Avatar and the Way We Live Now

James Cameron amid his mechanical marvels.

Avatar has elicited a great deal of political commentary, much of it of the extremely simpleminded “Hollywood is too liberal” variety. The novelist John Crowley and the commentators on his blog have the most sophisticated take noting: that the movie rehashes many familiar tropes from the history of European/First Nations contact, particularly the myth of Pocohantas; the it leans heavily also on New Wave science fiction, particularly Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Word For World is Forest”; that the most troubling aspect of the movie is that it regurgitates the myth of the white saviour; and that the story is deliberately simpleminded so that the audience can focus their attention on what really matters. All true enough. (As a side-side note, an interesting essay could be written about filmmaker James Cameron and New Wave science fiction, which he clearly read a lot of in the 1970s. Many of his movies, notably the first two Terminator films, owe a great deal to New Wave science fiction).

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Chatting About Culture With Coren

Portman: would you have preferred a picture of Coren?

Michael Coren is a Canadian journalist, a cultural conservative whose every sentence is inflicted with a tangy cockney undergrowl. Aside from much columnizing, he has a daily talk show. Every once and awhile, I go on the show as part of his regular “arts panel”. You can see the show I most recently appeared on  here.

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