Sunday, February 07, 2010

Avatar: the Corporate Message

Went to see Avatar in 3D last night. Visually stunning, and engaging to the extent that I went along with the decision to resort to violence against the Corporation. The mawkish bits were just a bit mawkish, and there was next to no solemn cod philosophy.

However, there is a lot of criticism of a thin plot on Twitter. What do people expect from Hollywood? Complexity? Come on, Hollywood only has 2 plots, #1 boy meets girl, and#2 hero saves world from calamity. Avatar was #2. The similarity to Dances with Wolves has been noticed. It has Matrix like themes. And Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings and, and...

The plot criticism is as meaningless as saying that James Bond is predictable.

What amazes me is that Corporate interests did not strangle Avatar at birth. It is a clear allegory of what Shell did to the Ogoni, what Union Carbide/Dow Chemical Co. did to the people of Bhopal and what Trafigura did to the people of Abidjan.

Human history in a nutshell: tribes, clans, kingdoms, empires, corporations. All politics is in one way completely beside the point. We struggle to develop and defend democracy, trying to make our political leaders accountable for their actions (with notable lack of success; think Tony Blair), but the real power has passed on beyond Presidents and Prime Ministers into the fat hands of the corporate overlords.

Avatar is a call to revolution. It contains the line that says something like "There is one thing that shareholders like less than bad press, and that is a bad quarterly return". Simple as that.
The sole legal responsibility of company directors is to stuff their shareholders' pockets with gold.

Corporations are all about Profit before People.

Maybe the Twitter thread about Avatar's thin plot is a bit of corporate astroturfing.

In spite of hugely successful films like Avatar, and the common cynical view of the machinations of "Big Business", corporations continue to dominate our world, with very little criticism apart from campaigning organisations like Corporate Watch. There is no journalistic criticism of corporations for the obvious reason that journalists work for corporations. Duh!

Do these films help or hinder public perception of what is going on? Probably neither. They just get filed away under "Entertainment". Although they must affect our cognitive constructs of the world.

Where the plot does come unstuck is in the violent rebellion bit. The violence was provoked, and the threat of cultural and religious annihilation produces a union of Na'avi tribes, who come and do battle. Any Marxists out there who think that they might like to try this at home, please think again. Humanity is no way ready for this kind of thing. Violence is the problem, not the solution, and in any confrontation, the Right, backed by the police and the army are going to win hands down. Sure, the people, united, will never be defeated, but the people are not united. They may or may not follow United, but mainly they are controlled by a daily dose of corporate journalism and telly.

In the absence of any possibility of a James Bond resolution of the problem by blowing it up, what can we do about the corporate dominance of our world?

That is a long journey, but the first step is to sketch out the kind of laws that we need our political representatives to bring in to constrain the corporations.

We have made a start on this project here. Please read, bookmark and forward.

At this stage in the journey, we just have to spread the meme that corporations need to be brought within a framework of law. That's the easy bit. Once your lollipop lady agrees that this is a Good Idea, the next stage is to start lobbying your government.

Meanwhile, enjoy the film.

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