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Anti-Technology Themes in James Cameron's Avatar 870

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the these-are-a-few-of-my-favorite-things dept.
ThousandStars writes "'The anti-technological aspect [in James Cameron's Avatar] is strange because the movie is among most technically sophisticated ever: it uses a crazy 2D and 3D camera, harnesses the most advanced computer animation techniques imaginable, and has apparently improved the state-of-the-art when it comes to cinema. But Avatar’s story argues that technology is bad. Humans destroyed their home world through environmental disaster and use military might to annihilate the locals and steal their resources.' The question is two-fold: why have a technically sophisticated, anti-technical movie, and why are we drawn to it? Part of the answer lies in Neal Stephenson's Turn On, Tune In, Veg Out."
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Anti-Technology Themes in James Cameron's Avatar

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  • It should be noted (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheKidWho (705796) on Monday December 28, 2009 @10:28AM (#30570760)

    That it was a private military force that did the attacking, not a governmental one. Presumably, the government on Earth was not willing to allow any military attack on the Natives, hence their attempts for 5+ years for a diplomatic solution.

    Also it should be noted that a statement such as "no greenery left on Earth" is an exaggeration at best, considering life would die on the planet without the Oxygen Cycle. Unless the Humans attempted to develop machines to replace the functions of the plants.

  • by Zombie Ryushu (803103) on Monday December 28, 2009 @10:42AM (#30570896)

    I was astounded by the organic synaptic link technology the Navi had. The Navi were possibly more advanced than we were. Their organic synaptic link tech was more advanced than anything we have. The thing is, they didn't develop weapons. Their entire planet was a linked up hive mind.

    What new possibilities could this technology have had? could they start growing Organic ships like the Vorlons from Babylon 5? I'd imagine the Navi probably had better math and science than us.

  • by clone53421 (1310749) on Monday December 28, 2009 @10:53AM (#30571046) Journal

    This [wikipedia.org] is a plant?

  • by jeti (105266) on Monday December 28, 2009 @11:49AM (#30571664) Homepage

    A friend who actually lived for two years with a south american tribe claimed that crippled babies were drowned as quickly as possible.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 28, 2009 @11:58AM (#30571782)

    Except of course that the Native Americans were nomadic, had no notion of property rights (unlike the Na'vi and their Hometree), and rejected the idea of owning land.

    Ah yes, I remember hearing about how the Cherokee uprooted their longhouses to follow the great fields of corn as they traveled around the prairie.

    But the ones I really feel sorry for are the Pueblo tribes. Carrying those cliff dwellings around must have been rough! No wonder they could not resist the mighty white man's manifest destiny, they were all tired out.

    There is no problem with that, just don't expect not to be forced off someone else's property that they've rightly claimed.

    There is so much wrong with that sentence it's hard to know where to start. "Rightly claimed" here means "someone on another continent decided that they owned this land, and had the right to give it away".

    I see your webpage links to "Objectivist Roundup". Just out of curiosity, how do you feel about the concept of eminent domain?

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Monday December 28, 2009 @12:07PM (#30571900)

    and more about retelling the story of the native americans as well.

    That struck me right away, but more like the "myth of the noble savage" which originated in the 17th centure as a rise of primitivism, but got held up during the romance period in literature, and now again as a counter-reaction to the silly or hateful portrayal of American Indians of 1930s-1960s in Westerns and what not.

    But it is just as one-sided, often the noble savage is too saintified, the American Indians were singing kum-bay-ah holding hands with one another throughout the continent when Europeans arrived. There was warfare and strife, peacefu and warlike tribes all over the place, knocking into each other and sometimes knocking each other out of place like billiard balls - which is why some tribes were so ready to make alliances with the europeans - the europeans were basically the biggest and most powerful tribe on the block. Did that power get abused? Yes, it always does. But some good things came of it as well.

    Second is the upholding of nature myth, where it's always beautiful and technology always ugly. But nature has an ugliness and disease part as well, encounter a rabid animal like a fox or find a carcass rotting in the woods with flies swamping all over it and its stench emanating out - is that beautiful? Maybe not, but it's natural, and of course not depicted in the film. Oddly enough, in these nature films, it's nature itself (Eywa here?) that is personified when the central conflict is that humans hold themselves above nature. Of course, nature isn't one thing - it's just a collection of the base materials the planet is made of and all the organisms and their processes on top of that, from the bigggest mammals to the smallest bacteria and viruses, and all the plants. Man is just another organism with his own processes, but that is looked upon as distinct.

    The third thing with the film was "going native." Happens all the time, even today. Lots of times people encounter something they see as exotic, fall in love with it, and adopt it completely. Happened thousands of years ago, there were accounts of a Roman General going Persian and happens today all the time. Anime fans learning Japanese and then visiting or living in Japan. Probably happens with Chinese and all other foreign cultures. All the same thing. Especially after WW2, American culture got exported en masse to Europe via films or through contact with GIs - and lots of immigrants came here based on that and a better life and adopted this culture - is it so different? We might not view America as especially exotic but many of us are native to it or Western culture in general.

  • by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew.gmail@com> on Monday December 28, 2009 @01:13PM (#30572816) Homepage Journal

    I didn't realize that all Native Americans fit this stereotype.

    If you study Native American religions, you'll see there are a variety of believes that span the variety of tribes across the country. Some tribes were nomadic out of necessity. Many plains Indians travelled to follow a herd, hence the mobility of the teepee.

    However, not all Native homes were so mobile. And many natives did have strong ties to specific locations. Devil's Tower comes to mind.

    http://www.aaanativearts.com/article471.html [aaanativearts.com]

  • by stewbacca (1033764) on Monday December 28, 2009 @01:53PM (#30573380)

    I'd say the only flaw in Cameron's vision for this movie was casting too many white people. I don't think it was done on purpose, but it gives some people the fodder to say it's a "white people suck" movie. Had they cast a black guy in the main role (or as the evil CEO, or the Marine Colonel), it would have been really hard to say "white people suck".

    I think casting calls, contracts, agents, schedules, budgets etc. had more to do with who got cast than any perceived message the movie is supposedly trying to preach.

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Monday December 28, 2009 @02:08PM (#30573532)

    You can't produce technology with metal for a large population without having things like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bingham_Canyon_Mine [wikipedia.org].

    You can't produce food for a large population without things like this: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9B0CE0D81438E433A25757C1A9679D94699ED7CF [nytimes.com]
    WHEAT FIELD OF 25,000 ACRES.; It Would Take One Man Thirty Years to Plow and Plant Such a Field as One Californian Owns.

    http://www.truthabouttrade.org/news/editorials/trade-policy-analysis/15288-china-moves-forward-on-biotech-crops [truthabouttrade.org]
    China is the world's largest producer and consumer of rice with 72 million acres devoted to rice annually

    technology always involves raping (to a larger or smaller degree) the biosphere. with less people the biosphere heals faster than it is destroyed.

    Without things like Bingham Canyon Mine, you don't have affordable computers.

    It's at a point that I do not think is sustainable. I expect some kind of huge blowout in 30-50 years. Maybe we will invent our way out of it, but I think it's reached a point where new inventions are now just making the eventual blowout worse.

    ---

    The movie implicitly supports a small (I'd say minuscule) population where few individuals know how to do anything except hunt, gather, and sing.

  • by Thumper_SVX (239525) on Monday December 28, 2009 @02:35PM (#30573882) Homepage

    Another hint: floating mountains, people. Come on.

    I'm going to really show my geekiness here, but the floating mountains were explained in the original screenplay, though granted only hinted at in the movie. The "Unobtainium" is a room-temperature superconductor. It is well known that a superconductor in presence of a magnetic field will float, and if you look around the entire area it shows curved constructs of rock that look suspiciously like lines of magnetic force... like melted iron twisted by the magnet. This was hinted at because the guy running the base (whose name I forget) had a piece of Unobtainium that floated in a magnetic field on his desk. Although this raises questions like why they didn't just mine the floating mountains, it's still a cool and at least reasonably plausible explanation... at least if you try not to think about it too hard :)

  • by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld@gmai l . c om> on Monday December 28, 2009 @03:15PM (#30574388)

    I thought it was a rather clever nod [wikipedia.org] to exactly what it was.

  • by sincewhen (640526) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @03:33AM (#30579920)
    Selective breeding is not the same thing as genetic modification.

All this wheeling and dealing around, why, it isn't for money, it's for fun. Money's just the way we keep score. -- Henry Tyroon

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