Conservatives and the Australian News Say Avatar Will Make Your Brain Hemorrhage

From Australian News:

A 42-year-old Taiwanese man with a history of high blood pressure has died of a stroke likely triggered by over-excitement from watching the blockbuster Avatar in 3D, a doctor says.

The man, identified only by his surname Kuo, started to feel unwell during the screening earlier this month in the northern city of Hsinchu and was taken to hospital.

Mr Kuo, who suffered from hypertension, was unconscious when he arrived at the Nan Men General Hospital and a scan showed that his brain was hemorrhaging, emergency room doctor Peng Chin-chih said today.

“It’s likely that the over-excitement from watching the movie triggered his symptoms,” the doctor said.

Mr Kuo died 11 days later from the brain hemorrhage, and the China Times newspaper said it was the first death linked to watching James Cameron’s science-fiction epic Avatar.

Film blogging sites have reported complaints of headaches, dizziness, nausea and blurry eyesight from viewers of Avatar and other movies rich in 3D imagery.

Seems like a better reason to avoid the IMAX theaters than the ones the conservative pundits have been giving us.

To those crazies, I quote The LA Times‘s Patrick Goldstein. Yes, it is a white guilt fantasy. Yes, it’s anti-military contractor. (Are we supposed to be pro-military contractor?) Yes, it’s an environmental, tree-hugging, nature worshipping remake of Pocahontas/Dances with Wolves with Smurf cats. But there’s something much more important going on here:

“Avatar” has, of course, far more on its mind than its politics. It’s a triumph of visual imagination and the world’s first great 3-D movie. But it is fascinating to see how today’s ideology-obsessed conservatives have managed to walk away from such a crowd-pleasing triumph and only see the film’s political subtext, not the groundbreaking artistry that’s staring them right in the face.


7 thoughts on “Conservatives and the Australian News Say Avatar Will Make Your Brain Hemorrhage

  1. On this film, you and I must agree to disagree.
    Avatar isn’t a great film. It isn’t intended as a “film” at all. It’s a Grand Entertainment, i.e. a theme-park ride DISGUISED as a movie.

    Great-looking, nice loop-de-loops, but also trite, corny predictable plot and some of the worst dialogue in any film this decade.

    I still enjoyed your writing about it.

    -I’ve also posted on this film, and on Cameron vs Zemeckis.-

    • Thank you Mikey. As a fellow theory and history geek, I really appreciate your use of Aristotle to criticize Avatar, but I wanted to bring in another name to keep the conversation going: Joseph Campbell. Zemeckis may know his Greeks, but George Lucas and James Cameron know their comparative mythology.

      The plot of Avatar is archetypal in the literal sense. It’s the story of Jason and Medea with a happy ending. It’s why John Smith got such a great reception when he published his (fictionalized) journals of his romance with an (extremely fetishized and fictionalized) Pocahontas.

      I think the fairest comparison for Avatar is the first Star Wars. There are certain films that release at exactly the right time to hit the intersection of cultural zeitgeist and technological innovation. It’s a landmark film regardless of quality, and it’s pretty impossible to deny that.

      • Yes, Campbell, yes, Lucas, no way Cameron…lol.
        Lucas actually ripped off most of the structure of the first “Star Wars” from Kurosawa’s ‘Hidden Fortress” which he has admitted.

        Hidden Fortress: Rebel princess is protected from pursuing imperial samurai and roving bandits by a lone mercenary soldier, while two peasants follow the action while bickering constantly (one tall with affected manners, one short who talks in flat, barking insults) Princess is an object of infatuation for mercenary soldier’s younger apprentice…SOUND FAMILIAR?

        Sure, Avatar’s landmark, but only for “tech”.
        Everything about it as a film is cobbled together from other people’s (better) work.
        But I appreciate you stopping by to investigate, and will certainly read you in future!

  2. Hey,

    I assume the “white-guilt” analysis is drawing from Annalee Newitz’s piece?

    I have to agree with Alex Pang’s counter-argument: if Jake in _Avatar_ is a Mary Sue for our white-guilt fantasy, why is he disabled and poor?

    Jake isn’t a representative of white imperialism–he is an outcast from it, escaping to what becomes the dominant culture. Yes, I think there are some racial fantasies going on here, but as Mistress Matisse quotes a fellow domme as saying:

    “I live in a society where racism is endemic. It is absolutely vital to tap into the past in order to handle the present and remain open to the future.”

    Art and literature are where we as a species can safely work through our fears and insecurities and possibly achieve catharsis. Whatever white-guilt fantasy themes there are in _Avatar_, I think they are for the good, because it is helping audiences open up to their own racial issues and only with that consciousness can progress happen.

    PS: add _Fern Gully_ to the list of stories it retells.

    • What I think Avatar does very well is that it presents a world of racial flexibility. If they can build Na’vi Avatars it stands to reason that they could build human Avatars that would allow the Na’vis to get around on Earth (which Cameron better do for Avatar 2, because it would awesome and would help silence a lot of his post-colonial critics.)

      I do feel obligated to point out that Jake Sully (or Jakesully)’s disability and economic status does not erase his whiteness or his position as a member of a colonizing force. Through not-so-charitable eyes, the Avatar program is the ultimate colonization, taking a culture’s very racial (physical) identity with the potential to use it against them. The only element of the Na’vi’s identity that they can keep is their culture, something that can only be taught. And their princess and priestess give that knowledge to the white hero over the protestations of the men. (I’m not sure if this is the Captain Kirk effect b/c Sully’s cute or because the women are supposed to be wiser.)

      P.S. FernGully is just Pocahontas in the rainforest with fairies. The story of John Smith and Pocahontas has become archetype now. TV Tropes calls it “Mighty Whitey:”

      FernGully has the same thing going on. Except with fairies. (Seriously, the dude joins the fairies because his love interest shrinks him, thereby making him part of her people. Then the save the world from the scary but truly awesome bad guy who you sometimes end of rooting for just because of his sheer awesomeness. Same. Story.)

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