“Avatar” and, believe it or not, 2012

Well, “Avatar” is making beaucoup bucks at the box office. There is much that could be said about the flick and a number of easy shots that could be taken, but I will leave those to others.

OK — I can’t help myself!  Let me get in a few jabs…  For instance, I thought of at least two alternate titles for the flick: “Dances with Six-Legged Wolves” and “Hollywood Clichés — Now in Digital 3D!”  The subtitle for either one of those titles could be: “In the event our other movies haven’t made it clear, we don’t like America, capitalism, or the military.”  (OK, it’s a long subtitle.)  Wait, here’s another title: “Virtual People Virtually Naked,” subtitled: “When loincloths are simply too restrictive…”  Honestly, we could go on all day, couldn’t we?  And don’t get me started on the Earth Pandora worship stuff.  (Really: If we have to make up completely imaginary reasons to make a planet seem worthy of worship, doesn’t that tell us something about the whole idea of planet worship, overall?)

However, let me make a connection between the programmed appeal of “Avatar” and a topic that might not be obviously connected at first: the 2012 hysteria.  Not the “2012” movie, but the whole buzz and popular appeal of the so-called 2012-related “prophecies.”  (A buzz which, thankfully, has died off a good bit now that the “2012” movie has passed, but which will surely creep back into our lives the closer 12/21/2012 gets.)

Many of the faults of modern Western culture are on display in “Avatar” but one of the greatest, in my opinion, is the tendency to over-glorify primitive, indigenous cultures.

Failing to look at things as they really are seems to be a native trait of humanity (cf. Jer. 17:9) — we either look at things through glasses touched with rose hues or dark tint.

In the case of primitive cultures, modern Western culture seems very much on the rosey side of that self-deception.  “Oh, their ways were purer then — without the corruption of modern day life and living.  We could learn so much from them, if only we could be more like them and recognize the superiority of their world view!”  Somehow, the ways of these peoples are supposed to be superior to ours in seemingly every way.

I’m certainly not saying that there isn’t something to be learned from other cultures, more ancient or more modern.  Mankind in general has, in a sense, continued eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil since Adam took his first bite.  Our ways are a mixture of good and evil, resulting in a pained history of experimentation and deciding for ourselves what is right and what is wrong (cf. Judges 21:25).  Modern Western culture certainly doesn’t have everything right and ancient peoples certainly didn’t have everything wrong.

However, the strong desire to elevate blindly the “noble savage” above the modern man is spiritually pathological — part and parcel of the idea that civilization and modernity, itself, is the source of moral corruption and decadence instead of rebellion against and ignorance of God, which is the real source of our deterioration.  It results in idealizing primitive cultures and looking to them as models of what we should be.

“Avatar” is all about that idea.

But that spiritual pathology is also a large contributor to the fascination with 2012 ideas, methinks.

Most associate 12/21/2012 “prophecies” with the ancient Maya.  This is due the fact that their Long Count Calendar, according to some, ends a major cycle on that date (thought the calendar, itself, does not end on that date) and modern New Agers have attempted to turn this into an “End of the World”/”Age of Aquarius” expectation.

Now, I’ve written before about how there is no solid evidence whatsoever that the Maya expected the world to end on 12/21/2012.  If you find that statement surprising, you can read more here: “What the Maya did & didn’t say about 2012.” However, even better would be to contact Tomorrow’s World and request the free DVD “2012: Mystery and Truth” (it is not yet available on our “Order Free” page, but you can still request it by asking for it directly on the “Contact Us” page).  However, it doesn’t make a difference if the Maya actually predicted anything for 2012 or not — people believe they did, and that’s enough to make a difference in how they respond to the idea.

Why?  Again, because the Western tendency is to glorify such ancient, primitive cultures and peoples.  “Why, did the ancient Maya say that?  Well, I’ll bet they knew what they were talking about!” Huh?  Why don’t we say that about their horrific practice of human sacrifice, including the barbaric, ritualistic murder of children?  “Why, did the Maya sacrifice children and their fellow human beings?  Well, I’ll bet they knew what they were doing!” Yeah, right.

Part of what makes “Avatar” so appealing to Western appetites is the same thing that gives 2012 lunacy a false air of believability: the romanticizing of ancient, primitive cultures.  Sure, God said, “learn not the way of the heathen” (Jer. 10:2) — but, you know, they’re so down to earth!  (For “Avatar”: Look, they live in a tree! For the Maya: Look, they lived in a forest!)

Don’t fall for this spiritual pathology.  God is not only the source of prophecy (note to 2012ers out there), He and His Word are also the source of right culture and values.  It isn’t getting back to a falsely glorified primitive past that will heal our ailing culture and civilization and provide a path to peace — only getting back to our God can do that.

And don’t let any naked space smurfs on steroids tell you otherwise.

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6 thoughts on ““Avatar” and, believe it or not, 2012

  1. Howdy Mr. Smith,

    You know the one good thing about a lie is that while they are in its pursuit, sometimes people stumble across the Truth-especially with a little help 😉 It seems to be the case with the 2012 phenomenon anyway.

    I think a lot of folks these days would be too impatient to wait to sacrifice their kids to some knot-head pagan god… we have inconvenience as a deity now with sacrificial altars at abortion clinics from sea to shining sea…

    It’s really amazing – it seems that man will look to ANYTHING but the real Solution.

    Keep up the good Work!

    Deano

  2. Jake

    Well said, Mr. Smith. It is a lack a realism, in my opinion, to believe that people without indoor plumbing had it better than we do.

    And I know that is a blanket statement and could use a few clarifiying statements but I’ll leave it as is.

    This reminds me of a gentleman who told me about a book he was reading a few years ago (to my regret, I don’t know the title or author) that was about the prevailing idea that all cultures are “equal” and that, in essense, today’s popular idea is to minimize the benefit of the Judeo-Christian ethic by saying it is no better than the tribal Africans culture (for example).

  3. Shelby

    Hey Mr. Smith!

    Don’t know if you remember me, but I’m the grand-daughter of Mr. J. D. Crockett. I went to Branson for the feast in 2008 with my family. I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy reading your blog and I’ve learned a lot of interesting things and even started reading the Wall Street Journal because of you! You also helped me think through more reasons of why not to like Twilight. I tended to not like it because, being a writing major, I looked on it as trashy writing – written more like a movie, or perhaps written to recommend it to the movie industry. But then I was forced to think about the immorality – or borderline immorality – in it. Thanks for the many insights! I love a good blog, and yours is definitely one.

    Shelby

    PS. Oh, and yea, Avatar has so many cliche’s and messages it’s not even funny. My husband calls it a glorified Pocahontas. But from an artists perspective the planet and people are pretty impressive. I guess because of my penchant for writing stories and thus creating my own worlds I was excited by the extravagance and complexities of Pandora. My imagination was sparked!

  4. Howdy, Shelby, and, yes, I do remember you! It’s great to hear from you, and thanks so much for your kind words!

    And I can echo the sentiment in your PS. One thing I absolutely did enjoy was the imaginative and well thought out details of the planet Pandora and its flora and fauna. I have allowed myself to fantasize at times about being allowed the opportunity God had in the beginning — planning out an entire world from scratch. My kids and I have talked about that before. The artists and designers of the film had an opportunity to do something very similar, and I was impressed at their ability to imbue the world they created with a startlingly convincing feel of realism, though the setting was clearly fantastic. Though I thought their use of hexapod body forms for every creature except the humanoids was a very un-Darwinian concession to their very practical storytelling need to minimize the burden their audience would bear to sympathize with the characters. (Not that I mind un-Darwinian concessions, mind you!)

    There was a time in my life when I thought I would grow up to be a science fiction writer, and that part of me was certainly in awe of what they had put together on that big screen.

    Yep: Gorgeous planet and gorgeous animals, to be sure. Movies have come along way from George Lucas throwing a bunch of fur on an elephant to make a “Bantha” back in 1977! 🙂

  5. Dear Mr. Smith,

    Well, you’ve given me some very good reasons not to waste my time and money on AVATAR. My original reason was that I’m still trying to get the image (from THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS) of 10,000 Orcs charging in the rain out of my head. 🙂

    The Mayans had some very interesting attitudes about business too:

    http://www.despair.com/sacrifice1.html

  6. P.S.: I can only echo Shelby’s statements, and yours, about the fascination that comes with imagining “strange new worlds”. AVATAR is by no means the first medium to imagine an Earthlike planet orbiting a Jupiter-like planet (in fact the idea appeared in STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE and in some space art first). And as a lifelong creative writer, I have some complex worlds of my own in my head. I can speak from experience then: it really does matter what metaphysical foundations (including ethical and religious ones) underly one’s fantasies.

    This may interest you: those who work with the most successful model of personality type theory say that those of “Catalyst (Idealist, Religious or Choleric)” temperament evidently have an ingrained need for fantasy as play, above that of the other temperaments. (We all have the need, but for Catalysts the need is a “can’t do without/sine qua non”.) I’m told by a type counselor out in LA, with whom I’ve been taking courses, that Hollywood writers are disproportionately ENFPs (one of the four Catalyst types) – and I happen to be an ENFP myself. This counselor expressed her belief that the writers she counseled – and there have been many – often were hypocritical with regard to their attitudes about wealth. I see much the same thing playing out in the areas you describe. I’m pretty sure a lot of my fellow Catalysts, and fellow ENFPs in particular, are spreading the goofy ideas about the supposed superiority of the primitive ethos and way of life.

    On behalf of all of us ENFPs, my apologies. 🙂

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