“I see you.” Yup. Nothing alien here.

Whoa, they sure sunk a lot o’ money into Avatar for the same old story. Sure, the eye candy aspect did have me ooh-ing and ahh-ing because I’m a sucker for an ‘alien’ planet, but, wait– if it’s an alien planet, why is everything so familiar? Hello Pocahontas-meets-every-white-man-taken-into-an-‘Indian’-tribe-he’s-the-best-warrior-to-save-the-race-better-than-the-best-native…. I have to concede that the environmental angle was a bloody relief tho it must be said that I was reminded an awful lot of the amazing Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind (Miyazaki film) and the wonderfully complex and science-sound 1986 science fiction novel, Door Into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski.

SPOILER ALERT: Clearly the ‘native’ girl Neytiri is meant to be a strong female character, but COME ON!!!! She sits BEHIND the white guy when he tames the special awesome pterodactyl? I also felt an intense pain when he flew in on the messiah beast and all the ‘natives’ were bowing to him, the chosen one, and he will bring all the tribes together to overthrow the colonialist oppressor because he’s the most ‘native’ of them all. Ohlordy, will the pain never end?

I loved the flying scenes, the pretty plant-like-coral-like ecosystem. Wondered about the doubling of like-animals…. I’m sure they hired evolutionary biologists, whatevers, to imagine what ‘animal’-life on an alien planet might be like. But there were so many earth-creature-likenesses. The nectar-licking six-legged ‘horses’. The pterodactyls. The flayed dogs. The flayed puma. The lumbering triceratops/ankylosaurus cross. Why does everything have to be so near to our known? It’s Hollywood! my daughter says, exasperated with my desire for something else. What do you expect? Truth be told, if it’s on an alien planet, I expect something alien…. 

I had the pleasure of watching the movie with my daughter and two of her friends (truly, the pleasure is all mine because my daughter finds me an insufferable film companion because I make noises of disgust, impatience, boredom, anger, etc. throughout, and I don’t blame her for her annoyance with me) and I could ask them questions afterward on what they thought about it. Both friends liked the film. When I asked them if they liked the romance aspect of it they said, yes. My daughter said it was predictable. Their feedback is interesting for me because I’ve been considering how to integrate aspects of romance and fun in one of my new book-length projects. Obviously my idea of ‘romance’ and ‘fun’ is not the same for my target audience. Soooo, the creative challenge is to create a sense of identifiable ‘fun’ and ‘romance’ without it falling into what I think is cliche. 

If my daughter’s peers think the romance in Avatar works, and I don’t, how do I write a romantic and fun book for teen-aged girls without 1) alienating my target audience and 2) not compromising my personal and creative politics? Tricky! Tricky! 

One of my sisters said she didn’t like to read books that were difficult or troubling or challenging because she read books to relax, not to think. I think a lot of folks (me included) read to be entertained (tho this need not be exclusive, either). If this is the primary drive, then it is not a stretch to imagine that this kind of reading would not appreciate feeling alienated from the text in any way. 


No simple answers.

Try! Try! my father always shouted enthusiastically and with vigour. 

End note: enjoyed this film a lot more than 2012. Pissy that they used a same-old cliche narrative.