Religion Dispatches: Avatar vs The Hurt Locker
- paraplegic Corporal Jake Sully
When I posted my comments on the Academy Awards, I mentioned that I wished Avatar would win Best Picture but that I expected The Hurt Locker to do so instead. I had also tried to explain why I felt that way but later deleted that part as it hardly made sense, even to me :) Today I saw a post at Religion Dispatches that commented on the same thing and it inspired me to try once again, however ineptly, to explain my own feelings about Avatar and The Hurt Locker, and why I think Avatar should have won.
I do think The Hurt Locker is a good movie (I posted about it and the poem from which it takes its title last July) and of course army bomb defusers perform a needed and scary task. But though this will probably be an unpopular thing to write, what we may forget in our gratitude/guilt in the face of the film's extreme circumstances is that in most cities police bomb squads do the same thing, that soldiers in Iraq volunteer to serve, and that as good as it makes us feel to do so, being both anti-war and pro-soldier is somewhat morally schizophrenic. The main character's claim to fame is his courage, but I'd say it would have taken more courage for him to have stayed home and raised his daughter than go back to Iraq as the film had him do at the end.
It's easy to criticize Avatar and I'd be the first to admit it isn't the best of all movies. Its director is not a woman working her way to the top but the arrogant guy who proclaimed himself the king of the world after he made Titanic. The characters in Avatar could be perceived not as "real" as the self-sacrificing heroes of The Hurt Locker but as cartoons (both the lives action actors and the animated ones) because of their polarized moral stances. And the movie dragged in spirituality, environmentalism, anti-war and anti-imperial sentiments, second chances, true love .... talk about cliché. No, Avatar couldn't embody the irony, low affect, and moral ambiguity of The Hurt Locker, but dope that I am, it was this simplistic heart-on-the-sleeve aspect that appealed to me.
See what I mean about my inability to explain well? :) So, instead, here's just the beginning of the post at Religion Dispatches. I don't agree with all its conclusions, but still it does a better job than I did ....
War of the Worldviews: Why Avatar Lost
By Bron Taylor
Avatar had audiences rooting for nature, against the destruction of marauding tanks—but the Oscar went to the film that offered a soldier’s-eye view.
The competition for Best Picture is over. But the war of the worlds, and worldviews, in Avatar and The Hurt Locker, continues.
In The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow provided a terrifying depiction of efforts by US soldiers to survive while fighting insurgents and disarming bombs in Iraq. Their battle was both against an evil enemy and to retain their sanity and humanity.
As is typical in Hollywood war films, The Hurt Locker carried a subtle anti-war message compatible with patriotic sensibilities. Underscoring her own patriotism, when accepting the best picture and best director awards, Bigelow dedicated them to the “women and men in the military who risk their lives daily to keep us safe.” With these words and in the film, Bigelow reminds us that war is hell, while reassuring us of our good intentions.
For all the terror it depicted, the message was predictable and safe.
In Avatar, director James Cameron told the emotionally wrenching tale of the Na’vi, the aboriginal inhabitants of a distant world, defending themselves against an invading human army. The film was obviously a metaphor for the long war between large-scale civilizations and the small foraging societies that they supplant.
Because most of Earth’s people are citizens of such civilizations, Avatar’smessage was anything but safe.
Why, then, has Avatar so clearly won the global battle for hearts and minds, becoming the most profitable motion picture of all time?
The answer is, I believe, that the heart of the film lies not in its criticism but its expression of our natural love of nature. The film evoked our longing for connection and belonging to the sources of our existence.
Cameron understood this, as seen in a recent interview, attributing the success of Avatar to the ways it is connecting the audience to nature and the environmental cause.
Additionally, the film was appealing because it offered a meaningful worldview and a reverence for life ethic compatible with modern scientific sensibilities. This was nowhere more apparent than in the delight expressed by the scientist, Dr. Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), as she explored Pandora’s living systems. The evocative power of the film was thus rooted in nothing less that the way in which it expressed and promoted a modern form of nature religion .......