The comparisons between North America’s First People and the Na’vi is direct in James Cameron’s Avatar, a film that surpasses the hype and draws you in literally with its 3D technology so real you feel like you can reach out and touch it. I walked out of the theater wanting to be a Na’vi who lives on Pandora. If you’ve missed the back story you can brush up here, where Roger Ebert suggests that we can find allegory about contemporary politics in this film and that we can, but we can also discover an echo of the deep roots, the very foundations of America in the story of Avatar. Just as the humans went to conquer Pandora so the Europeans came to America to claim it as their own. Fast forward to modern times and the land left to Native Americans just happens to sit on top of some of the most coveted resources, from gold on Western Shoshone land to coal on the Navajo Reservation to prime real estate on the San Francisco Peaks to oil in Canada where the largest modern ecological disaster is unfolding in Alberta and altering the lives of Canada’s First Nations. So it is on Pandora where the humans want the resources underneath the Na’vi’s home.
CNN’s Tom Charity dubbed it “dances with wolves in outer space” as a marine becomes Na’vi, but I think he missed the point. Avatar is about us finding our way home, to our true selves. This is about human beings on earth coming back to our connection. What makes us feel alive? Do you feel alive? Are you happy with the way the world unfolds around you? Maybe it’s time to wake up. Are we awake? Can we wake up? What do things look like if we wake up? Does the most coveted thing still look like money? Do we still worship it as our motivating God or does that change?
Mr. Cameron spins dreams like a master weaver. I could see you and me reflected in this film and I could dream a new story for our future, one where our collective human culture reconnects to reverence for the land, and respect for the reason we can sustain life at all, our earth. I could dream that we would discover the fundamental beauty in the world around us and our power to shape it with the choices of the everyday. Pandora and the culture of the Na’vi calls to me, not because of its fantasy, its outerspace otherness, but because it is our own story waiting to be told.