it this way. Avatar is a fantasy about ceasing to be white, giving up the old human meatsack to join the blue people, but never losing white privilege. Jake never really knows what it's like to be a Na'vi because he always has the option to switch back into human mode. Interestingly, Wikus in District 9 learns a very different lesson. He's becoming alien and he can't go back. He has no other choice but to live in the slums and eat catfood. And guess what? He really hates it. He helps his alien buddy to escape Earth solely because he's hoping the guy will come back in a few years with a "cure" for his alienness. When whites fantasize about becoming other races, it's only fun if they can blithely ignore the fundamental experience of being an oppressed racial group. Which is that you are oppressed, and nobody will let you be a leader of anything.

    This is not a message anybody wants to hear, least of all the white people who are creating and consuming these fantasies. Afro-Canadian scifi writer Nalo Hopkinson recently told the Boston Globe:
    In the US, to talk about race is to be seen as racist. You become the problem because you bring up the problem. So you find people who are hesitant to talk about it.
    She adds that the main mythic story you find in science fiction, generally written by whites, "is going to a foreign culture and colonizing it."
    Sure, Avatar goes a little bit beyond the basic colonizing story. We are told in no uncertain terms that it's wrong to colonize the lands of native people. Our hero chooses to join the Na'vi rather than abide the racist culture of his own people. But it is nevertheless a story that revisits the same old tropes of colonization. Whites still get to be leaders of the natives - just in a kinder, gentler way than they would have in an old Flash Gordon flick or in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars novels.
    When will whites stop making these movies and start thinking about race in a new way?
    First, we'll need to stop thinking that white people are the most "relatable" characters in stories. As one blogger put it:
    By the end of the film you're left wondering why the film needed the Jake Sully character at all. The film could have done just as well by focusing on an actual Na'vi native who comes into contact with crazy humans who have no respect for the environment. I can just see the explanation: "Well, we need someone (an avatar) for the audience to connect with. A normal guy will work better than these tall blue people." However, this is the type of thinking that molds all leads as white male characters (blank slates for the audience to project themselves upon) unless your name is Will Smith.
    But more than that, whites need to rethink their fantasies about race.
    Whites need to stop remaking the white guilt story, which is a sneaky way of turning every story about people of color into a story about being white. Speaking as a white person, I don't need to hear more about my own racial experience. I'd like to watch some movies about people of color (ahem, aliens), from the perspective of that group, without injecting a random white (erm, human) character to explain everything to me. Science fiction is exciting because it promises to show the world and the universe from perspectives radically unlike what we've seen before. But until white people stop making movies like Avatar, I fear that I'm doomed to see the same old story again and again.

    Dune image via leywad.

    Send an email to Annalee Newitz, the author of this post, at annalee@io9.com

    When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"? - Avatar - io9
    I'm open to everything. When you start to criticise the times you live in, your time is over. - Karl Lagerfeld

  9. #9
    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Wherever my kids are
    Posts
    25,723

    Default

    "When will white critics stop sitting on their asses talking about 'white people' in the third person?"

  10. #10
    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    fellow traveller
    Posts
    51,882

    Default

    ^^^
    you have to admit she has a point though.
    I'm open to everything. When you start to criticise the times you live in, your time is over. - Karl Lagerfeld

  11. #11
    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Wherever my kids are
    Posts
    25,723

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by sputnik View Post
    ^^^
    you have to admit she has a point though.
    True, but this article kind of reminds me of the scene in "Tropic Thunder" when the real black guy turns to the fake black guy and says, "What do YOU mean 'you people'."

  12. #12
    Elite Member yanna's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    9,777

    Default

    Sputnik, the article you posted reminds of how I read that when Malcolm X was being discussed the Hollywood suits wanted to stick in a white mentor character for young Malcolm who would be the real star of the movie and the one who taught him everything he knows. Spike Lee was not amused.

  13. #13
    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    fellow traveller
    Posts
    51,882

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by yanna View Post
    Sputnik, the article you posted reminds of how I read that when Malcolm X was being discussed the Hollywood suits wanted to stick in a white mentor character for young Malcolm who would be the real star of the movie and the one who taught him everything he knows. Spike Lee was not amused.
    you don't say?
    I'm open to everything. When you start to criticise the times you live in, your time is over. - Karl Lagerfeld

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Similar Threads

  1. 7 popular 'chick flicks' that secretly hate women
    By word in forum Television and Movies
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: November 30th, 2009, 02:37 AM
  2. Replies: 5
    Last Post: October 14th, 2008, 08:47 PM
  3. 'The Warriors': 1979 gang movie still popular
    By celeb_2006 in forum Television and Movies
    Replies: 22
    Last Post: July 4th, 2008, 04:59 AM
  4. Replies: 19
    Last Post: May 23rd, 2006, 05:42 AM
  5. The Most Popular Movie Star Is...
    By mtlebay in forum Gossip Archive
    Replies: 13
    Last Post: February 1st, 2006, 06:28 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •