Avatar earned $1 billion in two weeks, already making it the fourth-biggest-grossing movie to date. James Cameron said early on it would cost, and make, ridiculous amounts of money. He also said it has been a dream of his for more than a decade. According to industry groups and right wing pundits, though, the film really has a more sinister motive: recruiting “eco-terrorists.”
Avatar has a similar archetypal narrative to countless other sci-fi films. The Na’vi are an indigenous race on a far-off planet, Pandora. Humans want to mine Pandora. The Na’vi fight back. Give ’em some fur, and it sounds a little Return of the Jedi-ish.
But the usual corporate cheerleaders have been warning audiences that Avatar is actually pushing a radical environmentalist message, because the Na’vi are, um, defending their utopian planet against complete annihilation.
Richard Swier’s column at Red County is a good example. He compares the Na’vi to the Earth Liberation Front, the FBI’s “number one domestic terrorism threat.” He warns:
This movie justifies the use of force against companies dedicated to finding, mining and processing natural resources… AVATAR is the celebration of and a recruiting tool for ELF, ALF, Greenpeace and the Sierra Clubs around the world.
It would be kind of hilarious if I still had a sense of humor for all of this stuff. Unfortunately, this has happened many times before. One of my favorite examples is when a children’s movie, Hoot, was labeled “soft core eco-terrorism for kids.” The same thing happened with Charlotte’s Web.
It’s easy to dismiss these kinds of columns, but the underlying values that prompt them should not be ignored. A Hollywood sci-fi mega-blockbuster like Avatar can be viewed by some people as “eco-terrorism” because the core values held by the protagonists parallel the core values held by an increasing number of real people.
Over at Mother Nature Network, Avatar was described as “transforming the shrill cries of a tired activist movement into pure, gravity-defying magic.” Mainstream activists and publications can revel in the film, cheering on natives killing invaders, because it all safely takes place in a movie theatre. None of this has happened in real life; the ALF and ELF have never harmed a human being. If they did, these same green groups would undoubtedly be condemning them.
That’s really the take away-message of all of this. The radical environmental movement is a threat not because of its tactics, but because of its beliefs.
Swier makes that very clear:
This is the final goal of eco-terrorists. Deny humans access to the natural resources on earth in order to save the planet. You see environmentalists truly believe that humans are an infestation upon the earth.
What did you think about the message of the film?