Is the Environmental Message in AVATAR Good or Bad?

Avatar_planet If you bought the Avatar DVD this Earth day, you're probably aware of the environmental messages that AVATAR is trying to pass along. Here's a look at where the good ideas lie and where the movie stumbles in its portrayal of modern environmental concerns.

Guest post by Ty Wingfoot

Earth Day was originally established to raise environmental awareness, albeit in a much more radical way than the mainstream hippie-love-fest that Earth Day has become in 2010. Of course, this Earth Day is a little different than the ones before it because it coincides with the release of the AVATAR DVD, which should do for DVD market what it did for the theater market while still in wide release. But all this talk of environmental awareness raises an interesting question – does AVATAR’s message really represent the realities of the world we face today? Is the environmental message in AVATAR good or bad? So let’s play Devil’s Advocate.

A Good Message

AVATAR’s message is fundamentally a good one when it comes to the environment. The movie does feel like it goes out of its way to promote a pro-Pandora future for the Na’vi who are being destroyed on the planet because of the vast amounts of unobtainium they’re sitting on top of.

The message (especially for kids) is one that promotes respecting the Earth the way the Native Americans established long ago, even before the first American settlers came over. The Na’vi are in tune with nature, they constantly communicate with it and worship at its altar. Provocative scenes where there are “horses” on fire and dying just serve to promote more this pro-environmental message. This would all be fine in an indie movie or a critical darling that made no money, but to see a movie of AVATAR’s great standing tackle an issue that most Americans aren’t too concerned about in the present was a risky move that ended up paying off for James Cameron.

A Problem and a Syndrome

The only snag we hit with AVATAR’s message comes in the form of the heavy-handed way with which it tries to solve all its numerous plot problems by using the pro-environmental position. AVATAR suffers from something I’m now terming “Pocahontas Syndrome”.

What I mean by this is that the movie is rather lovely and nice about nature until you realize that while the nature presented in the movie is magnificent, without the mineral required by the movie, a lot of people on Pandora and Earth would be lacking serious technology and money – these are two things humanity absolutely cannot live without.

Ultimately, progress comes at a cost for all of us. Be it a monetary cost, an environmental cost, or even an emotional cost, we must keep moving forward in order to constantly be ahead of our enemies (yet another plot hole in AVATAR). Time and time again, we see deforestation happen here on Earth in order to satisfy the needs of an ever-growing world.

Sure, the people mining Pandora could have realized a number of things before planting down there and deciding to create a real problem, but with the sort of unobtainium found on the planet’s surface, it could make sense either way.

Overall I’d like to believe AVATAR’s message is one of peace and harmony with nature, the evidence to the contrary is quite small and you can rest assured that if you bring kids to see the movie they’re probably going to be more concerned with the big blue people and the copious number of explosions than the overarching environmental message.

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How did AVATAR change the way you think about the environment?



Avatar didn't change the way i think. I've been an environmentalist for years (i care about the way we treat our home). It did serve to reinforce some things, and it was fantastic to see a message like that in such a huge film for once. Yea, maybe it was over the top, it was hard hitting and in your face, for me that wasn't a problem. Sometimes important things need to be that way, and sometimes its the only way to get through to some people. Everyone is so detached from nature to begin with, and then you have the fact that most people simply don't care about anything that doesn't pose a danger to them in the present or near future. Thats the problem, that and the fact that there's just too many people. Avatar doesn't address these issues exactly, what it does teach you is to have respect for the natural world that gives you life. If more people could find this respect, rather than the idea that this earth is ours to consume to no end, then we would be more concerned with finding new ways to sustain us AND move forward while not destroying our only home. AVATAR did a fine job of opening eyes to whats out there, when you see something as beautiful as Pandora, its hard not to start gaining some respect for it, and the other creatures who depend on it. Without the spectacular world of Pandora and all the inhabitants, the message may have fallen short, but it didn't. It's just a shame more people can't find that same beauty here on earth and understand it's what sustains us too as a species.

Account Deleted

The movie, AVATAR, couldn't (for me) be considered a wake-up call....but, more like a refresher course. I spend more time concentrating on recycling and saving energy/power usage.

AVATAR is directly responsible for my wanting to do more for MOTHER EARTH.

Txon Taronyu

"a lot of people on Pandora and Earth would be lacking serious technology and money – these are two things humanity absolutely cannot live without."

Are you sure about this? For more than 99% of the time our species has been on Earth we did just fine without either of those things.

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