Friday, January 15, 2010

Avatar: Is It A Pagan Movie?

This is an interesting take on the impact of the movie Avatar, not the least because it accepts the views of Australia's catholic bishop.

Other commentators have complained that Avatar promotes a leftist or greenie agenda but Cardinal Pell knows where the real danger lies. He is an expert on the activities of pagan propagandists. In 2001 he warned: "We must not allow the situation to deteriorate as it had in Elijah's time, 850 years before Christ, where monotheism was nearly swamped by an aggressive paganism, by the followers of Baal." (Baal was a Phoenician fertility god.)

Now it would seem that Baal is back, in the person of the writer-director James Cameron. Cardinal Pell is disturbed by Cameron's speculation that a planet might function as a giant organic computer into which all living things are connected.

Reviewing Avatar in The Sunday Telegraph last weekend, he wrote: "Worship of the powerful forces of nature is half right, a primitive stage in the movement towards acknowledging the one: the single Transcendent God, above and beyond nature. It is a symptom of our age that Hollywood is pumping out this old-fashioned pagan propaganda."

Love the conflation of all Paganism w/ Ba'al ( a deity with whom I am personally unacquainted). Not really.

What's really interesting to me is how threatened xians and conservative writers are about a film that shows how satisfying and profound it can be for people to have a relationship with their landbase, planet, natural world (and, no, those of us in such relationship don't regard our Planet as a super computer.) It's that element of Avatar that seems to be attracting huge attention (and pissing off Sullivan).

I also object as strongly as I know how (one of my favorite movie scenes is the one where, in A Few Good Men, Demi Moore objects, is overruled, and then "strongly objects") to the old notion that monotheism and a "transcendent" (aka broken relationship with nature) deity is a "step above" Paganism. And, the notion that Paganism is "old-fashioned."

And, I'm not going to bother with the notion that, until Avatar's ticket sales surpass those of The Sound of Music (a film released years and years and years ago) it's a flop. I could make, in about ten minutes of billable time, a damn good argument that The Sound of Music, with its focus on family, landbase, freedom, the overthrow of a patriarchal family regime, and underground movements, is a Pagan movie.

The article discusses Monbiot's points that Avatar reflects Europe's actions in America (and I'd argue in all of not-Europe, see, e.g., India, Africa, Asia, etc.). Yeah, that's the part of the movie that my brilliant friend E called "anvils" -- it hits you over the head. But Monbitot, who is far more brilliant that I can ever hope to be, misses the point. The point is that people who invade don't have the same relationship with the landbase/plantet/etc. as the people who have lived there forever. So it's a lot easier to strip resources, denude forests, kill off "natives" if you're doing those things to someplace "other" than if you're doing it to your own landbase. A movie that posits a relationship with an entire planet makes that process, absent instellar travel, a lot more difficult.

Finally, this article has has the regular capitalization problems and a problem with calling the movie "propaganda." Was Mel Gibson's movie "propaganda"? Have all the movies that adopt a patriarchial, xian approach to the univers (aka 98% of them) propaganda?

Lately, I'm thinking more and more about how the Na'vi "ground" by inserting a portion of their bodes into the planet. I may have more to say about that later.

Picture found here.


Emme Toaye said...

Well spoken words of wisdom on your part and it seems you have put in a lot of research on the subject. I want to see the movie for myself very soon and see where it takes me.

Teacats said...

Digging into the earth -- reminds me of a cat who "kneads" into cloth -- and seems to be in trance ..... or digging ones toes into sand so you can literally "feel" the ocean as it swirls around your feet ..... or wiggling your toes in soft warm summer garden earth ...

Jan at Rosemary Cottage

Rob-bear said...

Just dropped over from Wendy's "Curiouser and Curiouser."

Yours is a thought-provoking post. As a Christian, I have sympathy with the notion that our world is a "giant organic [experience] into which all living things are connected." (I object to the word "computer," as it is mechanical — the very opposite of organic.) As Christians, our stories tell us that we are part of the whole, and inter-dependent with the rest of creation. We have forgotten that reality, largely, and need to re-learn it.

Strangely, this was an essential ingredient in the Celtic understanding of Christianity — overwhelmed by Rome, but now being "rediscovered." Including some ties to the Wiccan approach to life. All very fascinating.