When all is said and done, the deeply committed right-winger and the deeply committed left-winger are the same rabid animal. They feed off of the utter venality of their enemies, the supreme righteousness of their causes, and the lazy ignorance of the sleepwalking, uncommtted dupes in the middle whom they despise most of all. Each will campaign for your hearts and minds until they have you by the balls.
“But,” you say—well not the real you, the real you won’t be reading this, because it isn’t Restate.com or the Daily KOS—“we are not the same; we are diametrically opposed in our beliefs!” Of course you are. That’s your job. Spy vs. Spy! The Right wants to experience Jesus with pure Pentecostal fervor and listen to Glenn Beck’s emotional populism, while the Left wants to rationally talk things out. The Right embraces trucks and 4 wheel drive vehicles, while the Left admires sensible transportation. Fifty years ago, the “Jesus Freaks” were hippies who lived in their vans, while the Right was William F. Buckley in your father’s Oldsmobile. Fifty years ago Left-wing flower children partied like Caligula; now it’s Wall Street Bankers. Remember when it was Right-wing tinfoil hat paranoia to not want chemicals in your water?
Still not convinced? Try to find any real distinction between the bile spewed by Ted Haggard and that of Christopher Hitchens. “But,” you say again. “My guy’s isn’t bile, because he is right!” Sigh . . .
I am only bringing this up, because last night I saw Avatar—the most expensive Final Fantasy cut-scene in history. While I was watching it, I was caught up in the anti-corporate, anti-militaristic righteousness of the Navi’s cause. Would Jake Sully throw off his boot camp conditioning? Would he embrace the totality of nature? Would he score with the scantily clad ten-foot tall hot skinny chick and discover what’s in Pandora’s box? I was on board! I loved the scenery! I loved the 3-D special effects! I loved that I was six or seven light years away from the nearest vampire!
Then I got home, distilled Avatar‘s essence, and remembered where I had seen it all before—Forrest Gump!
Forrest Gump! Forrest Friggin’ Gump! The propagandistic paean to an uneducated, unmotivated stumble through history. Just be honest, do what your gut tells you, mean well, and love yer mama, and everything will turn out hunky dory! Planning corrupts. Learning corrupts. Ambition corrupts. Ping Pong? Running nowhere in particular? Right on the money.
Hey Forrest, you’re right. Life is like a box of chocolates. You race through it, your teeth fall out, and then you die!
Avatar is the Left-wing Forrest Gump. Not just the attitude, mind you, or a world view so simplistic it makes Where the Wild Things Are seem like Atlas Shrugged. Avatar IS Forrest Gump!
We begin with a guy who is awakened to the world around him and just sort of floating through life. We find out early on that he has trouble with his legs, which he manages bravely. Before too long, Jake is harassed by both rough neck guys who like to fight and snobby college educated intellectuals who consider him an idiot. How does Jake almost instantly win their respect and plant seeds of admiration?
“Run, Forrest! Run!”
You betcha! Ol’ Jake takes off like a bat outta hell–or so we think until later in the movie when we see something that much more closely resembles an actual bat out of hell. Jake runs and runs and runs. He runs, and then he runs some more. When he feels good, he runs. When he needs to escape from the enemy he runs. When he needs to prove his worth, he runs!
Why did Forrest run? Because of his passion for a skinny little slip of a girl named Jenny who would be his one true love. Jenny, meet Neytiri, the skinny little slip of a ten foot tall girl from a race of women who like you Jenny, while having evolved as pastoral, primarily hunt-and-gather creatures don’t have a B-cup among them. Neytiri respects, but feels sorry for, but gets angry at, but feels protective of, but comes to love Jake Sully. Sound familiar?
Of course the essence of Avatar’s Gumpiness is in how its protagonist achieves success. In an effort to avoid spoiling the movie suffice to say that like Forrest, he means well, he inspires a brand of protective pity that blossoms into loyalty . . . and he means well. Just like in Forrest Gump, Jake succeeds because all of his protagonists do an all too idiotic and predictable job of getting in their own way. Jake was in a chess match with an opponent who picks his piece up and flings them at you. To say that his enemies were cliché is an insult to anyone who has ever cut a cookie.
In the end Forrest Gump and Rainforest Gump prove what I said at the beginning. All passionate simplistic political statements are like boxes of chocolate—they seduce you and seem tasty going down, but in the end just want you dead.
Should you see Avatar? Absolutely! It is unique, visual candy! That said if anyone tries to tell you that Avatar is a critique on western militarism or our adventures in Iraq . . .
Run, Forrest! Run!