I watch movies about a year after they come out. Finally, I watched Avatar. Yes, it was not 3-D just on my HD tv. They said this was different from other action movies. That it had meaning, there was a message for the downtrodden. Frankly, it was the same tired message. Only an American can save the others. You see, Americans are bad and they try to kill the others, but an American, and only an American, will save them.
The others are always helpless and dim. The Americans, who ruined their world, will send a guy, who takes on their form, but with American gusto, and this American hybrid of the other will save them. Women, of the others, will of course fall for the sexual prowess and charm of the American, and look down on their men. The alpha male of the others, usually pales to the machismo of the super American male sex machine. Gee, do you think American males have a super sized ego?
It’s this conflicted notion Americans have, we want to be the boss of the world, but don’t hate us, cause we are really nice, sexy and at heart, we are like you. American exceptionalism has a caveat, that we don’t dare talk about: “We will kick your butt, own you, but you must like us”.
Avatar, is just another fantasy of a limp Hollywood era. An era that can only produce massive war scenes, with that American super hero smirk and high-five. The obligatory revenge scene, killing the bad guy, over and over and over again. The imagery is that of the mechanistic dinosaur with a smattering of a feminine jelly fish to make us see a softer universe.
Fantasy is fine, when limited to say the age of fourteen, but when the culture dives into the phantasmic imagery that is numbing and limits human interaction to a primitive good vs. bad narrative, we end up with a society where most people cannot discern complexity, cannot abide by complexity and it’s ambivalence. Human society and interaction is complex, yet our popular culture, our stories, our common threads, reduce it to a clear cut good vs. bad scenario. In the end, we are only practiced at such childish understanding of the world.
Of course, we throw in some women in the mix. We don’t want the little girls to be left out of this simplistic world view. They can shoot guns, kill, and fight, why not.
It is basically unbearable to watch a Hollywood movies these days. It’s predictable, simplistic and audience focused to oblivion. Somewhere along the way, even James Bond became a mechanical fighting machine capable of super stunt powers. We used to malign television, yet television now is the only place where we can find some complexity in our popular culture.
Imagine a movie about real occupations, say in Afghanistan, Iraq or Palestine. No, wait, the good bad guy duality is not that simplistic. Hollywood would have to challenge the audience and the audience would have to get out of the infantilism of the phantasmic. So, don’t you all worry your pretty heads, complexity is overrated.