Avatar's Enviromental Allegory

Avatar's Enviromental Allegory

Susan Cosier
Published: 01/14/2010

Photograph courtesy of WETA/Twentiety Century Fox

On a distant luminescent planet, in a future where man has mined Earth to death, natives live in harmony with nature—and refuse to allow its destruction for a mineral humans are willing to do anything to get. A mineral named unobtanium. That’s the premise, anyway, of James Cameron’s new 3D movie, Avatar. Although the film has many messages—stay true to your morals, follow your heart, be open to the world around you—one struck this viewer with particular force, and that was this: value and preserve the environment.

I know, I know. It’s shocking to learn that an Audubon editor came away from the theater focusing on the conservation aspect of the movie, but I soon found that according to the Los Angeles Times, the facet I appreciated the most is inciting anger in conservatives.

“As a host of critics have noted, the film offers a blatantly pro-environmental message; it portrays U.S. military contractors in a decidedly negative light; and it clearly evokes the can't-we-all-get along vibe of the 1960s counterculture. These are all messages guaranteed to alienate everyday moviegoers, so say the right-wing pundits -- and yet the film has been wholeheartedly embraced by audiences everywhere, from Mississippi to Manhattan.”

Cameron, who hoped the movie would be a huge success and revolutionize the movie-going experience (so he says in a number of articles), admits that the movie has an environmental lesson, according to an Agence France-Presse article.

“There’s a sense of entitlement — ‘We’re here, we’re big, we’ve got the guns, we’ve got the technology, we’ve got the brains, we therefore are entitled to every damn thing on this planet.’ That’s not how it works and we’re going to find out the hard way if we don’t wise up and start seeking a life that’s in balance with the natural cycles of life on earth.”

Personally I think it’s wonderful that a blockbuster incorporates environmental preservation as an essential thread in the plot line’s fabric. Maybe we like it because we have a tendency to root for the underdog, or that we’re suckers for a good romance, but no matter why people are going to see it, I hope that audiences everywhere take off their 3D specs and see a whole new world—one that should be conserved.