I just got through watching the movie Avatar in the theater with my girlfriend, and, even though, from watching its trailers, I didn’t think it would be a movie I’d enjoy seeing, I was most pleasantly surprised by the movie and its not-so-subtle political message that mirrors my own understanding of how huge militaries (incl the U.S.) and troops work in real life.  

At first, I was offended by the mutiple propaganda ads put out by the U.S. military that preceded the movie, some of them repeating themselves in 3D, and some of them stretching out over several minutes [“I’m trying to watch a freakin’ movie here, not attend my own military induction ceremony, for godsakes, thank you”].   But after actually viewing the movie and witnessing its impactful message, I then realiized why those ‘Please, Please support the troops’ pieces were being shamelessly splashed all over the screen:  a frenzical spoon-feeding antidote designed for the viewer,  in desperate hope that the film’s message doesn’t infect movie-going audiences.  

In Avatar, it’s pretty transparent that the Earthling colonizers of the planet Pandora represent the U.S. military, and makes a pretty accurate portrayal of troops-as-assholes-rather-than-heroes, which pleasingly vindicates what I’ve been saying now for years, in the face of all those mindless yet ubiquitous yellow ribbons.   The film adds punctuation to my own feelings on the matter, in that it gives no out or excuse for that tired old “they’re just doing their job,following orders” claptrap I hear ad nauseum, as combat pilot Trudy Chacon (played by Michelle Rodriguez) delivers my favorite, memorable line from the film, “I didn’t sign up for this shit”, and turns her vessel around to fire instead on the imperialistic bullies.   [“Yes! Man, don’t I wish troops in real life were similarly inclined to think for themselves!”]   This, to me, makes free-thinking, conscience-wielding Trudy the real hero of the movie.  

The film is clearly an allegory of what’s been going on in the Middle East (although it undeniably contains a streak harkening back two decades to the maybe-troops-aren’t-worth-supporting Dances With Wolves) what with all the imperialixtic bullying the U.S. Military (and Britain, and Canada, et al) have been stomping around doing over there for years against the indigenous population.   Just visualize the coveted Tree of Souls treasured by the Na’vi as Mideast oil and well, you start to get the picture.   (But gee, doesn’t “Na’vi” and “Omaticaya People” just sound so…American Indian?)

The film’s director, James Cameron, himself had this to say: “So certainly it is about imperialism in the sense that the way human history has always worked is that people with more military or technological might tend to supplant or destroy people who are weaker, usually for their resources. . . . We’re in a century right now in which we’re going to start fighting more and more over less and less.”  

Cameron does such a good job in the film of making audiences fall in love with – and by extension have sympathies for and identify with – the indigenous tribes and their interests, that I imagine that there’s a helluva lot of cognitive dissonance sweeping over movie theaters from coast to coast:  you want to advocate for and champion the Na’vi and bite back against their aggressors…but you’ve been inculcated to support the troops; what do you do? what do you do?

Hence, the Go Army/Air Force: It’s What We Do Every Day/National Guard: Citizen Soldier recruiting antidotes, I mean, ads.   Going to the movies? Have you had YOUR Avatar vaccine yet?