Tag Archives: “shock and awe”

In James Cameron’s magnum opus ‘Avatar,’ the Bad Guys R Us

Film review

In this film publicity image released by 20th Century Fox, Jake ...

Above: Jake Sully (played by the rather yummy Sam Worthington) inspects his brand-new “avatar” in the James Cameron epic (that’s redundant, isn’t it?) “Avatar.” Below: Jake, in his avatar, bonds with native Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana.

In this film publicity image released by 20th Century Fox, the ...

James Cameron’s “Avatar,” which I finally saw yesterday (I was waiting for the crowds to die down), is pissing off everyone, right and left. Cameron must have done something right.

Being such a political creature, if a film has the least bit possible sociopolitical bent to it, I’m going to notice it right off. In “Avatar,” such a bent abounds.

Most notably, in “Avatar,” we — the United States of America — are the bad guys. Well, not we, not really. “We” as in the military-industrial complex that has come to represent the United States of America around the world is the bad guy in “Avatar.”

I have read that, unsurprisingly, the wingnuts are not happy about this, especially given the film’s wild commercial success. (Fuck ’em.)

The villains of “Avatar” are an over-the-top corporate hack and an over-the-top colonel who work in tandem — not unlike how the Catholic church’s missionaries and the Spanish crown’s soldiers worked in tandem to conquer the “new world” — to conquer the lush planet of Pandora, which has an element (called “unobtainium,” ha ha ha) that the invading Earthlings want. (The Spanish monarchy wanted gold, of course, and the Catholic church wanted converts. We’re never told in “Avatar” what practical application, if any, “unobtainium” has, so my guess is that, like with gold, “unobtainium’s” main value is that it is, um, valuable…)

To conquer the tall, blue, feline-faced, tail-possessing people of Pandora — the Na’vi — the Earthlings (whom the Na’vi call the “sky people”) decide to infiltrate them with “avatars,” biologically fabricated Na’vi bodies that are inhabited by the consciousness of human beings controlling the biologically fabricated Na’vi bodies.

Now, the Na’vi natives are a bit too accepting of these “avatars,” whom the natives know aren’t fellow natives. If you weren’t born into and raised by the tribe, why would the tribe just accept you at all as one of them? I mean, if it were clear to us human beings that some alien race were coming to us in human bodies, would we embrace these aliens in human bodies as one of us? Prolly not.

But it would ruin “Avatar” if the avatars didn’t get some degree of acceptance from the Na’vi, and so they do.

Anyway, in “Avatar” the invading Earthlings clearly are the bad guys, and while watching what’s probably the biggest, loudest scene in “Avatar,” the Earthlings’ military forces destroying a site that is very sacred to the Na’vi, I couldn’t help but think of the internationally televised so-called “shock and awe” that many if not most of my fellow Americans got off on when the unelected Bush regime (yeah, the same regime that my fellow Americans just allowed to steal the White House in late 2000) illegally, immorally, unprovokedly and unjustly invaded Iraq, which had had nothing to do with 9/11 and which of course never possessed the weapons of mass destruction that the members of the Bush regime had lied through their fangs about, in March 2003.  

Yeah, it takes a big, tough, studly nation to attack a relatively defenseless one.

In the middle of all of this, the conflict between the rapacious Earthlings, who are represented by a very American-like military-industrial complex, and the Native-American-like Na’vi (they even wear warpaint and let out war cries), is Marine Jake Sully (played by Sam Worthington, who appears to be in just about every movie these days, which is OK with me, since he has a definite certain sexiness about him), who unexpectedly finds himself recruited to man an avatar. (Of course, he has to make a deal with the devil: for infiltrating the Na’vi and helping to subdue them, the wheelchair-bound Jake is promised that his paraplegia will be cured.)

As you already know from the previews, after he’s been manning his avatar, Jake changes his allegiance from the military-industrial complex to the Na’vi.

You probably already suspect that Jake ends up being the big hero of the film, and that of course he and his female Na’vi companion, Neytiri (wonderfully played by Zoe Saldana), go from their initially tense relationship (which showcases some great dialogue) to becoming lifemates.

That the white Marine, instead of one of the Na’vi natives, becomes the big hero of “Avatar” has pissed some people off, I read in today’s news. Reports The Associated Press:

Near the end of the hit film “Avatar,” the villain snarls at the hero, “How does it feel to betray your own race?” Both men are white — although the hero is inhabiting a blue-skinned, 9-foot-tall, long-tailed alien.

Strange as it may seem for a film that pits greedy, immoral humans against noble denizens of a faraway moon, “Avatar” is being criticized by a small but vocal group of people who allege it contains racist themes — the white hero once again saving the primitive natives.

Since the film opened to widespread critical acclaim three weeks ago, hundreds of blog posts, newspaper articles, tweets and YouTube videos have said things such as the film is “a fantasy about race told from the point of view of white people” and that it reinforces “the white Messiah fable.”

The film’s writer and director, James Cameron, says the real theme is about respecting others’ differences….

Adding to the racial dynamic [of “Avatar”] is that the main Na’vi characters are played by actors of color, led by a Dominican, Zoe Saldana, as the princess. The film also is an obvious metaphor for how European settlers in America wiped out the Indians.

Robinne Lee, an actress in such recent films as “Seven Pounds” and “Hotel for Dogs,” said that “Avatar” was “beautiful” and that she understood the economic logic of casting a white lead if most of the audience is white.

But she said the film, which so far has the second-highest worldwide box-office gross ever, still reminded her of Hollywood’s “Pocahontas” story — “the Indian woman leads the white man into the wilderness, and he learns the way of the people and becomes the savior.”

“It’s really upsetting in many ways,” said Lee, who is black with Jamaican and Chinese ancestry. “It would be nice if we could save ourselves.” …

Yes, come to think of it, “Avatar” is basically a futuristic “Pocahontas” in which Jake Sully would be John Smith and Neytiri would be Pocahontas.

And it did occur to me while I was watching “Avatar” that it seemed off that a a white guy who wasn’t even one of the Na’vi would end up as their savior.

I understand why historically oppressed peoples wouldn’t be pleased to see a white guy emerge as the hero, but I think that “Avatar’s” surprisingly subversive message succeeds as it does because it’s the white guy who realizes that what the military-industrial complex that he has been a member of has been doing is wrong, and so he decides to fight for the other side.

And it’s not just the character of Jake whose allegiance changes; there’s the character of a great Latina fighter pilot (played by Michelle Rodriguez, of whom I’d like to have seen more of in “Avatar”) and a few others whose allegiance changes, and this kind of pop-culture image in which the “turncoats” are the heroes can’t be good for the U.S. military-industrial complex, which expects its soldiers to be blindly obedient cannon fodder who die for rich white men’s fortunes while believing that they are fighting for such noble causes as “freedom” and “democracy” and “God” and “Jesus” and puppies and kittens, for fuck’s sake.

I mean, fuck. Before “Avatar” began, I had to watch an endless fucking recruitment advertisement for the National Fucking Guard. (The recruitment ad didn’t show any maimed or dead soldiers, of course, but looked like something out of “Top Gun,” as usual.) The U.S. military-industrial complex has millions if not billions of dollars — our tax dollars — at its disposal to brainwash our young people into believing that the U.S. military really is about defense and patriotism instead of about what it really is about: war profiteering, feeding the endless greed of the military-industrial complex and the greedy fucking white men who run it and who personally profit from it.

Trust me, oppressed peoples of the world, “Avatar” does much more for your cause by having its hero a white guy — a Marine, for fuck’s sake — who realizes that he’s been fighting on the wrong side and then switches sides, than it would have done for your cause had its hero been one of the Na’vi natives.

The millions of young American males (and females) who see “Avatar” might think twice before joining the U.S. military, and that’s a good thing for a planet that probably cannot survive a World War III.

Indeed, Cameron’s intent, I believe, was to send a message of peace, and it’s whitey, with his (and her) beloved military-industrial complex, who needs to get that message more than does anyone else. Those long oppressed by whitey already know the value of peace.

The Associated Press reports that Cameron wrote the AP in an e-mail that “Avatar” “asks us to open our eyes and truly see others, respecting them even though they are different, in the hope that we may find a way to prevent conflict and live more harmoniously on this world. I hardly think that is a racist message.”

Agreed.

The AP also reports of “Avatar”:

“Can’t people just enjoy movies anymore?” a person named Michelle posted on the website for Essence, the magazine for black women, which had 371 comments on a story debating the issue [of whether “Avatar” is racist].

OK, that’s a valid question.

Although it’s a rhetorical question, the answer to the question, for me, anyway, is no, I can’t just enjoy a movie anymore.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed “Avatar.” It is a visually stunning film, and I love its profuse use of greens and blues and purples, which, actually, reminded me a lot of “The Princess and the Frog,” which, come to think of it, is a bit like “Avatar”: Both films have heroines with African blood in them (Zoe Saldana apparently has African blood in her) who meet up with bumbling men whom the heroines have to turn into heroes, and both films largely take place in green, blue and purple, swampy, lush settings.

“Avatar” succeeds on the sensory level (as it should, given the millions and millions of dollars that were put into it ) — although the ubiquitous DayGlo stuff does get a little bit tiresome after a while and although Pandora’s plethora of creatures, including its Na’vi, look way too much like Earth’s creatures, including its human beings — but sue me if I am able to enjoy a movie on more than one level.

I can multi-task; I can take in all of the technical achievements of a film like “Avatar” while seeing its obvious sociopolitical statements, statements that I can’t be accused of having pulled out of my moonbatty ass because James Cameron himself says are his intended statements.

It’s a rare film that can entertain and that can stimulate public debate on important sociopolitical issues, so kudos to Cameron for having achieved that with “Avatar.”

“Avatar” is such a cultural achievement that I have to wonder if from now on people are going to go around saying to each other, in all seriousness: “I see you.” (Even though it’s a bit cheesy, I kind of hope so…)

Yes, “Avatar” is a bit derivative of other films, not just of “Pocahontas” but also of Cameron’s past films — we even get the “Alien” series’ Sigourney Weaver as a protagonist in “Avatar” (I have to say that I found Weaver’s avatar to be a bit creepy-looking, to look a bit too much like Weaver), we get the manned robots that we saw in “Aliens,” and we even get “The Company” in “Avatar” (is the amoral, profit-piggy, generic “The Company” in “Avatar” the same one that was in the “Alien” series, I wonder?).

But “Avatar” succeeds on its own and probably will be Cameron’s magnum opus. 

My grade: A

P.S. I read a news account that President Barack Obama took his girls to see “Avatar” recently. Mr. President, I sure the fuck hope that you learned something, and that having your girls there with you drove the point home.

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Stimulate me! Shock and awe me!

I’m no economist and so up until now I haven’t written anything about the $790 billion economic stimulus package that the Democrats pushed through the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

As the economic experts seem to be uncertain on how effective the stimulus package will be, I don’t feel very qualified to judge one way or another, but shit, I’m happy just to be able to write the phrase “that the Democrats pushed through the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.” Eight long nightmarish years of unelected Repugnican rule are finally fucking over.

And I like how one Associated Press piece referred to the stimulus package as domestic “shock and awe”:

WASHINGTON – America is bringing shock and awe to the home front, using dollars instead of bombs.

It’s the military doctrine of lightning force — fast and brute, or as brute as the shaken country can manage — applied to the campaign for economic recovery.

With a record-busting stimulus plan, the U.S. is marshaling resources against economic catastrophe in ways not seen since Franklin Roosevelt put the New Deal in motion.

President Barack Obama is going with the best deal he could get. The stimulus bill is a landmark legislative achievement for a new president who inherited economic spoilage along with the spoils of power. Now the nation anxiously waits to see if it works.

Undermining federal balance sheets that were already deeply in the red, Obama and Congress settled on a nearly $800 billion plan that aims to spend more on the crisis at hand than the government has spent waging the Iraq war for six years.

The idea: fast cash, and lots of it, but with a strategic view to the future.

Some dollars will flow quickly into wallets — and right out again.

The stimulus plan will mean thousands of dollars in tax breaks for first-time home buyers and people buying new cars. Lower- and middle-income taxpayers will get an extra $13 a week in their paychecks this year, and about $8 a week next year. Unemployment checks will go up $25 a week, and keep coming longer. Food stamp benefits for 30 million Americans will rise. Short-term health insurance will become more affordable for many losing their jobs.

The success of the stimulus package may be measured less by visible achievements than by what does not happen — the home that is not foreclosed, the family that doesn’t slip into poverty, the disease that does not go undiagnosed.

“The one thing we’ll never know is what would have happened if we didn’t do it,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight….

To critics such as Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, the package is the “Europeanization of America.” Others call it “Rooseveltian” or “generational theft” in reference to the debt passed on to the future….

Democrats and just enough Republicans in Congress — three — saw the package as the best chance to tamp down the economic wildfires breaking out across the landscape.

Obama came into office saying he wished to be judged on his first 1,000 days instead of the usual benchmark of 100. In some ways he will be judged on his first 10 or 20.

Not even Roosevelt, fast off the mark to deal with a bank crisis, was as fast as this in achieving something so sweeping, so early.

The enormity of the package left politicians grasping for concrete ways to convey its size.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., spoke of a stack of hundred-dollar bills 689 miles high, and of bills wrapped side-by-side that would encircle the Earth nearly 39 times….

I’ll tell you what was “generational theft,” as Repugnican John McCainosaurus and his ilk like to call it: the theft of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections and the unelected Bush regime’s March 2003 illegal, immoral, unprovoked and unjustified launch of the bogus Vietraq War, which has cost the nation hundreds of billions of dollars — not to mention the cost of thousands upon thousands of Iraqi civilian and American military lives, all for nothing but the fucking greed of the fucking war profiteers, such as Dick Cheney’s Halliburton.

And funny how the treasonous Repugnicans never pontififuckingcated on how many times the dollars spent on the bogus Vietraq War would encircle the earth, but they’ll bitch and moan about how many times the dollars spent on the American people would encircle the earth.

The Repugnicans are fucking traitors who want to continue to funnel the nation’s resources to those few who already have the lion’s share of the nation’s resources while the typical American continues to sink. Anyone who actually cares about his or ner nation and thus wishes to stop the Repugnicans’ treasonous theft of the nation’s dwindling resources is branded as “socialist” or “communist” or the like.

Fuck the Repugnicans. May they be out of power forfuckingever.

As I said, I’m no economist, but when I read such things as that every single fucking Repugnican member of the U.S. House of Representatives voted against the stimulus package and only three Repugnicans in the U.S. Senate — all moderates who would like to be re-elected — voted for it, I just have to figure that if the treasonous, pro-rich, anti-middle class and anti-poor Repugnicans, who in their eight years of unelected rule almost completely destroyed the American empire, are that solidly against something that the Democrats want to do, then it must be good for the American people.

The hypocritical Repugnicans have no problem whatsofuckingever spending billions of the American taxpayers’ dollars — only as long as it’s spent on death and destruction in bogus wars (against Muslims and Arabs, preferably) for the obscene profits of the war profiteers, such as Dick Cheney’s Halliburton.

To actually spend the American taxpayers’ dollars on the American taxpayers — why, that’s just communism!

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Ralph Nader’s 300:1 ratio holding up

A Palestinian man reacts over the body of a member of the security ...

The body of a Palestinian security force officer lays in the ...

A Palestinian man cries over the body of his son following an ...

Associated Press and Reuters photos

These Palestinians are those of at least 298 slaughtered by the Israelis thus far. We Americans are supposed to be sympathetic with the Israelis — who are perpetual “victims” — even though the Israelis kill far more Palestinians than vice-versa, and even though our government gives Israel billions of our tax dollars with which to slaughter Arabs.

The Associated Press reports that thus far at least 298 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s latest aggression — and that thus far only one Israeli has been killed.

That’s right in line with Ralph Nader’s criticism of Zionist-ass-licking President-elect Barack Obama: “He doesn’t have any sympathy for a civilian death ratio of about 300-to-1, 300 Palestinians to one Israeli.”

One Israeli columnist has called Israel’s latest aggression “shock and awe.” Gee, sound familiar?

The AP puts the number of dead Palestinian children at at least 20 (including at least one baby) and the number of wounded Palestinians at more than 800.

For all of the talk of “rogue” nations and “terrorism,” it is the United States and Israel — long-time partners in war crimes and crimes against humanity — that consistently give the middle finger to the United Nations and to the world community and do whatever the fuck they want.

Will the rest of the world finally stand up to the United States and Israel before they start the next world war?

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