Punchinello’s Chronicles

January 20, 2010

A Conservative Review of Avatar

I’ve been wanting to see this movie, what with the new 3D technology and integrated computer graphics. I’m reminded of when I saw Roger Rabbit, seeing for the first time the integration of cartoon characters in a real setting. Avatar was terrific! The effects were all that I could have hoped for, and the alien world was totally real, as far as I could see.

Having read other reviews, what with having waited a bit to see the movie, I knew that I was going to hear a sort of liberal agenda being promoted. That’s fine; I don’t much care for Hollywood activists, but I sure do like the movies. I applied the proper suspension of disbelief, to accept the fantasy of the story and the fantasy of the underlying political nonsense.

Watching the movie, though, and being pulled into the story (a bit weak), I couldn’t help but keep an eye on the reason the movie is so popular. It’s resonating, and I was pondering how come. Turns out the movie resonates with the same independent spirit that voted Scott Brown into office.

Avatar is a classic cowboys and Indians movie, seen from the very beginning of Hollywood days. Star Trek was the same thing, only with metaphorical America versus the dirty, commie Klingons. Star Wars was cowboys and Indians riding across the great plains of empty space. All of it keeps the faith with good versus evil, the good guys verus the bad guys. Avatar is no different, pitting the native population of a non-technical world against corporate greed.

But Avatar is also about the little guy versus the big guy. It’s about the weak against the strong. It’s about spiritual values versus monetary value. And it’s about the concepts of consciousness and reality. Are we living the “real” world, here in our bodies? Or do we go somewhere more “real” when we sleep?

Back in the 1960s, we used to talk about the military-industrial complex. It was the interconnection between America’s large enterprise corporations and the defense department. Today, we talk about the military-financial-industrial complex, and add to the mix the “too big to fail” investment banks.

The thing is, conservatives aren’t bankers, generals, baby-killers and environmental looters. I love to fish. I eat the fish. I don’t practice catch-and-release. Fish aren’t even lizards. Fish have a brain the size of a pea. They taste good, I catch them, I eat them. But they live in water.

As a conservative and a fisherman, I don’t want to see our lakes and streams turned to crap wads. I don’t want condominiums wiping out lakefront property. I don’t want tourists and morons trashing the grand views of America’s beautiful land, woods, forests, mountains and oceans.

I also don’t want some unelected little group of government cronies, political hacks, and Utopian crack addicts telling me that we need to wipe out ALL technology! Air-conditioning is good. Buffalo meat is good! I’m not interested in saving the snail-darter-garter-martyr in favor of wiping out the California farming industry.

What I want is for each of us to take some responsibility in life! Each of us can pick up our trash, keep a place nice, spend a couple of bucks to sustain a healthy fishing lake. We can all have some manners, quit thinking only of ourselves, and start trying to build things instead of using them up.

I just don’t want to be forced to behave according to someone else’s ideas about “the best way to live.” I’d like to be responsible and reasonable, and to CHOOSE what makes the most sense! Liberals like to tell us what to do. I’d rather choose what to do.

We learn in Avatar that a native population, very similar to Hollywood’s vision of the noble savage American Indian, is about to be pillaged. A corporation wants the fabulous metal, unobtainium. (LOL! Kudos to James Cameron for making up the perfect symbolic resource.) The corporation cares only about investment, profit, and shareholder interests. Either the savages move out of their home, or they get wiped out by the military.

Of course the military presence is harmonic with Hollywood’s vision of American troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran (eventually), and everywhere else. We’re only interested in shooting, killing, and blowing things up. It doesn’t matter how old a tree might be, what it’s purpose might be, or how it fits into a complex and fascinating ecology. Wipe it out! We’re Americans!


Avatar resonates with the so-called Independents. This is the new “class” of voters that I would call conservatives. We conservatives may be Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Constitutionalists, black, white, Asian, or penguins. It doesn’t matter. Conservatives are thinking people who don’t fall into a simplistic demographic pile of brain-dead bodies, pulling a lever on the basis of a name or word.

Profit is a good thing. Profiteering and greed are disgusting. A clean and beautiful environment is a good thing. Wiping out the nation by shutting down our energy sources is moronic. Extremes are never the right way to go, we should be looking at balance.

Balance is NOT the same thing as moderate politics! Balance has almost nothing whatsoever to do with compromise! The modern GOP will fail repeatedly, now that most conservatives have left the party. The current Democratic party will fail as long as they continue to court the extreme activists.

This movie is great! It shows that a thinking person can make a difference when he or she stands on principle. But Avatar isn’t about ecologists versus corporations. It’s a David versus Goliath retold in today’s terms. We, the American people are all Davids! And We, the American people are now facing the Goliath of Goldman Sachs et al, Washington DC, the Federal Reserve, and the United Nations.

We, the American people are individually caught up in a massively complex fight to take control of the nation. It’s the same strategy applied by Citibank and the US State Department, along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to wipe out Haiti.

Do you think Haitians want to live like animals? Do they want to have no food, no water, no roads, no technology? Of course not! But they were invaded by investors, corporations, banks and financiers. Their resources were plundered through debt-equity swaps, unfair loans, and criminal accounting scams. They had “unobtanium,” and the western world wanted it. There goes Haiti. And Somalia. And Africa. And South America. And Peru. And…everywhere.

The problem with Avatar is that the liberal Hollywood writers don’t understand that they’re as violent and mercenary as the bankers on Wall Street. The result is that conservative Democrats have left the party, just as conservative Republicans have left the GOP.

We’ll probably have a war to the finish, just as we see in Avatar. And like the movie’s story, it will be pitchforks and torches against the world’s mightiest military. But no government operates without the consent of the governed. There may be tyranny for awhile, but it can’t last. It won’t last.

Conservatives are the balance and reasoned position. That’s why the media and politicians screech and blather that we’re the extremists and radicals. With more and more independent conservatives walking away from the “left-right” portrayed as “either-or” in Avatar, the collapse of obsolete political ideologies is sure to follow.

That’s why the movie resonates with so many people. And it’s really cool, too!



  1. I’m always looking around for a really different take on movies, Punchinello, and you certainly have it. I don’t agree with much of your reasoning, but I enjoyed reading your defense of your positions. In response, I’ll offer a couple of reactions, hoping you too can enjoy ones different from yours.

    1. Not every movie is made to advance a political message. The economy is crap, the world feels dangerous and people want an escape. This is the biggest escape vehicle around. Lucky timing counts.

    2. The story is inept, trite and cliche. Only an innocent or an idiot would be somehow “converted” by it. That’s because there was no input by “liberal writers”. The movie only had one writer, the director, and he’s probably the best director of action scenes around, but he’s no writer.

    This is just another “Bwana Devil” (1952), panned for acting and story but praised for technical innovation. It won’t be repeatable.

    (I posted on 3D movie history and also wrote about Avatar lately.)

    Comment by Invisible Mikey — January 20, 2010 @ 9:04 pm | Reply

  2. Totally agree that movies aren’t usually created to advance a political agenda. In fact, the entire purpose of the entertainment industry is to entertain. It’s only that I’d heard so much about the underlying “message” before going to see the movie, that I was aware of the possibility and paid some nominal attention. Reading Cameron’s reaction to the astonishing number of political groups complaining about the movie, I can imagine he’s shocked as well.

    The bottom line is that it’s a fairly okay sci-fi movie, but the 3D effects are dramatically exciting. It’s the “new thing,” from what I can see, and we’ll see 3D more and more. And we’ll see really bad movies in 3D, along with really good movies in 3D. It’s not quite a gimmick, as I believe the three-dimensions truly enhance many parts of the viewing experience, particularly landscapes and wide-angle vistas.

    It’s more that people everywhere will try to project their own, inner landscape onto the outer world. That’s what I was interested in figuring out: what’s the “ink blot” people are seeing that leads to such a diverse set of interpretations. And why are so MANY people caught up in trying to make these types of correlations. Ultimately, I think it’s the “us little guys against them big guys” that resonates. 🙂

    Comment by Punchinello — January 21, 2010 @ 2:52 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for your thoughtful response. I understand your position better now, and I even agree with most of your reply.

      However, I still think Avatar is so lacking in cohesive resonance that it can’t hold up in 2D, and will lose favor as time goes by especially when better storytellers start using the technology.

      (To that end, I’m writing about Beowulf vs. Avatar for my next post.)

      I’ll enjoy reading you in future.

      Comment by Invisible Mikey — January 21, 2010 @ 3:06 pm | Reply

  3. Funny, but I was thinking the same thing about the movie really not standing alone in 2D. Three hours-plus, old-hat plot, politically correct lectures, and Susan Serandon oughta do it, right there. Character development is poor, the love story is even less developed, the conflicts are trite, and so forth. There’s no “gotcha,” and the movie relies a great deal on blowing things up and special effects for the machines. (Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how’d you like the play? 🙂 )

    But I think we have to accept that uncomplicated 3D without the problem of red-blue cardboard glasses is a major move forward in technology. More importantly, the integration between special effects, computer graphics, and that 3D concept are deeply significant. With holographic TV just around the corner, I suspect 3D flat-plane movies will only be around a short while, but while they’re here, they’re cool.

    What caught my eye was the way the aliens are 12 feet tall, yet completely realistic. Of course we only see the size ratio in a few scenes, but I’m reminded of the problems creating “The Attack of the 50-foot Woman.” That had to rely on perspective and camera lens tricks. This was deeply authentic. Then there are the eyes, closeups, and the computer-generated bodies. Very hard not to believe that you’re seeing reality.

    Throughout the movie, I had a number of “Oh Wow!” moments, watching the impact of wide-area landscapes. I was into 3D photography, using slides and two shots of the same place. Adding that third dimension of depth brings out the entire concept of “space,” as in cubic volume. However, I also quickly learned that a large segment of the population is unable to see in three dimensions, partly due to parallax problems, otherwise due to eye-lens problems.

    All in all, Avatar has to be looked at in the various above contexts. As a visual media technology breakthrough, it’s a winner. As a love story or sci-fi movie, it’s maybe 2 stars. As a political message movie, it’s clearly left-leaning on the surface! But just below that surface, I believe, lies the real message that resonates across the political spectrum. That’s what fascinates me, not really the movie itself.

    (I’m looking through your blog as well, and you’ve got some interesting stuff! Taking time to check it out.)

    Comment by Punchinello — January 22, 2010 @ 2:43 am | Reply

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