I watched Avatar last night with my family. Good flick from James Cameron. Part Tarzan, part Pocahontas with a hint of LOTR Revenge of the Forest People on the Wicked Machines. Romanticism meets pantheism. And an Avatar figure to save the day who just happens to be tall and skinny [yeah!] rather than a mountain of towering muscle.
I was wondering what they would do with the Avatar idea and how it would be received. Best response I read was a blog comment from TJ:
“We watched the movie here in India in room packed with Hindus, for whom the Hindi/Sanskrit word “avatar” means “incarnation”. Interestingly, Cameron’s Avatar is a blend of the 2 species physically , but mentally, culturally, and ethically, he is 100% human. And not just human, but American-human. The Christ figure of Avatar ’saves’ the people and the planet out of an individualistic, American ethic rather than the panentheistic resolve of the native god-worshippers. His sense of “justice” and right/wrong bend his allegiance to a new “cause.” He is not acting as the Na’vi act, or thinking as think (believing, feeling… etc). His consciousness is pricked within the cultural worldview of his home, rather than his recent biological synthesis.
What a great way to think about Jesus, who acted, thought, believed and felt just like we do. In every way, he was like us (excepting sin). He was not merely a “skyperson-in-a-cool-body” but truly human, truly god.” Comment on A Different Take on Avatar, First Things by Hunter Baker
Regarding the idea of Christ as Avatar, I have been doing a little research lately on the possibility of Christ being the Prajapathi of the Reg Vedas.
Some websites say its a fraud, and involves eager Christians taking Sanskrit verses out of context. Negative phrases like “Prajapathi Heresy” “Prajapati Cult” “Prajapati Affair” appear. And on the other hand, there are plenty of sites claim that Christ is prefigured in the Ancient Vedas [see PDF] and is a fulfilment of certain Arian prophecies.
This might be a hot topic in 2010 not just in India but for the whole world of Christian missions, as it celebrates 100 years since the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, 1910. It was at that conference that the “fulfilment theory”, which had its origins with Krishna Mohan Banerjea and some others in the 1800’s, found its way to a wider audience. The 1990’s saw a resurgence in the idea of Christ in the Ancient Vedas, in particular the Prajapathi figure, and with it a new round of controversy. The discussions can get quite heated, as they are on this Hindu site.
On a different note, but still on the Avatar theme, I visited the Ramayana exhibition in the British Library last year and found it to be fascinating. The Ramayana mythology, so central to many of Hinduism’s beliefs, existed on palm leaves and birch bark until it was finally printed as a book in the Sanskrit language. This work was done, according to information posted at the library, in 1806 by two Christian missionaries named William Carey and Joshua Marshman on their press at Serampore, India. Interesting!
Just watched it last night, I agree with the comment about – I saw the film still perpetuating colonialism and American militarism. But I did like enjoy it as entertainment. I thought the story could have been more radical, it was close and I appreciated the “conversion” story with Jacob and even the helicopter pilot.
Interesting to hear of the hero’s avatar elevated to the status of a Christ figure.
I saw it in 3D, so visually it is beautiful entertainment, but my perspective on the theme is the turbo capitalist military industrial complex against the innocent aliens in a symbiotic biosphere. The culture of short term financial gain and endless economic growth against the culture of a long term sustainable balanced way of life.
Some interesting issues are touched on, such as the dangers of government outsourcing military activity to commercial organizations and the prejudices and assumptions about foreign or alien low tech societies being less developed and less worthwhile than high tech societies.
For me the idea of the avatar being a metaphor for Christ is totally undermined by the inherent deception of the purpose of the avatars’ mission – to gain the trust of the Na’vi in order to persuade them to meet the needs of the invading capitalist military industial complex. The avatars are fundamentally deceptive by intention and are not sent on a mission to benefit the Na’vi in any real way. The winning hearts and minds through building schools and teaching English has echoes of the forked tongue of colonialism or Nato in Afghanistan.
And I agree with a Tweet by Mike Morrell that District 9 did a better job of exploring the relationships between the nasty side of humanity and innocent aliens.
i thought that if you’ve seen “Dances with Wolves” you’ve essentially seen “Avatar”.
One thing that caught my eye was the conversion of the solider – it got me wondering a bit about the whole “if we are in Christ we’re a new creation” – how much of myself am I willing to change to be like Christ? Just a thought.
Excellent thoughts & roundup – Here’s another one, from my friend Carl: Grace and the Goddess: AVATAR as a Christian/Pagan Parable – http://anamchara.com/2009/12/27/grace-and-the-goddess-avatar-as-a-christianpagan-parable
Thanks for your thoughts. Here’s another perspective on Avatar as spiritual experience
Another movie to check out which contains a very cool Christo-metaphor is the movie “9”. It’s animated quite well, a little more “creative” than some might like, but tells a really cool story of sacrifice, redemption, and the battle of good and evil.
Similar to Avatar in some ways and almost more of an allegory…
Check it out! http://www.apple.com/trailers/focus_features/9/
I have watched Avatar and I truly love it. The love story between the natives is truly fascinating.
It is really interesting for me to see different cultures especially races that are not human beings.
The characters in Avatar really excite me giving me the thrill of adventure I have never felt before.
this film or that they say has excellent effects, but I feel it is poor plot, I think that is not centralized to a large segment of the population since the genre faltancia / fiction not please everyone, but I congratulate you for that excellent production.
My friend watched the movie and then recommended it to me and I watched it too. I like the 3d technology, more movies should use it.