January 12, 2010

"Ever since I went to see 'Avatar' I have been depressed."

"Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na'vi made me want to be one of them. I can't stop thinking about all the things that happened in the film and all of the tears and shivers I got from it. I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and the everything is the same as in 'Avatar.'"

***

"When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed ... gray. It was like my whole life, everything I've done and worked for, lost its meaning... It just seems so ... meaningless. I still don't really see any reason to keep ... doing things at all. I live in a dying world."

***

When I was younger — I'm 59, starting today — movies had a very strong effect on me, but it wasn't that it turned the world disappointingly gray. When I walked out into the light after a great movie, my experience was that things seemed sharpened, intensified, and refreshed. The real world felt newly real. It was more in color — the opposite of depression.

Is it something about the movies that has changed? Is our relationship to film different now? Are young people today different from the way we were then? Maybe nothing has changed, and there were post-film depressives then as now.

103 comments:

Lockestep said...

Happy Birthday - and many, many more.

WV -demberol: the new drug from Merck to convert you to an Obamacare supporter.

save_the_rustbelt said...

Last estimate I heard, 30 - 40% of college students were taking Zoloft or a similar medication.

Many of the drug/sex/rock&roll baby boomers have created very emotionally fragile offspring.

I think there are too many video games and not enough church, but then I'm a bit old fashioned.

AllenS said...

Movies:

A group of people who are pretending to be somebody they're not.

Ron said...

Maybe he'd cheer up about the world he actually lives in if we show him "Shoah."

Henry said...

Back in the '70s you could go see movies like Clute and The Godfather. No one left those movies feeling depressed.

I'm quite sure that if I ever see Avatar I will be depressed. But not because of its wonderfulness.

These people sound like they never got over My Little Pony.

Windbag said...

A friend commenting once that,for twenty years, when asked about his age, his response began with the "f-f-f-f-f-f-f" sound. Forty-something, Fifty-something. On the eve of his sixtieth birthday, he was contemplating spending the next twenty years beginning his response with the "s-s-s-s-s-s-s" sound. Not deep, but that's reality.

Pop culture nowadays is being generated by post-modern nihilists. They are depressing and vapid at their core. Can anyone imagine something like "It's a Wonderful Life" being created these days? Can anyone imagine something like "No Country for Old Men" to be created in the 40s?

vbspurs said...

Is it something about the movies that has changed? Is our relationship to film different now? Are young people today different from the way we were then?

The focus of the young today is different, not the emotions.

They are better able to immerse themselves in a parallel, imaginary world because of (you guessed it) video games. I myself do not play, but I have in the past, and I have spent hours upon hours "living" as a character inside a completely virtual world.

How different are the Avatar-fanboys and girls, to the people who dress up as Spock and Uhura at Star Trek conventions? Who spend hundreds of hours composing fanfic for episodes which will never be filmed? To the Titanic fans who role play for hours in forums, immersing themselves in a long lost Edwardian world?

I'm sure there has been a suicide thought or two from these types of people. I don't think they are different at all from the Avatar fans. The depressed Avatar fans are just getting their story told, is all.

Cheers,
Victoria

David said...

Some percentage of the population is just nuts. Always has been, always will be.

Interestingly, the percentage seems to be about equal to my age, so we're heading quickly towards half the population being nuts, which seems about right.

paul a'barge said...

Happy Birthday!!!

jag said...

Avatar depressed me as well. However, I think the blues I felt were due to the astonishingly bad script and the fact that such piss poor story telling is earning a billion dollars.

Brian said...

I haven't seen Avatar yet, but I was planning on seeing it this weekend. It's nice to suspend disbelief for a while (in this case, like 3 hours). But when you want reality to bend to the fantasy, you're always going to be disappointed. Maybe it would be nice to live as giant blue humanoids, in an alien forest, but humans already lived as hominids in a jungle, and the result was we left it behind. It's the desire to return to Eden.

jayne_cobb said...

As a relatively young person myself (who posts under the name of a sci-fi character) I would just like to say that nothing has changed regarding the viewers and their relationships to movies. What has changed is that the internet and the 24 hour news cycle have combined to give the dumb asses of society a microphone.

Being a fan of comics, video games, and late 80's/early 90's cartoons I have had to deal with these idiots on a fairly regular basis (whenever I check out the message boards). Let's just call them what they are: fanboys (this goes beyond nerds and geeks, and is typically gender neutral).

Fanboys have always existed (look at Star Wars and Star Trek) and always will. Hell, when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes people in Britain actually wore armbands in mourning.

This is nothing new.


And on a side note, the proper description of this particular group of fanboys is Avatards.

junyo said...

I think the blues I felt were due to the astonishingly bad script and the fact that such piss poor story telling is earning a billion dollars.

The correct answer.

"Avatar" is visually stunning, but as a story, astoundingly bad.

Salamandyr said...

Avatards...I like that.

Jayne (the man they call Jayne), I'm gonna have to watch Serenity again in honor of that coining.

Henry said...

The cure to movie blues is to watch more movies. These kids should go home and rent Brazil.

Great movies are an immersive experience. I can remember too the feeling of jittery excitement walking out of a theatre after a great movie. I can remember feeling jaded as well by ordinary life, though the feeling never lasted all that long.

What seems odd to me as I look back, is that the most powerful movies were dystopic and alienated, from Apocalpyse Now and The Godfather to Blade Runner. Yet they were incredibly energizing.

Now the movies are treacle and the kids are alienated. Well some of the kids anyway. I suppose most kids are just fine.

holdfast said...

Good God - these deluded, simpering little creatures would do us all a favor if they exited the gene pool prior to procreation.

Avatar was a movie with a story that was some sort of mashup/rip-off of Dune, Fern Gully and Dances With Wolves (there is a very strong argument that Dune dominates), with mediocre dialogue, execrable military tactics (that giant airship thing was basically another Titanic), some very coll visuals and special effects, and acting that was occasionally touching, sometimes fun and often trite (plus Sam Worthington cannon seem to decide whether or not to suppress his Digger accent (see also Terminator Salvation)).

k*thy said...

The idea that they’re gathering and forming their own communities to exchange information is heartening. It’s cool that they’re drawn to together and forming some kind of common bond. They seem to be helping each other and that’s a good thing.

EDH said...

The article doesn't answer, but I think people today are more apt to go see a movie repeatedly, even before it's available on video, to enter the "realty" of the movie. Plus video games and the like.

In "my day" getting cheap piece of plastic in a cereal box was the greatest tie-in.

Or the response might be due to the inability to reenter the movie repeatedly at will before it is available on DVD. Maybe that immediate access to a movie has grown in terms of a new learned expectation, and would explain bootleg markets and long lines of people in ridiculous costumes on release dates. Thereafter, repeated viewings eventually burn-out that urgent need in a natural progression of the "product lifecycle."

After all, weren't repeat viewings by impressionable, mostly younge women key to Cameron's boffo box office in Titantic, sans the depression?

The Crack Emcee said...

Please, tell me:

What part of NewAge "thinking" do you people understand?

Anything? Anything at all?

Geez.

Sheepman said...

When I walked out into the light after a great movie, my experience was that things seemed sharpened, intensified, and refreshed.

I still experience this after over 4 decades of seeing movies. It doesn't have to be a great movie, just one that engages me.

When I walk out of the cinema, I feel like I'm watching a cosmic film. That the images I'm seeing have directorial intent.

Freeman Hunt said...

Maybe they can move to reservations and live more authentic lives. You know, start a casino or something.

Freeman Hunt said...

And yeah, this is definitely a Crack Emcee topic. New Age thinking through and through.

vbspurs said...

Hell, when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes people in Britain actually wore armbands in mourning.

THAT'S RIGHT! Also, the future George V wrote to Conan Doyle noting how saddened he was at Holmes' demise. I do believe he said the world was "emptier" because of it (!).

Freeman Hunt said...

Maybe if they all want it to be so, and they wish for it long enough and hard enough, our reality will begin to resemble Avatar reality... these changes will begin occur at the subatomic level...

/new age off

Moose said...

It's all because of Bush being president.

Oh wait...

Hoosier Daddy said...

Are young people today different from the way we were then?

Yeah I think they're called wussies.

You're contemplating suicide after seeing a frickin sci-fi flick whose world was pretty and your world is gray? Wake up dipshit! It's winter! Its always gray!

I read crap like this and I despise these 20 somethings. Maybe offing themselves would clean out the moron gene pool.

Beth said...

Happy Birthday, Althouse!

These kids should go home and rent Brazil.

Back in my early twenties, I went through a period of deep, deep depression. My friends they took me to see a new movie, Brazil. It cheered me right up.

vbspurs said...

After all, weren't repeat viewings by impressionable, mostly younge women key to Cameron's boffo box office in Titantic, sans the depression?

I referenced Titanic in my own post above. I recall one boyfriend-girlfriend duo saying that they had paid for over 100 viewings of Titanic each.

I have to say, I'm concerned about Cameron's tendency to make these kinds of immersive films. Anyone else but an eurybathic Hollywood director, and I'd think he was lobbing to become a cult leader.

William said...

Nobody ever whistled on the way out of a Bergman movie. I take a measure of comfort in realizing that my life did not unfold like a Bergman movie. Maybe that's the point of Bergman movies--to vaccinate us against unhappiness....The MGM musicals and John Wayne westerns were actually more depressing. I have never recovered from the realization that life as it is lived on earth will never be so vivid, righteous and joyful as the life I encountered in the movies when I was a kid...Congratulations on your birthday, and especially on being in a good place on your 59th birthday. The visible parts of your life make it look much closer to an MGM musical than to a Bergman drama. Not everyone gets to be a newlywed on their 59th birthday. You're only old once--if that--and you have to make the most of it.

MadisonMan said...

I still remember when I watched Halloween for the first time, and then walked home from the theater on a cold dank drippy night. You better believe the world felt much different on that walk home :)

vw: Dierick. But my name's not Rick!

Oligonicella said...

I'm supposed to take people on the emotional level of *this* seriously? No.

vbspurs said...

Hoosier Daddy wrote:

I read crap like this and I despise these 20 somethings. Maybe offing themselves would clean out the moron gene pool.

That's when I knew I was "older", too -- when I found myself completely unable to relate to teenagers today, always the first step towards dismissive incomprehension about the very things we used to think were important in our own time.

I used to think this was a wrong attitude to have. And they I realised I'm just bored with teens. If ever there was a demographic pitch-perfect for New Age inaneness, it is them.

traditionalguy said...

The purpose in life is to be challenged by facing the very real problems of getting into a safe place to raise and enjoy a family.That is the reason Pilgrims and others left Europe for the New World. The community we lived among used to applaud that kind of struggle and accept the result as a good life. The illusionists of mass media, (Hollywood included)have everyone today expecting to life an easy amoral life inside a government provided womb guaranteeing no real future harm from their most harmful of conduct. So the young are likely sensing that unless there is an Armeggedan like end of this present system, there will be no hope for a purpose in their lives. The Swedish welfare state is also known for a high suicide rate. In other words they fear that the World will not end. The "world" here never meant the planet earth; but instead the world system of economic and political rule over mankind. Avatar tells us it could be Totally Different and Nirvanah-like which would actually be the worse place of all for humans and their DNA programs to live a satisfying life. The Shangrila place would really seem like a hell on earth with no purpose.

Sofa King said...

To channel Dr. Dennis Leary - So let me get this straight: whiny, emo loser kids with no grasp of science or history or just how fucking fantastic they have it on this planet right now, are threatening to off themselves because the world of free men fails to live up to their oh-so-sensitive longings? And this is a problem, why? Folks, this is an unemployment solution right here.

Pogo said...

'Avatards.' Heh.

I remember reading The Airtight Garage by Moebius, a scifi comic book, er, graphic novel (*cough*). A quote I recall was text below this marvelous picture of a complex and wondrously futuristic city, and a man looking down from his balcony high in the sky, forlorn. Something like: Yet even then, men dreamed of other worlds.

Dissatisfaction with the human condition is a prime mover for people. This can give rise to small improvements, and to great evils.


Up In The Air, by contrast, was much more depressing than reality.

vbspurs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vbspurs said...

Pogo wrote:

Up In The Air, by contrast, was much more depressing than reality.

I just finally watched Clooney's flick this weekend! Frankly, yes, it's overhyped and some of the dancing scenes should've ended up on the cutting room floor, but that final scene...

So many places to go, so what. Loved it.

J said...

"I'm supposed to take people on the emotional level of *this* seriously? No"

I don't know that your were meant to - that woman looks, well, exactly like one of the bridesmaids in the crazy bride/bad haircut video (acknowledged to be fake).

Re for Ann's question, a lot of mentally ill people have access to the internet. As somebody here pointed out, we had the opportunity to live like the blue people, and ran away from that lifestyle as fast as we could.

Oligonicella said...

Sofa King --

Done well. We need a lot more of Dr. Leary.

Monkeyboy said...

I blame the internet, no really.

1. Before instant cmmunication we never would have heard these expressions of angst, becuase what you say to a forum is different from what you admit face to face.
2. Connecting to others of like angst was hard when you were the only emo in high school, but now can you link with thousands across the world and suddenly its an acceptable, laudable "lifestyle".
3. In my day (I'm 42) even living in an esacpist fantasy world meant you had to actually meet new people. I've done Dungeons and Dragons and Civil War reenacting, both of which reqire you to meet people and navigate the real world to get to the fantasy, now you can exist in fantasy and never leave the house.

Oligonicella said...

J --

"I don't know that your were meant to - that woman looks, well, exactly like one of the bridesmaids in the crazy bride/bad haircut video (acknowledged to be fake)."

First: What?? Second, it's a guy.

Henry said...

@William -- I whistled my way out of The Magic Flute.

Actually, Fanny and Alexander created the kind of immersive experience that I've mentioned above. It ultimately pictures a tragic, unknowable world, but one that still hums with possibility.

edutcher said...

vbspurs said...

Is it something about the movies that has changed? Is our relationship to film different now? Are young people today different from the way we were then?

The focus of the young today is different, not the emotions.

They are better able to immerse themselves in a parallel, imaginary world because of (you guessed it) video games. I myself do not play, but I have in the past, and I have spent hours upon hours "living" as a character inside a completely virtual world.

How different are the Avatar-fanboys and girls, to the people who dress up as Spock and Uhura at Star Trek conventions? Who spend hundreds of hours composing fanfic for episodes which will never be filmed? To the Titanic fans who role play for hours in forums, immersing themselves in a long lost Edwardian world?


Have to disagree, mum. I know young people who have seen this dreck and said, "Better story that 'Sherlock Holmes', but Holmes had the action". And they went back to enjoying life - which I think is the real issue here.

Also, there were Trekkies long before computer games became the rage they are. As far as going to see a movie multiple times to the point of lunacy, my sister saw, "A Hard Day's Night", 25 times and she's no worse for the wear.

And since we're talking about the man at 221B, let's not forget the king of all fan clubs, The Baker Street Irregulars, which has existed for how long now?

Granted, some of these people seriously need a life, but, perhaps, we can blame this on Obama. After all, the Messiah hasn't saved us yet and bad economic times can lead to severe depression in some. There were people who killed themselves after hearing Billie Holliday sing some song.

George Grady said...

Madison Man: My name's not Rick!

therandomelectron said...

These are the same people who needed therapy when Kerry lost in 2004.

vbspurs said...

There were people who killed themselves after hearing Billie Holliday sing some song.

In fairness, her life was one long slow suicide.

Perhaps, Edutcher, I'm underestimating the visual impact of this film. I saw it, walked out after 45 mins, in part due to a bit of motion sickness. It's a very intense experience to put on those 3D glasses, and enter Pandora. Look at the photo in Ann's link. You're enveloped by the bluey world as sure as the characters in the film are.*

What I am trying to say is that for those who are more accustomed to video games, it must be like entering the best video game of all time, a world brought to life, an emo Jurassic Park, if you will -- and obviously, there might be separation issues which target the susceptible amongst us.

*Perhaps the answer is to wolf down a pizza, like the guy in the second row in the photo is. It is my firm philosophy in life, that pizza cures all depression.

Chase said...

Meade, you married a hot 59 year old.

Happy Birthday Ann!

Paul said...

I blame Rousseau.

JAL said...

Happy Birthday Professor.

Have Meade take you out to dinner. ;-)

JAL said...

Avatar

Thought I might catch it on video ....

But in the trailers when the military was portrayed in the typical idiotic Left wing wet dream way I figured -- Not.Worth.A.Dime.

Pogo said...

Avatar does sound like a Rousseau enema.

kimsch said...

Hippo birdie two ewe

TMink said...

Happy birthday Althouse! Mine was yesterday, 50 for me.

Trey

Pastafarian said...

Happy Birthday, Althouse!

Re. the topic at hand: I'm not surprised that there are a few young people who feel this way about Avatar. From what I've read, the story apparently casts humanity as evil invaders, and sexy blue cat-people with built-in T1 cable modems as noble savages. The resolution of the story is apparently (spoiler alert) the repulsion of the human invaders, resulting, presumeably, in the annihilation of the human race (yay!), since they have to turn back to their own ruined planet.

This ties in with so much that young people believe, it's brilliant: It taps not only into their reflexive anti-Americanism and anti-militarism, but into their own self-loathing, that lies at he heart of current leftist ideology. Mother Gaia has a fever, and humans are the virus.

I'm not surprised that these twits become depressed when they leave their fantasy world and find themselves human.

knox said...

When I found out what the tired storyline was, it made me depressed: I'd been looking forward to seeing it. Sounds like the plot from a movie from the early- to mid-nineties. I'll pass.

Pastafarian said...

And, Althouse -- you certainly don't look 59. I wouldn't have guessed over 50. I'm 44, and I look older than you do.

mccullough said...

Maybe these folks should read Infinite Jest. The eponymous film in that novel was so engaging that people became catatonic and died

Henry said...

Sounds like the plot from a movie from the early- to mid-nineties.

As one of my friends wrote after seeing it: "Been done, James, by you, in 1986."

John said...

What is both pathetic and funny is that all of the little weenies running around wishing they could be like the Avatar smurfs would last about five minutes in a pre-industrial society.

William said...

The Magic Flute is the only Bergman movie I've watched repeatedly. The Masonic ritual upon which the movie and opera are based is seemingly some kind of primitive Dungeons and Dragons game. It is so much easier to imagine a better world than this one. The Masons used rituals and mysths to make that imaginary world seem more vivid. Nowadays we use special effects. The uses of enchantment. History happens first as a special effect; then as a long, tedious line at Disneyland....We can imagine and make possible a better world, but to imagine a better self is more likely to lead to frustration than to a better self. Better to work on a new phone app.....Fanny and Alexander is a great movie. I only saw it once, but the ending remains a part of me. The children ran free from their unhappy home. They thought they had made a successful getaway from the misery. Then the dead father walks up behind the happy boy and slaps him on the back of his head. "You will never be free of me," the father says....Escapism is a fine dream but is it even possible to dream that we are not ourselves?

Joe said...

This is oh so mockable, but many of us have longings for our kind of golden era, forgetting or ignoring all the negatives. For me it's the early sixties in Southern California, remnants of which were still around long enough for me to remember first hand as a child.

It's a cousin to looking at a picture of city, nestled in the mountains, blanketed with snow and thinking it's charming. Living there is a whole other matter.

Christy said...

Happy Birthday! And many happy returns of the day.

I haven't seen Avatar. I caved to peer pressure when the reviews came in and didn't bother with a movie I'd been looking forward to seeing.

So I have a question. Does the hero save a Utopian world? Or is it a world like any other, full of conflict? I ask because I, for one, have always found utopia a deeply depressing concept.

save_the_rustbelt said...

I got depressed when I sat through Notting Hill, but any Hugh Grant movie will do that to me.

And I got depressed when the Cleveland Browns beat the Steelers, but somehow I managed to get out of bed the next morning.

Simon Kenton said...

"When I walked out into the light after a great movie, my experience was that things seemed sharpened, intensified, and refreshed. The real world felt newly real. It was more in color — the opposite of depression."

Almost word for word the description given by people who just survived a gunfight when the other guy didn't.

Tibore said...

""Ever since I went to see 'Avatar' I have been depressed."

Those are foolish people who buy into the whole notion of the "Noble Savage" without realizing why such things as technological and sociological progress exists.

Look, I liked Avatar a lot as a wonderful visual spectacle. Aesthetically, it was magnificent. Plotwise, it's another story; I gave it a "D" for the narrative itself. But to get back on topic: People who are buying into what in the end is the most superficial ripoff of Gaia philosophy, severely misunderstood Native American ritual and belief, and half-assed Noble Savage humanism are folks who are misattuned to life to begin with, and are hopeless in dealing with adversity and reality. Oddly enough, they'd also be the ones soft enough and ignorant of nature enough to die of disease, predation, or simple stupidity in the actual wild. It doesn't occur to them that there's a reason Jake Sully, ex-Marine, was the one human out of them all who had the constitution and physical skills to gain acceptance into the Na'vi's society. And it certainly doesn't occur to these dreamers that there's also a reason the Na'vi were respectful of a warrior to begin with. They forget that Pandora was ultimately a lethal environment, and that you survived via physical skill and toughness, not through woo-tastic ecoreligion.

J said...

"First: What?? Second, it's a guy."

Hmmm. It looks like a woman to me - in fact the face looks just like the first bridesmaid to appear in the CB video, but I guess it is a guy. Maybe the bridesmaid is the same guy? Creepy.

My point about lunatics on the internet stands...

John Lynch said...

Happy Birthday.

Joan said...

Tibore, ITA. One of the reasons Sully accomplished what none of the scientists could was because he didn't go into Pandora thinking he could teach the natives anything. The other big reason is that he had the mental toughness to deal with the many physical demands that environment put on him.

That said, I think one of things that appeals to the depressive types is the much-mocked ability of the Pandorans to link to each other, their horses and dragons, and their race memories via that tree-network thing. Isolation is a huge component of depression, and being able to literally connect to something greater than yourself, and not just to feel but to know you are part of something is a very powerful idea.

In the real world, faith and family provide that feeling of connectedness, but (getting to Crack's favorite topic) our culture has relegated them to the "square" (to use an old term) bin. Where I live, most of the people I interact with on a daily basis don't mind being square. We see the value in squareness. But these poor New Agers have been so indoctrinated they can't get out of their own way.

LarsPorsena said...

".....And I got depressed when the Cleveland Browns beat the Steelers, but somehow I managed to get out of bed the next morning."

I was prostrate.
Recently I've begun to feel better but your post has caused me to relapse.

edutcher said...

vbspurs said...

There were people who killed themselves after hearing Billie Holliday sing some song.

In fairness, her life was one long slow suicide.

Perhaps, Edutcher, I'm underestimating the visual impact of this film. I saw it, walked out after 45 mins, in part due to a bit of motion sickness. It's a very intense experience to put on those 3D glasses, and enter Pandora. Look at the photo in Ann's link. You're enveloped by the bluey world as sure as the characters in the film are.*

What I am trying to say is that for those who are more accustomed to video games, it must be like entering the best video game of all time, a world brought to life, an emo Jurassic Park, if you will -- and obviously, there might be separation issues which target the susceptible amongst us.


Anent Billie Holliday: that particular song became known as, "the suicide song", (can't remember the title) because so many people couldn't bear to live after hearing it. I later heard, from one of my English teachers IIRC, that it was eventually banned from the radio.

In any case, I should tell you I was quite the PC game aficianado up until a very few years ago (don't ask me about, "The Seventh Guest"). If you have any sense of yourself, all the blue, green, crimson eye candy in the world is not going to affect you.

True story, possibly irrelevant as well, The Blonde and I were returning to Phoenix after driving up to Flagstaff and across to Albuquerque. As we came down into the valley of the Superstitions at sunset, the golden light hit the sagebrush and the Saguaro cactus in such a way I could picture John Wayne leading a troop of cavalry in pursuit of Geronimo or The Magnificent Seven on their way to Mexico.

It was that evocative, and I knew something like that might never come again. But I never wanted to kill myself because I probably wouldn't ever see it ever.

Hoosier Daddy said...

What is both pathetic and funny is that all of the little weenies running around wishing they could be like the Avatar smurfs would last about five minutes in a pre-industrial society.

Hell they’d end up committing mass suicide because there is no texting or Twitter on the frontier.

Like I said, wussies.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I've done Dungeons and Dragons and Civil War reenacting

Hey so did I. I recall a great story from a national event that one of my pards was at when the Union commander who was a real piece of work, insisted on posting pickets (for real) outside the Union camp throughout the night. The commander then had gone out with another guy to look at the field and on the way back my buddy, standing at port arms with fixed bayonet leveled it as they approached:

Guard: Halt and Advance with the countersign!
Commander: This is Colonel So and So
Guard: That ain’t the countersign (cocks rifle)
BOOM!!
Needless to say he was considered a hero among both armies.

John Stodder said...

A lot of people on this thread have pointed out how completely non-unique the response to "Avatar" is. People of a certain bent having been getting lost in the alternative universe of narrative art since it began. The technology seems to make the experience more immersive, but nothing is more immersive than a well-developed imagination.

I remember when my stepson was about 4, and we were playing some kind of pirate game he was making up as we went along. It suddenly hit me that he wasn't really "playing." For those moments, he really believed we were pirates, on a ship, battling other pirates on the open seas. I was having to think up stuff to do, but for him, the fantasy was a flowing reality that a little kid can tap into before reality's features take shape. Books, movies, symphonies, operas, they're all capable of bringing us back to that state of mind if they're good enough and if we're open to them.

"Willing suspension of disbelief" -- that's what you're supposed to bring to a narrative experience, and not just sci-fi fantasy. It's the same quality that has you wondering what happens to characters after the movie is over. The correct answer is "Nothing. They don't exist. They never existed." But that doesn't stop us from speculating.

I haven't seen Avatar and have heard mixed things about it, including the "left-wing fantasy" meme. To each his/her own. If these people are that involved in the movie that they yearn to visit a fictional place, then Cameron has obviously done a good job, but more importantly, those audience members opened themselves up to the experience and that's a very human, elevated thing to do. People might express themselves in that state and appear foolish, but those kind of comments weren't really intended to be deconstructed by a bunch of snarky internet surfers.

Pogo said...

"...but those kind of comments weren't really intended to be deconstructed by a bunch of snarky internet surfers."

My father served as the reality check to my youthful excess.

Dreams are wonderful, but they're just dreams; it's important to remember that.

phil said...

Ecological themes are not new to science fiction films. Long before Avatar, movies like Soylent Green, Silent Running and Planet of the Apes dealt with the ideas of overpopulation, destruction of the environment and war. None of these films had a happy ending, but in the course of telling their stories, they all emphasized the beauty of Earth and its importance to humanity - in Soylent Green, Edward G. Robinson goes to his euthanized death viewing beautiful images of the Earth, in Silent Running, Bruce Dern desperately fights to save domes filled with the wildlife of Earth’s forests, and in Planet of the Apes, Charlton Heston cries out in fury “God damn you all to hell!” when he learns there’s been a nuclear war that’s laid waste to the planet. The fundamental message of these movies was ultimately a positive one: it is worth fighting “for the beauty of the Earth.”

Avatar, in contrast, celebrates the beauty of a make-believe planet that is deadly to humans, depicts humans as uniformly blind to ecological ills (the hero achieves insight and salvation only when he becomes an alien), and describes the Earth as a dying planet that cannot be saved. The fundamental message of Avatar? Give it up people, there’s no hope here on Earth. It’s a depressing film.

Beth said...

Happy birthday, Trey.

I'll celebrate it with a slice of king cake.

Pogo said...

Yes, of course!
HB to Althouse and Trey and any readers wanting to celebrate today as the day!


Off-topic Beth: have you read Mary Karr's Lit or her other two?

bagoh20 said...

If the movie took the time to show the Na'vi taking a crap, doing the dishes and doing some work, maybe it wouldn't be so "wonderful". Ever notice in literature, including movies, that people never do much work or tedia of any kind. Kind of unfair, I think.

Tedia? I'm just making up my own language today. I feel aliiiive!

Titus said...

Happy Birthday Mary.

I liked Avatar and I don't generally like sci fi movies. It kept my interest the whole way through.

It was pretty. That's about it.

Hoosier Daddy said...

The fundamental message of Avatar? Give it up people, there’s no hope here on Earth. It’s a depressing film.

Well as you pointed out, that's the message that's been re-told in various ways for the last 30 years. I havent' seen it but some friends have and said the SFX is fantastic and the plot is Dances With Wolves redux.

Which tends to be the case with Hollywood anymore, heavy on the eye candy weak on plot. Considering the cost of a movie ticket I'll probably pass on it.

Hoosier Daddy said...

However I will say that I watched Paranormal Experience on video and I have to say that was probably the creepiest movie I've seen since the Exorcist.

Made with two unknowns and a $15K budget to boot.

The Crack Emcee said...

"'Willing suspension of disbelief' -- that's what you're supposed to bring to a narrative experience, and not just sci-fi fantasy."

And it would be easy to do if it's every frame wasn't a hypocritical insult your humanity, country, values, and the very experience you claim we're supposed to have. I tend to "disbelieve" everything that reeks of NewAge bullshit, which this movie is full of, so where does that leave us? I'll tell you:

It leaves you identifying with, and defending, the thought process of a 4 year old.

Pogo said...

If CSPAN broadcasts the healthcare bill process, it'll put the Exorcist to shame.

Salamandyr said...

Crack, that's unfair. Avatar was at least the thought processes of an 8 year old.

William said...

Happy Birthday. You're five days and four years younger than me.

The last time I went to a movie theater was to take my two sons to see Superman II.

Aside from that, only on airlines, mostly on trans-Pacs. Men of Honor and There Will Be Blood were very good. Most, if not all of the rest were worthy of sleeping through, or reading a book. Thus I've little interest in movies - another African Queen is likely not in the making.

William said...

Happy Birthday. You're five days and four years younger than me.

The last time I went to a movie theater was to take my two sons to see Superman II.

Aside from that, only on airlines, mostly on trans-Pacs. Men of Honor and There Will Be Blood were very good. Most, if not all of the rest were worthy of sleeping through, or reading a book. Thus I've little interest in movies - another African Queen is likely not in the making.

Pogo said...

With age, people tend to repeat themselves.



I keed, I keed.

Joan said...

Salamandyr, my 8-year-old was bored. (My 12-year-old was openly derisive - he was routing for the humans even though he knew they would lose.)

Freeman Hunt said...

These people love Avatar because it takes place in a world that really is what they wrongly perceive this world to be.

"Everything is connected." In reality, that is totally false. We are not "connected." But in Avatar world, it is true. So, they love it.

"Mother Earth." If you destroy the Earth, the Earth will not care. It has no feelings, it has no mind, it has no idea that people are even on it, and it would have no idea if it were blown to smithereens tomorrow. That's reality. In Avatar, however, the world is a great neural network, the greatest mind imaginable, and it cares about the things on it like a mother; so, people who believe reality is like that love it.

"Back to nature." In reality, nature is mean. Really mean. Beautiful? Sure, but also unforgiving, inhospitable, and extremely dangerous. If you truly go back to nature, you will probably not live very long. It has been a very long and determined struggle by humanity to escape nature, to tame it, to experience it on humanity's terms. But in Avatar world, nature is nice, you can go back to it and thrive, and live in harmony with it.

Avatar is pure fantasy, but it's a fantasy that a whole lot of people think is true in reality. Perhaps the harsh contrast of the fantasy and the reality outside the theater, the realization that it really isn't true, is depressing these people.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Brilliantly put, Freeman Hunt. Also, a very accurate description of the psychology of liberalism.

Fred4Pres said...

I really get depressed by "Nobel Savage" cartoons that supposedly represent other cultures. The Na'vi are obviously Native American in inspiration. But rather than a true depiction of them as human beings (oh excuse me, big blue alien humanoids)--It was boring.

But hey, the effects were cool and it is making money.

jertlong said...

A very wise man told me, the people who get most depressed in life have the biggest dreams. While it may be depressing to compare our world to that of the Avatar world, rejoice in the fact you likely have an amazing sense of creativity yourself and can dream like many of us can't! Would you take the option of being happy if you could never have another dream again for the rest of your life? or is it a fair trade-off? worth a thought!

Synova said...

The world of Pandora is incredibly vivid and magnificent. But somehow, instead of inspiring the audience about wondrous possibilities, I've seen people defend the movie (against criticisms that it's a liberal preach fest) that all it *really* does is show how horrible humans *really* are and how bleak our life *really* is and how we've destroyed the Earth.

It surprises me to see people say that what they are depressed about is that Pandora isn't real. Well, and this is a surprise? Of course not.

My daughter came home from seeing it and said it was wonderful but (because she loves twisting her parent's tails) she left the theater hating herself for being human.

It's not the pretty pictures causing this depression.

A person could go to see District 9 or to the new Star Trek and leave the theater arguing about what it *means*.

You don't do that when you leave after seeing Avatar. Avatar makes statements. It asks no questions.

Come to think of it... neither do the Na'vi. They are entirely incurious about the universe. They have no desire, want or need.

Yeah, I can see how the experience would be depressing for someone credulous enough not to question the statements the movie makes.

knox said...

I got depressed when I sat through Notting Hill

LMAO

Synova said...

The daughter also recently saw "Men Who Stare at Goats" at the dollar theater.

Her response to that one when asked "How was the movie?" was something like... AvatarX3... if I use "1 Avatar" as a unit of measurement of movie enjoyment or response.

"Sherlock Holmes" was probably between the two in how expressively she answered how much she liked the movie.

Yes, it was *beautiful* and Pandora is lovely.

Latonya said...

Long post, so I’m going to have to split it in two.

I'm going to offer my perspective as a creative person. I am and always have been very imaginative and a lover of the arts. (Though I am also quite left-brained as well being also a programmer and formerly a science student at one of the local state universities.)

I have not seen Avatar, but I can relate somewhat to the person being quoted in the article. Now, I have never, ever been so enthralled by a world that I contemplated suicide, but I have felt that depression and the disappointment with the real world after viewing certain movies.

For me, the film that had the greatest effect was The Fellowship of the Ring. After seeing the movie and having been so immersed in it, coming out of the theater and back into the real world was almost painful. Everything in reality seemed dull by comparison, lacking that art that was the world of Middle-earth. Seeing Rivendell for the first time, for instance, was breathtaking. It was inspiring too. I was subsequently mesmerized by each new place we, the audience, was taken: Moria, Lothlorien, and all the other places in Middle-earth we got to see in the following films. I wanted to create and paint worlds like that. No, I wanted to exist in a world like that. Painting was a way to do that, in a sense, but it wasn't like actually being there. I wanted to be there and experience it firsthand. I wanted that sense of adventure. I wanted that sense of art that I found severely lacking in reality.

Latonya said...

Instead, I was stuck at a desk in a white, windowless classroom, listening to lectures on subjects I never cared about nor would ever find useful again. I remember sitting in one of my honors math classes, working on some problems and thinking how mundane it was compared to what I had seen in Fellowship. Math wasn't art. Math was tedious. Practical, but tedious. Emotionless. Extremely so. Just numbers and symbols on a page. It didn't matter that I was really good at it and had almost no trouble solving every problem I was given, I hated it. Where was the adventure in doing math problems? Where was the art? And as I sat there thinking about this, I started looking at the future. Where was the adventure, where was the art in being stuck in a cubicle all day? Where was the adventure, where was the art in paying my bills? In doing taxes? In driving to and from work everyday? In repeating the same routine again and again and again? It was depressing to me, thinking about these things. I didn't want to exist in reality. I wanted to exist in fantasy, but I knew that was impossible and I was just going to have to deal with it, no matter how I felt. I did not like that idea. I feared having to stay away from my fantasy worlds in order to live and work in reality would make me jaded and no longer able to be immersed completely in a fantasy world and experience all the emotion and wonder that came with it.

I find this is fairly common among creative types, especially those of us who were so taken in by someone else's world that not only does it inspire us (to do things like create our own worlds and characters), it makes us want to be a part of it in some way and all reality seems extremely colorless and uninteresting by comparison. There is this very strong desire to literally be a part of these fantasy worlds that it is depressing when we realize that we cannot, that it is impossible. I have also found that trying to explain this to people who are not creative types (I might also say "creative and very emotional or sensitive types") is difficult. I feel like every time I try, I am being viewed as "one of those people" with "their head stuck up in the clouds" who needs to "get back to the real world" and stop "all this daydreaming nonsense". It's really something you have to experience in order to understand, I think. It's like trying to explain how wonderful, say, chocolate tastes to someone who hasn't had it. (Maybe that's not the best comparison, but you get the idea, hopefully.)

Apologies for the long post. My very much more than 2 cents.

The Crack Emcee said...

The only part of Avatar that got an audience reaction when I saw it was the opening previews for the other films. Personally, I was about as unmoved as I could be. Like everyone else in the theatre, I just stared at it, and I was one of the first people in line, on the first night it played, so I was primed to be impressed. Didn't happen. Now, when I read all these "it was beautiful" comments, all I can think of is how easily impressed most people are, what small imaginations they must possess, and how gullible they are to allow hype to warp their senses.

To this day, I'd much rather see Punch-Drunk Love than Avatar again.

Synova said...

Beautiful but empty, Crack.

Consider the picture of perfection, contentment. "We have nothing they want."

Because they wanted nothing. No drive, no curiosity, no Na'vi children taking apart the alien tech just to see what made it tick, not one of them looking up at the stars and thinking, "I can *go* there." There was no Na'vi counterpart to Grace. No one desperate to understand the aliens for the sake of understanding. No one looking at the strange and different with a need to know.

Carol said...

Happy Birthday! I share the day but arrived in 1952. Thanks for the great blog and beautiful photos.

Kite said...

Happy birthday, Althouse. Same day and year as Rush. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Tibore said...

"Synova said...

There was no Na'vi counterpart to Grace. No one desperate to understand the aliens for the sake of understanding. No one looking at the strange and different with a need to know."


This bears particular emphasis. The Na'vi were portrayed idealistically as a "perfect" society. Unfortunately, too many people who fall in love with faux-naturalistic "Noble Savage" ideals fail to understand the implications of such a life. They don't see the amount of work it takes to get food, to create habitation, to keep living areas livable ... they ignore the day-to-day living. And in doing so, they fail to realize that for actual neolithic level societies, the day to day drudgery was merely different, not gone altogether.

So how do societies change? Progress. And this is where Synova's comment becomes relevant: In these idealized fictional cultures (including but not limited to the Na'vi in Avatar) there's no sense of progress. There's no sense of wanting to truly understand the world, or learn for learning's sake. There's no move to improve existence. There's only satiation with the environment, indulgement in the immediate, and a distinct lack of care for how the world changes or how far they can progress. Ultimately, that's bad: Nature is never static. Progress allows mankind to survive famines, natural disasters, and other threats to their existence. Technical progress gives mankind the tools to do survive, intellectual progress gives mankind the ability, and both allow mankind to adapt and survive when paradise becomes hell.

Spiritual purity and oneness with nature mean little if they end up being a prescription for societal death. And being static in the middle of nature is an eventual death sentence. Study the remains of the creatures who used to roam the verdant Sahara 10,000 years ago for evidence of this. And also consider instantaneous disasters, like earthquakes or volcanoes. How does a neolithic society with no interest in progress and a childlike dependence on a Gaia-goddess-mother cope? What do they do if the Gaia-mother decides that changing the world to something else is in order, even if it's fatal to some of her children?

Progress does not have to be in conflict with nature. It can allow a sentient being to understand the world they live in. Progress allows sentient beings the ability to be more than a dependent slave of nature. It allows them to be a truly empowered caretaker and coexistent being. It allows "Gaia's children" to grow up and be more than babies sucking at her teat. It allows them to become adults and learn how to take care of "mother" as well as themselves. And it allows them to transcend a static existence and find new and creative ways to survive when mother needs to do her own thing. Furthermore, it allows them achieve their own potential.

Synova identified the characteristic that shows the supposedly "ideal" society to actually be a flawed one. Members of that society only want to live as children of their world. And in Pandora's case, what a terrible thing that would be for one of the most incredible natural neural networks and richest biosphere in that fictional universe. The Pandoran Gaia's children don't want to grow up. And people who yearn for that fictional land seem to say that infantilization and dependence is a good existence. Maybe... Personally, I find it horrific.

Grace is the real hero of the story. She respected Pandora and the Na'vi, but had a desire to learn and grow. Too bad the storyline demanded that she die as a narrative device, and to enable a protagonist who's ultimate fate was the achivement of the static. Sully did indeed save the Na'vi from the corporation's depredations. But in the real world, humans appreciate progress-drivers like Einstein and Edison as much as they do defenders like George Washington and Audie Murphy. And it's for good reason that they do.

anna_helene said...

i think the people below get it all wrong!
the people feel unhappy after watching avatar, because our world is a concrete block with no nature!
and thats the point, the people want to live in this beautiful nature pointed in avatar (which already exists at our earth).
and they wonder about the human race, because of the many mistakes they did. example colonialism..
so, please post if you already know the message of the film ...
greetings, anna