Hollywood’s Power of Suggestion

Recently I watched James Cameron’s Avatar for the first time. It reminded me how powerful the medium of film is when constructed well, and Avatar is sublime in its construction.

avatarThe film describes a futuristic form of colonialism in which humans rampage over a planet seeking out its minerals. It is a story as old as history. Cameron’s cleverness comes from weaving into his gripping tale themes of ecology, personal responsibility, social responsibility towards native peoples and, most cleverly of all, a pantheistic theology. Pantheism, broadly, states that God is in, not over creation.

The native Na’vi people in Avatar  were atune with their god of creation. The humans  depended on their power, weapons and were driven by greed in contrast to the ecological altruism of the Na’vi.

Even I found myself cheering for the nature loving/believing Na’vi people. And that is where the cleverness lies – in its ability to position us as viewers the way the director intended. Often, without us even being aware.

I put aside my Christian worldview, I checked my cynicism about stereotypes, I was fooled by the mystical romance – and the film took me on a journey along a path that I would not normally travel.

There are good messages in this film and we should heed them. But the film says far more about how Cameron believes the world works. The gospel narrative was missing. There was sin and brokenness but this could be dealt with by being atune with nature. There was no Saviour outside our own wits and ability and a creation god who took the side of the good guys and gals.

I suppose my question is: How often does Hollywood fool us to give ourselves over to the directors’ worldviews? Think of the romance where the man is justified in ditching his wife for a woman who understands him. The violins play and we are happy that he has found his deserved soul mate. Think of when we have laughed because the clever, witty and suave crook has outwitted the clueless police.

Avatar reminded me again, that when I watch a film every neuron I have needs to be on full alert because the director, once again, wants to trick me.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Film, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Hollywood’s Power of Suggestion

  1. How tricky the arts can be. They move the heart, but Christianity is more than heart, it involves theology and the mind.

  2. mickqhs

    it’s perhaps a little narrow to consider Avatar simply an expression of Cameron’s view. He is merely a director operating under a much bigger and popular world view. He is catering for an existing market.and has to convey both entertainment and a message within 3 hours. Most of the responsibility is on the viewer to separate fantasy from fact; to go for the ride, without being manipulated.That has always been the case in the arts.
    I am sure you managed that with cecil b.demille, otherwise you would be thinking Jesus was a white guy with blue eyes and God mainly spoke out of an echo chamber.

    • I agree that Cameron is part of a greater “culture”, however what I didn’t write was that I heard an interview with him in which he alluded to his view of the world and faith. What struck me at the time was how much the message(s) in Avatar reflected those views. And by the way, are you telling me that Cecil B got it wrong? I am shocked.

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