Cameron’s cinematic liberal paradise makes viewers hate reality

Gnosticism begins with an inconsolable dissatisfaction with this world brought about by the desolating experience that the divine has been withdrawn from this world, leading to the belief that this world is false and evil. The various gnostic movements throughout history have consisted of a variety of methods of overcoming this false and evil world and reabsorbing the divine back into oneself so that one may possess the divine completely. Thus: profound alienation from reality leads to the desire to “immanentize the eschaton,” to bring about heaven on earth, often through revolutionary politics.

Now read this, which a reader sent to me under the subject line, “A vision of the gnostic world causes depression and suicidal thoughts”:

Audiences experience ‘Avatar’ blues
By Jo Piazza, Special to CNN

(CNN)—James Cameron’s completely immersive spectacle “Avatar” may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora.

On the fan forum site “Avatar Forums,” a topic thread entitled “Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible,” has received more than 1,000 posts from people experiencing depression and fans trying to help them cope. The topic became so popular last month that forum administrator Philippe Baghdassarian had to create a second thread so people could continue to post their confused feelings about the movie.

“I wasn’t depressed myself. In fact the movie made me happy,” Baghdassarian said. “But I can understand why it made people depressed. The movie was so beautiful and it showed something we don’t have here on Earth. I think people saw we could be living in a completely different world and that caused them to be depressed.”

A post by a user called Elequin expresses an almost obsessive relationship with the film.

“That’s all I have been doing as of late, searching the Internet for more info about ‘Avatar.’ I guess that helps. It’s so hard I can’t force myself to think that it’s just a movie, and to get over it, that living like the Na’vi will never happen. I think I need a rebound movie,” Elequin posted.

A user named Mike wrote on the fan Web site “Naviblue” that he contemplated suicide after seeing the movie.


“Ever since I went to see ‘Avatar’ I have been depressed. Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na’vi made me want to be one of them. I can’t stop thinking about all the things that happened in the film and all of the tears and shivers I got from it,” Mike posted. “I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and the everything is the same as in ‘Avatar.’ “

Other fans have expressed feelings of disgust with the human race and disengagement with reality.

Cameron’s movie, which has pulled in more than $1.4 billion in worldwide box office sales and could be on track to be the highest grossing film of all time, is set in the future when the Earth’s resources have been pillaged by the human race. A greedy corporation is trying to mine the rare mineral unobtainium from the planet Pandora, which is inhabited by a peace-loving race of 7-foot tall, blue-skinned natives called the Na’vi.

In their race to mine for Pandora’s resources, the humans clash with the Na’vi, leading to casualties on both sides. The world of Pandora is reminiscent of a prehistoric fantasyland, filled with dinosaur-like creatures mixed with the kinds of fauna you may find in the deep reaches of the ocean. Compared with life on Earth, Pandora is a beautiful, glowing utopia.

Ivar Hill posts to the “Avatar” forum page under the name Eltu. He wrote about his post-“Avatar” depression after he first saw the film earlier this month.

“When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed … gray. It was like my whole life, everything I’ve done and worked for, lost its meaning,” Hill wrote on the forum. “It just seems so … meaningless. I still don’t really see any reason to keep … doing things at all. I live in a dying world.”

Reached via e-mail in Sweden where he is studying game design, Hill, 17, explained that his feelings of despair made him desperately want to escape reality.

“One can say my depression was twofold: I was depressed because I really wanted to live in Pandora, which seemed like such a perfect place, but I was also depressed and disgusted with the sight of our world, what we have done to Earth. I so much wanted to escape reality,” Hill said.

Cameron’s special effects masterpiece is very lifelike, and the 3-D performance capture and CGI effects essentially allow the viewer to enter the alien world of Pandora for the movie’s 2½-hour running time, which only lends to the separation anxiety some individuals experience when they depart the movie theater.

“Virtual life is not real life and it never will be, but this is the pinnacle of what we can build in a virtual presentation so far,” said Dr. Stephan Quentzel, psychiatrist and Medical Director for the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. “It has taken the best of our technology to create this virtual world and real life will never be as utopian as it seems onscreen. It makes real life seem more imperfect.”

Fans of the movie may find actor Stephen Lang, who plays the villainous Col. Miles Quaritch in the film, an enemy of the Na’vi people and their sacred ground, an unlikely sympathizer. But Lang says he can understand the connection people are feeling with the movie.

“Pandora is a pristine world and there is the synergy between all of the creatures of the planet and I think that strikes a deep chord within people that has a wishfulness and a wistfulness to it,” Lang said. “James Cameron had the technical resources to go along with this incredibly fertile imagination of his and his dream is built out of the same things that other peoples’ dreams are made of.”

The bright side is that for Hill and others like him—who became dissatisfied with their own lives and with our imperfect world after enjoying the fictional creation of James Cameron—becoming a part of a community of like-minded people on an online forum has helped them emerge from the darkness.

“After discussing on the forums for a while now, my depression is beginning to fade away. Having taken a part in many discussions concerning all this has really, really helped me,” Hill said. “Before, I had lost the reason to keep on living—but now it feels like these feelings are gradually being replaced with others.”

Quentzel said creating relationships with others is one of the keys to human happiness, and that even if those connections are occurring online they are better than nothing.

“Obviously there is community building in these forums,” Quentzel said. “It may be technologically different from other community building, but it serves the same purpose.”

Within the fan community, suggestions for battling feelings of depression after seeing the movie include things like playing “Avatar” video games or downloading the movie soundtrack, in addition to encouraging members to relate to other people outside the virtual realm and to seek out positive and constructive activities.

[end of article]

- end of initial entry -

LA writes

This is something new. Hollywood used to present a heightened reality that took one out of the real world but also enhanced the real world and made everything seem more beautiful, meaningful, and enjoyable. This movie with its liberal paradise and its anti-white message makes people hate the real world, hate their own society and people.

January 12, 12:45 a.m.

Joseph (from Arimathea) writes:

I sympathize with the poor folks who want to live on Cameron’s imagined eco-utopia. Though I have not seen Avatar (largely because of the discussion on your site), I have often wanted to travel to fictional worlds, and I suppose that such is common. My youth was spent yearning for Tolkien’s Middle Earth, where the exemplars of good and evil—and of virtue and vice—are more striking and obvious. Does not an Ivanhoesque Romantic stirring ever visit your breast, where you long to see the hero conquer the villains and then ride off into the sunset with the princess? Fantasy is full of our projected wishes, and I don’t know if it is gnostic to wish to see the world more clearly alive and wonderful than how we tend to find it. Looking at what the modern West has become makes me more than a little escapist. Of course, such escapism can be debilitating if indulged in too much. Like strong drink, a little bit of fantasy can take the edge off of our despair.

However, you are quite correct in noting that the best forms of fantasy make us see and appreciate the real world better. I would say that reading Tolkien inculcates an appreciation of creation’s splendor. The Inklings have brought to us moderns a glimpse of the premodern view of the world; they have introduced us to Pan. We who have been thoroughly secularized into seeing the world in a lifeless, horizontal, Cartesian way (as something simply to manipulate) easily lose our ability to see woods, rivers, and fields as alive, mysterious, and beautiful—in short, as iconic. The pagans thought that forests, hills, and lakes were sacred and full of spirits. They only erred in ignoring the divine power that manifests itself in such wondrous works. We Christians do not desecrate the world but connect its majesty with the source of such. Such recalls the tenth book of the Confessions:

And what is this God? I asked the earth, and it answered, “I am not he”; and everything in the earth made the same confession. I asked the sea and the deeps and the creeping things, and they replied, “We are not your God; seek above us.” I asked the fleeting winds, and the whole air with its inhabitants answered, “Anaximenes was deceived; I am not God.” I asked the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars; and they answered, “Neither are we the God whom you seek.” And I replied to all these things which stand around the door of my flesh: “You have told me about my God, that you are not he. Tell me something about him.” And with a loud voice they all cried out, “He made us.” My question had come from my observation of them, and their reply came from their beauty of order.

So, it may not be that these poor souls are gnostics. They may simply be aware of the void that the modern, atheistic world leaves them. Given the soul crushing materialism, consumerism, and general cowardice and dishonestly that typify our society, do you really blame them for wanting to live on an alien planet with happy pantheists? They are being fed confections from a tainted store, but their hunger is genuine and understandable.

Good luck in bringing the masses substantive meat.

LA replies:

Thank you for the great quotation from Augustine.

Gintas writes:

“When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed … gray. It was like my whole life, everything I’ve done and worked for, lost its meaning,” Hill wrote on the forum. “It just seems so … meaningless. I still don’t really see any reason to keep … doing things at all. I live in a dying world.”

He does not live in a dying world—he is a dead man in a dying world. In pre-Christian Europe, such an unhappy man would have jumped at the hope of heaven and would have fallen down before a hero-savior Christ. Thus he would have been reanimated. Today? Any heaven but God’s heaven, any savior but God’s savior. How can a man who hates goodness, beauty, and truth not finally hate himself and life itself?

January 12

Alan Roebuck writes:

Liberalism disorders society, and then when people hate the disorder and long for something better, it blames anti-liberalism and prescribes more of itself as the cure. In that, liberalism is like a drug pusher, supplying his evil wares to provide temporary relief.

Erik M. writes:

This passage from Chesterton springs to mind:

The thief is satisfied with diamonds; but the suicide is not: that is his crime. He cannot be bribed, even by the blazing stones of the Celestial City. The thief compliments the things he steals, if not the owner of them. But the suicide insults everything on earth by not stealing it. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer. When a man hangs himself on a tree, the leaves might fall off in anger and the birds fly away in fury: for each has received a personal affront.

These Avatar fanatics are a clear demonstration of a malign attitude where there is no argument to be had and little to say other than “No!”, though I will note the old presumption that suicides are most likely condemned to Hell, which is touched on in the surrounding context of the quote. The book is available for free on-line; the relevant chapter is here.

LA replies:

I’m not sure I agree with the Chesterton passage. It seems to me that suicide is often committed out of despair and pain, not out of a sneering attitude toward the world.

January 13

Lauren W. writes:

We’re on the same page regarding Avatar’s insulting and moronic plot but I’m curious to know what you thought of the art direction. Even the bad reviews I’ve read raved about the beauty of the visual spectacle but I thought the whole thing looked overblown and tacky. Pandora reminded me of one of those unfortunate spray paintings you see being done at every street fair in the country. The look and feel of the movie really cemented my opinion of Cameron’s essential immaturity. I mean, really—white people are evil and dayglo under blacklight is awesome. Dude obviously has all of the sensibilities of a college sophomore.

LA replies:

I haven’t seen it, and I have no desire to, though I discussed the possibility earlier this evening.

Your description fits exactly what I would expect. The notion that Cameron has some marvelous imagination is highly questionable to me. If so, he would have suddenly had to develop it in the last few years. Having suffered through Titanic with its cliched Marxist message and cliched evil white males, a movie in which, instead of telling the story of the most famous and dramatic disaster in history which was his ostensible subject, he treats the disaster as the background for a ridiculous love story that would only be of interest to 14 year old girls, I doubt that this man has the talent to produce the entrancingly beautiful imaginative world people attribute to him. We live in a culture that lives off the capital of the past even as it trashes it, a culture where if people are given the superficial appearance of quality, plus spectacle, plus getting their liberal buttons pressed, they imagine that they’re seeing something great, fantastic, brilliant. Our entire present culture—not only in the arts, but in intellectual life, scholarship, science, politics, ethics—is defined by the most massive grade inflation in history.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 11, 2010 03:05 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):