Science fiction is, at its core, more than just a hypothetical fantasy about our distant neighbours twinkling in the night. It is also a reflection on humanity. It holds the mirror up to our faces and forces us to question who we are; when our aspirations, morals, ideals and weaknesses are put to the test, are we really who we think? And what is our place in the great darkness that surrounds us, frightens and amazes us? To know your own culture; learn another man's customs. It is only by comparison that we can truly see ourselves. And it is also only us, as subjective individuals, that can know who we are beneath our human exteriors. Many of us focus too much on our weaknesses and turn to God/s and religion for love and acceptance despite our faults, with heaven as the ultimate point of approval. Acceptance by someone or something that truly sees us, not only the shortcomings, but also for what we hope to believe that we fundamentally are; good, decent, with the heart in the right place, trying to make the best of what we have been given. Some of us don't believe in God, or profoundly question his/her/its existence. Many fear death, the unknown, never to see, feel or experience anything again. To be forgotten. For ever.
So the question becomes: does this introduction have a point and what does Avatar have to do with it? Mr James Cameron is a self-proclaimed sci-fi nerd and - not to mention - a human being (although I agree questionable, let us make that assumption for convenience sake) and just like many of us I am sure he shares many of the same existential thoughts and questions that find their way into our human brains and skeptic hearts. And like many of us he seems to share a craving for adventure, discovery, enlightenment and a curiosity of the world, the universe and the beings with whom we happen to share our short time here on Earth.
With Avatar, Mr Cameron manages to address most of these existential questions: who are we? Not in the comfort of our living rooms, nestled in the sofa with a bag of crisps and a chocolate bar in front of the TV, but in the face of choice. The choice between convenience and what we believe in. When all the luxuries have been taken away, and all the shields and walls and layers have been peeled off, do we like what we see? Avatarians have an expression; "I see you", which comes with such a deep ring to it because it is what we all want the world and people around us to do; to recognize, appreciate and care about us and to see that no matter how we might act and react on occasions, deep down we are good. These glasses we desire others to wear when they look at us also have another umbrella term; love. Some say love is blind, but to me at least, real love is not blind, it is understanding. It looks beyond the flaws and recognizes us for all the good things that we are. It sees our actions from our point of view.
The story of Pandora's box in Greek mythology depicts how numerous evils were let into our world in a moment of weakness on Pandora's behalf. In much the same way, humanity in James Cameron's Avatar goes to the planet of Pandora and is confronted with a choice; open the lid or let the box be. Naturally, the greed (for money, power, etc) wins, and so, the lid is opened. Naturally, it has consequences. However, just like in the original story of Pandora's box, something else was let into the world when the lid was pulled away, something to counterbalance the evils that had been unleashed; hope. The hope that the good will, eventually, win. In Cameron's Avatar, this hope is represented by a group of humans who are not set out to exploit the people and resources of Pandora, but to understand it. And with understanding comes the ability to see clearly, and with this comes, ultimately, love. Love is not blind, but ignorance is, and ignorance is the root of most evils taking place in the world today.
We all choose how we want to see the world. Everything is neutral as far as the universe is concerned; there is no good or evil, no good or bad, no morals set in some sacred stone at the heart of the heart of the universe. Morals are what we, humans, have created because we have a conscience. We have the ability to empathise and sympathise, to see the world through other's eyes as if they were our own.
On Pandora, everything is connected; the trees, the animals, the flora and fauna, the past and the present, the living and the dead. If we as humans could be as connected with each other and communicating as much, I believe understanding of each other's differences would ultimately result in the realisation that we are in fact more similar than different. I believe that one such medium of communication already exists today – the Internet. Another one is the media but the question is how well it is working.
I think Cameron's intended message with this film is very simple and – I admit – very cliché, but also very true and it doesn't hurt to be reminded of every once in a while; to see what we value and to stand up for it.
Plus, it's easier to see the world through another's eyes when it's presented with such smashing CGI...
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