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.