Saturday, January 9, 2010

Avatar and Anti-Capitalism

I watched Avatar a few weeks ago and enjoyed it mostly for the technical excellence. The plot is as thin as one might expect from the typical Hollywood offering: weak and innocent tree-huggers versus a powerful and venal company with the backing of Uncle Sam.
James Cameron has spoken about the message of the film - a more sustainable way of living. Some people might be reading more into the movie than is perhaps required: anti-capitalism and anti-Americanism.
From a very interesting WSJ story:
In France, the movie has raked in $85.6 million—more money than in any country besides the U.S—while Germans have bought $56.1 million worth of "Avatar" tickets.

The movie's resonance with audiences abroad is a crucial propellant behind "Avatar's" ascent to the box-office stratosphere, where it topped the $1 billion mark in ticket sales this past weekend.
Two thirds of the total box-office receipts so far have been generated abroad. "Avatar" sold $352.1 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada after 17 days, while its international haul stood at $670.2 million as of the weekend, according to

In France, "Avatar" is the second-most successful American-made movie in history, right behind 1997's "Titanic"—Mr. Cameron's previous movie. (Four French-made movies have done better than both.)

Some moviegoers abroad are drawn to what they see as an anti-capitalist message in the film's plot.

In the movie, the villains work for a corporation intent on mining a mineral on a far-off planet, dislocating a population of nature-loving humanoids in the process. The movie's hero, a former Marine, eventually changes sides to lead the inhabitants' fight against the destructive, capitalist Earthlings.

The plot line has drawn complaints from some conservative U.S. moviegoers, while the left-leaning French daily Liberation praised Mr. Cameron, the director, as the "galaxy's eco warrior."

Francois Eygun, a 19-year-old student in Paris, saw in the film's plot a message about U.S. foreign policy: "With what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan it is quite relevant."

It is rather funny that Hollywood - in many ways, an exemplar of capitalism at its worst - is being credited with spreading an anti-capitalist message. Such are the ironies of life!