Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Week Of Trying To Say Anything In The Least Bit Interesting About Avatar, Day 5: On Violence in Avatar

A common thing to say about Avatar is that it is hypocritical, because it spends two hours talking about how beautiful it is to be peaceful and in tune with nature and what-all and then has a final hour in which the killing of people is fetishistically rendered up for our delectation even as elegaic choral music plays to provide the token suggestion that said killing might be a bad thing.

This criticism is as valid as it is of any other movie that seeks to provide a moral perspective on gruesome acts of warfare; which is to say, it is a radically oversimplified and fundamentally boring thing to say, and I don't think espousing such a position is a worthwhile trade of my interest in exchange for your smug feeling of moral cleverness.

This is hard to have an interesting discussion about because people who like Avatar tend to be like religious fundamentalists, convinced that deep down everyone holds their point of view; they view discussions of the movie's patronizing racial attitudes or medieval sexual politics or hamfisted colonial apologia as contrivances on the part of Avatar non-lovers intended to intellectually distance themselves from the deep-set, visceral love for Avatar shared by all people.

Which is a shame, because if they wanted to, they could point out how unreasonable it is to expect Avatar to be the first action movie ever to forgo making the obligatory ideological excuses for its scenes of cathartic violence. Why bother attacking Avatar for failing to justify its clunky structure of innocence > violence > retribution in kind, when you still have Death Wish 2 to pick on for the exact same thing? Also Avatar isn't as good.

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