Monday 21 December 2009

hit and myth

On Friday this blog wondered if an anti-American film could also be a blockbuster hit. The answer is yes. The BBC reports that Avatar has topped the North American box office, taking $73m (£45.3m) on its opening weekend.

In this weekend's Observer Philip French highlighted the shift in James Cameron's work from pro-American to anti-American:

In Cameron's Terminator films, the central allegory derives from the story of Christ. In his brilliant Aliens, the Marines were the embattled heroes in a Vietnam-style war against vicious extraterrestrials.

Avatar is the story of the colonisation of the Americas and the destruction of the native population and their culture between the arrival of Columbus through the massacre at Wounded Knee up to the bulldozing of the Amazon rainforests. Coupled with this are more recent acts of neocolonialism like Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Marines are now the despoiling enemy and the aliens the good guys, and thrown into the mix are references to
King Kong, Planet of the Apes and Bambi and echoes of H G Wells's The Time Machine.

(Though you could say that the people who colonised America and destroyed the native populations were Europeans, so the movie is also anti-European.)

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