Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fantasy to make you move

I finally saw Avatar last night, after weeks of it being sold out every night and then me disappearing for the vac into a province that is only now catching on to the newfangled concept of cinema.  It was just as fantastic as I had been anticipating (and I’m a master at sleepless-child-at-christmas anticipation.) The visuals and imagery were gratuitously stunning – to the point where you are genuinely disappointed to have to rejoin the real world afterwards. I was also delighted to discover an actor worthy of a crush again! Let’s hope Hollywood is coming out of its obsession with prepubescents. In return, I guess I’ll have to become open-minded enough to consider marrying an Aussie. But predictably, what really tickled me about Avatar was the allegory. So I engaged the one person I know puts up with my idealistic rants (my brother) in an email debate about the evils of the West. And he told me, after a few well-placed supremacist remarks to make my blood boil, that the problem with ‘green crusaders’ is their lack of a sense of humour.
Let’s disentangle the Avatar allegory a little. It was not only about the destruction of the environment and all the natural wisdom and biodiversity in it, but also about the subjugation of indigenous peoples by colonialists. The first was started by the West and is now pursued ferociously by everyone; the second was particular to the West but driven by the same economic forces that drive the first. And try as I might, I can’t really see what’s funny about either of them. But I do see his point. As he said, being overly earnest doesn’t get anyone’s attention. Entertain people or they will wander off. So the trick is to find the humour in an essentially grim subject. But entertainment is different to humour. The arts world has been entertaining us with stories of our stupidity for years. I remember reading The Wump World as a little boy, and, more recently, movies like Wall-E and Avatar make similar pleas. Humour, on the other hand, lets people off the hook and lets them feel better about not doing anything. And I'm not convinced entertainment galvanises people into action either. So how exactly do you change people’s behaviour to fix the world? It’s a good thing I’m in marketing – maybe one day I’ll know the answer to that.
In the meantime, I guess I better throw some alien sex scenes into my book. 


  1. I found your blog because I just posted a similar discussion of Avatar and compared it to The Wump World...

    In your writing is that you discuss the idea of humor... but don't break it down into its component parts. Satire has long been the tool of change advocates, using humor to point out the basic insanity of the world in which we live.

    Avatar obviously doesn't use either humor OR satire... it does use a collectively accepted storyline about the evils of both colonialism and the greed of capitalism, which in turn ruin the world for all... indigenous species and capitalists alike.

    Good writing.

  2. oh yeah. that aussie is hot! Sam Worthington. He was smoking in Terminator 4, that's where I first came across him. And he's in the remake of Clash of the Titans, bare arms and showing lots of leg and hopefully some ass :D

  3. Fantastic. I know what to look for next time I'm at the dvd store now, thanks :)