Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Is Avatar Eden?

Is he still talking about the movie Avatar?

Yeah, one more time. Sorry.

I posted a couple of times about it last week. It's a fertile topic on the blogosphere. I didn't think about writing on it until I saw the CNN article that described how some fans of the movie were depressed that life on Earth wasn't as good as on the alien planet Pandora, and angry at our own race for ruining our planet.

It seems people are considering Pandora as equivalent to the Garden of Eden, or even heaven. A new CNN article talks about the eruption of new fan sites related to Avatar. A member on one forum encouraged people to get over their "Avatar blues" with this advice: "'Start living like Neytiri: in touch with nature, the environment, and not being greedy and wasteful.'"

I think God's creation is wonderful. Watching the clouds envelope a snow covered butte in the desert sun this afternoon was breathtaking. I get mad when I am hiking and find garbage in streams (and I'm known to carry a bag to pick up trash). So I'm not against caring for creation and enjoying its simplicity.

Fiction and stories exist to light our imagination about other places, ways to live, viewpoints, and experiences. I can't fault people for taking in Avatar and making fan forums and such. I've always enjoyed the Star Wars universe, and have been involved in similar internet activities.

Still, when people idealize the Na'vi and Pandora, and call it the new Eden, I think there's some faulty thinking there.

The Na'vi are shown as warriors, but at peace with their environment, even one with it through the goddess All Mother, or Eywa. Pandora is a beautiful sight to behold, with the colors and luminescence shown throughout the film. Still, where did they develop their fighting skills, and why do they need them? Neytiri mourned the alien 6-legged canine-like creatures she killed, but she sure knew how to deal damage. We miss out on a lot of context - the movie is cut and edited in such a way that the Na'vi are shown in the best light compared to (most of) the humans. They sure exhibited human-like emotions like jealousy, aggression, and contempt. If those behaviors are present, then how can we expect that the Na'vi won't mess things up like we have.

Becky Miller had a good insight into the artificiality of the movie when she commented on my first Avatar post. She said:

The article also made me think more about the Eden-like world of James Cameron.
Since we weren't actually there, we experienced it as free of insects, snakes and spiders, though it was dense jungle. The temperature was a comfortable 72 degrees (or whatever the theater folks set it at), so Pandora never got too hot, or too cold, no matter how high in the clouds they went.

We were programmed to have an optimal experience, from comfortable chairs, ambient temperatures, and probably fattening snacks. How well would we enjoy Pandora with some of those critters after us?

Finally, there seems to be an inclination that we need to "return to Eden," i.e., return to a simpler time. Native tribes that are still left are also idealized, although they may commit acts that the rest of the world finds barbarous, like the Amazon tribe that leaves any suspect baby out in the elements to die, considering it unfit.

We think pristine wilderness is ideal. It is beautiful, but also, by definition, WILD. There's a reason we call it that. It is hard to survive nature in comfy chairs and soft pillows padding us.

Christians should understand that we are not actually heading back to an Eden-type lifestyle. The book Revelation tells us that God is preparing a New Jerusalem for us. We are moving into a grand city, a heavenly community, that is our final destination for those who trust in Jesus. We are not going back to a primitive state. We are moving into a new ideal, where we join together like we were always meant to be, with trees whose leaves provide healing for the nations (Revelation 22:2).

I have no problem with people enjoying a movie and a created universe so much that they bond together in forums and groups to kindle their shared interest. I just think Avatar is not the high and holy standard that some are making it out to be.

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