Saturday, January 02, 2010

Ádh'ri Eránis: The Starship Reckless

When she was hunting for reviews of Avatar 3-D recently, Walhydra stumbled across Athena Andreadis' deeply thoughtful critical review, "Jar Jar Binks Meets Pocahontas," which was reprinted by the Huffington Post.

Athena originally posted the review on her Astrogator's Logs blog, which is part of a beautiful website called Starship Reckless.

Walhydra will let Athena describe it herself:

Ádh'ri Eránis, also known as the starship Reckless, is dedicated to writing and discussing science, science fiction, fantasy and the shared borders between them. Its founder is Athena Andreadis, author of The Biology of Star Trek, who also writes fiction.
Take a look.

BTW, even though she completely agrees with Athena's critique of Avatar, Walhydra and Hubby Jim loved the movie very much as fantasy.

Walhydra's favorite sequence was the trek into the Hallelujah Mountains for Jack Sully to catch and bond with his Banshee. It brought tears to her eyes.

Hallelujah Mountains, Pandora, from James Cameron's AvatarWalhydra's disappointment with Avatar arose because all that beautiful envisioning of a new, sentient planet was backdrop to the same old testosterone-poisoned teen-boy-marketing violence.

[Here's a discussion on facebook, with very graceful rebuttals and messages of hope from Walhydra's cyberfriend Marsha.]

On Cameron's behalf, though, Walhydra also wants to point the gentle reader to this piece in The Australian.
[The film] contains heavy implicit criticism of America's conduct in the War on Terror....

Cameron said...[that] theme was not the main point of Avatar, but added that Americans had a "moral responsibility" to understand the impact that their country's recent military campaigns had had.

"We went down a path that cost several hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. I don't think the American people even know why it was done. So it's all about opening your eyes...."

Referring to the "shock and awe" sequence, he said: "We know what it feels like to launch the missiles. We don't know what it feels like for them to land on our home soil, not in America. I think there's a moral responsibility to understand that.

"That's not what the movie's about - that's only a minor part of it. For me it feels consistent only in a very generalised theme of us looking at ourselves as human beings in a technical society with all its skills, part of which is the ability to do mechanised warfare, part of which is the ability to do warfare at a distance, at a remove, which seems to make it morally easier to deal with, but its not."
Walhydra is willing to hope that the beauty of this movie will underscore Cameron's intended critique of violence...and not be outweighed by the typical moviegoer's visceral and unquestioning fascination with violence.

Ah, well....


SWMBOfolk said...

SWAMBO and I are going to see it tonight with some very conservative friends. We love them lots and argue lots.

Great fun.

Peace to All,

SWAMBO's People

Anonymous said...

Janet and I just got back home after seeing Avatar, so your post is so timely.

I loved it. Sure there was violence, but how are people going to understand violence without seeing it. The difference is that it shows the effects of the violence on "people" that we grow to care about and even love.

The privatization of military violence and the use of high tech to impose your will on indigineous populations so you can take their natural resources is very realistic. (This weekened is when a US Judge threw out the murder case against the Blackwater "thugs" who killed 17 Iraqi civilians and then claimed that they were attacked first. )

So much in this movie recommends it.

I left wanting to grow a pigtail. :)

Free in GA

Athena Andreadis said...

I'm very glad you liked the article and the site, Mike! Here's another truly perceptive analysis of Avatar: Avatar and the American Man-Child: “Don’t you want to be an Indian little boy?”

Bright Crow (Mike Shell) said...

In Messiah Complex, David Brooks, conservative columnist for the New York Times expresses similar objections to the "white man's burden" theme in Avatar.

Athena Andreadis said...

On this issue, I found myself agreeing with Brooks as much as I did with Bady. The kernel of the agreement lies in this phrase:

"Natives can either have their history shaped by cruel imperialists or benevolent ones, but either way, they are going to be supporting actors in our journey to self-admiration."


MrJahPirate said...

As a Native Hawaiian in this Country, who studies art/animation & Ethnoecology, I thought the film was phenominal...Locally, the Film hit people of Hawai'i well. I believe it is because we can relate to the Navi, in the sense that our Native 'Aina (land) was literally stolen from us and mutilated.The US deceived our Queen and took our 'aina destroying our Kaho'o'lawe Island, forbide us from our own religion and cultural practices and much more.And they were the haole (foreigners) how ironic..Kaho'o'lawe is now an abandoned wasteland which was once a lush isle with Ali'i (chiefs) and maka'ainana (people of the land). But in the 1900's it was simply used as target practice, no negotiation, no remorse. We had people on island trying to conserve it while the military were still bombing too. Here it is not tree hugging hippie junk, the Aina is more than material, resource and politics, it was ohana to us, it was family. People didn't understand and they still don't. They come to Hawaii for girls in grass skirts and mai tais in Waikiki (not real Hawaii at all). When will they appreciate...Hopefully not after it too is all gone... Mahalo for your time.

Bright Crow (Mike Shell) said...


I appreciate very much this valuable different perspective.

As a European-American Quaker, I've spent the last 40+ years calling attention to and advocating against the violent colonialism of which the US is guilty...and which we continue even to this day.

Ironically, that very stance has made me cynical about sympathetic portrayals of indigenous people, if those portrayal seems to push sentimental buttons while still glorifying violence--enabling viewers to draw a good guys/bad guys line and pretend they are emotionally on the side of the good guys.

Your comment reminds me to reexamine Avatar as an attempt to do honor to those people in its portrayal of them.

Thank you,