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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

question of the day: In what ways is ‘Avatar’ — and now ‘Green Zone’ — unAmerican?

I was baffled by all those who took exception to Avatar on the basis of its somehow being anticapitalist, antimilitary, antiscience, and — oh noes! — anti-American. (See here and here, if you want to be baffled too.) It seemed to me that these objectors were saying that destruction and bigotry and horror and selfishness are absolutely inherent qualities — and qualities to be celebrated — of capitalism, the military, science, and America, instead of distortions and avoidable excesses of such. Nothing highlights that better than the fact that so many objectors seemed to find it amusing and ironic that, to their eyes, Cameron made an anticapitalist movie for $300 million and is raking in huge capitalistic profits as a result: these objectors do believe, it seems, that there is no excess of capitalism — up to and including the destruction of another culture in the pursuit of profit — that should be criticized as wrong, that the excesses aren’t excesses at all.

It seemed to me that these objections say a lot more about what the objectors think about America than what Avatar and James Cameron think about America.
And now the same thing is happening with Green Zone, in a more specific way. I found fault with the movie in how it fails to even name the real perpetrators of real crimes (and in fact it gives them a bit of plausible cover that real life has yet to grant them), but apparently for others, the movie is slanderously anti-American because it has the temerity to highlight an unpleasant reality (at least partially) that does not place the United States in the best position ever. The facts that underlie the film’s fictionalized story are indisputable: there really weren’t any WMDs in Iraq and the evidence really was cooked before the war to convince the American public that we needed to invade a sovereign nation that did not threaten us. But as with Avatar’s objectors, it seems that inherent in these protests is the notion that the United States can do no wrong, no matter what it does.

Not only do I find such an argument the opposite of patriotic — that’s just unthinkingly nationalistic — it offends me intellectually that supposedly smart people can be so blindered.

But maybe I’m missing something. In what ways are Avatar and Green Zone — unAmerican?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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