Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Avatar effect: Movie-goers feel depressed and even suicidal at not being able to visit utopian alien planet

A utopian planet inhabited by blue aliens is the ideal setting for a bit of cinematic escapism.

But the world of the sci-fi epic Avatar is so perfect the line between fact and fiction has become somewhat blurred.

Movie-goers have admitted being plagued by depression and suicidal thoughts at not being able to visit the planet Pandora.

Set in the future when Earth's resources have been depleted, director James Cameron's film tells the story of a corporation trying to mine a rare mineral.

The humans clash with the natives - a peace-loving race of 7ft tall, blue-skinned creatures called the Na'vi, who exist in perfect harmony with nature.

Fans have flooded the internet with their confused feelings. On the site Avatar Forums, the topic 'Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible' has more than 1,000 posts.

In a similar forum, one user wrote: 'When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed grey. It just seems so meaningless.

'I still don't really see any reason to keep doing things at all. I live in a dying world.'

On another site, one fan was even more affected, admitting: 'I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora.'

On the Avatar site Naviblue, a fan calling himself Jorba has even asked others to join him in starting a real Na'vi tribe.

The blockbuster movie - which has already taken more than $1billion at the box office - tells the story of a disabled marine sent on a mission to a planet called Pandora, home to a race of giant blue aliens.

Humans are intent on exploiting the planet for its resources but clash with the native Na'vi, who inhabit their world in perfect harmony with nature.

This fantasy world, with its weird and wonderful plant and animal life, is brought to life using stunning special effects.

The Consumer Electronics Show, which ended in Las Vegas on Sunday, saw the advent of 3D televisions making most of the news.

Many commentators believe that 2010 is the breakthrough year for the technology helped by 3D movies such as Avatar.


On the official Avatar website, David Scott Jaggers (from Texas) posted

'I can totally relate [to people feeling depressed about having to leave the world of Pandora]. I think most us can here.

'For me, getting to talk to you guys online allows me to feel closer to the movie, or maybe closer to you guys because we can share our feeling and thoughts and friendships.

So many things from the movie, like for example the idea of brotherhood we can bring to this very real world of ours.'

But on the www.halflife2.net forum others begged to differ

XCELLERATE wrote: 'People just want whatever they don't have. If we had three moons people might see a movie with just one moon and go, 'wow I like that a lot more, it so much simpler'.

TARKUS added: 'These people think they're 'cool' by thinking 'differently' from others.

'They choose an intangible objective (such as living in the avatar's world) so that they can live with the comfort of knowing that they will never get it, because it's actually scary to live without things like internet, and packed meat, and toilets.

'They're all losers and posers if you ask me'

The stunning beauty of the film as well as the view of corporations seems to have hit a nerve with audiences.

The incredible visual realism of the film could mean viewers become particularly attached.

Dr. Stephan Quentzel, psychiatrist and Medical Director for the Louis Armstrong Centre for Music and Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Centre in New York told CNN: 'Virtual life is not real life and it never will be, but this is the pinnacle of what we can build in a virtual presentation so far.

'It has taken the best of our technology to create this virtual world and real life will never be as utopian as it seems onscreen. It makes real life seem more imperfect.'

But not everyone viewing the film has been hit by the 'Avatar Blues', as a small but vocal group have alleged it contains racist themes - the white hero once again saving the primitive natives.

Since the film opened 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.


Hello all. Would anyone of you be interested in forming an actual Na'vi Tribe?

I would like for it to actually be a physical organisation with live people, and a Tribal Council. For it to start, you have to be physically located in the Gulf Coast region of the United States.

You will need to be in Pensacola, Florida to become a citizen of the tribe. Here is the detail: You must remember that we are trying to set up an actual tribe. This is not an Avatar Fan Club (even though you can start one after our tribe is established)!

The goal of the tribe is to form a new ethnicity that anyone can be a part of, irrespective of politics, corruption and other issues. It is not a role playing group.
After all, the many Native American tribes and even countries such as Kosovo had to start somewhere.

Adding to the racial dynamic is that the main Na'vi characters are played by actors of colour, 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.

David Brooks, a columnist writing in the New York Times said: 'Avatar is a racial fantasy par excellence ... It rests on the stereotype that white people are rationalist and technocratic while colonial victims are spiritual and athletic.

'It rests on the assumption that non-white need the White Messiah to lead their crusades.

'It rests on the assumption that illiteracy is a path to grace.'

Robinne Lee, an actress in such recent films as 'Seven Pounds' 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 saviour'.

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

Although the "Avatar" debate springs from Hollywood's historical difficulties with race, Will Smith recently saved the planet in I Am Legend," and Denzel Washington appears ready to do the same in the forthcoming Book of Eli.

'Can't people just enjoy movies any more?' a person named Michelle posted on the website for Essence, the magazine for black women.

Black film professor and author Donald Bogle said he can understand why people would be troubled by 'Avatar', but stopped short of calling the movie racist.

'It's a film with still a certain kind of distortion,' he said.

'It's a movie that hasn't yet freed itself of old Hollywood traditions, old formulas.'