Is It Bad To Root for the Evil Corporation in Avatar?

by William Yeatman on January 27, 2010

in Blog

If so, then I’m bad to the bone, because my favorite scene in the James Cameron mega-hit was the one where the jarhead mercenary blasted the blue peoples’ home tree to smithereens. TIIIIIIIMBEEEER!!!!!!! Gotta get me some of that unobtainium!

I am kidding-I don’t actually condone the destruction of an alien civilization for the sake of extracting a rare, valuable mineral*, although I did love the scene in question. Rather, my intent is to make light of Cameron’s clich├ęd eco-plotline, which centers on the supposed evils of natural resource extraction.

In Avatar, the “bad” guy is a huge corporation intent on exploiting deposits of “unobtainium,” an anti-gravity mineral, on a distant planet. The “good” guys are a race of humanoid giants, who look blue, but act very, very green.

Over the course of the nearly 3-hour movie, the bad guys try to kill the good guys to get at the magic rock, but the good guys win a big battle, and send the bad guys back to earth, which, we are told, is heavily polluted.

As if the take home message-drilling/mining is wrong!-wasn’t heavy-handed enough, Cameron has one of the blue people come right out and say it: Minerals should be kept in the ground.

Uggh. What a load.

And what a pity. The most popular movie ever is predicated on the notion that human civilization shouldn’t exploit its natural resources. Millions of people, around the world, will be exposed to this nonsense.

There was a time when humans were an engineering-minded people intent on creating wealth by conquering nature. As I recently wrote in my hometown paper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

From the 18th century to the 20th century, heavy industry-such as coal mining-was the primary metric of a nation’s economic development. Industry was exalted. To be industrialized was to be civilized.

Times have changed.

In today’s America, heavy industry is considered “dirty.” Instead of goods and services, the United States manufactures environmental lawyers and government regulators.

Raw capitalism is left to the Chinese, who busily build a coal-fired electricity plant every week to power the production of exports for the global market. By contrast, environmental lawyers in the United States recently celebrated the 100th scuttling of a proposed coal plant.

This dubious accomplishment is facilitated mightily by eco-fables of the Avatar sort.

*I should note that I am all for the destruction of a non-reasoning species’ habitat for the extraction of mineral deposits. For example, I wholeheartedly disagree with the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempts to shut down coal mining in Appalachia in order to protect a species of bug that lives for a day. When it comes down to a conflict between human beings’ welfare and that of a bug, or even a polar bear, I fall squarely on the side of mankind.

Dan Fernandes February 4, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Reminds me of that other green propaganda movie, "Day After Tomorrow". I loved that disaster movie – laughed all the way through it.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: