12.21.2009

Movie Review

Real quick, cuz I'm on vacation:

I just saw Avatar, and I find it really strange (no better word for it) how masterful Americans have gotten at producing and consuming obviously anti-American (-imperial) narratives. The movie would make anyone able to follow its simple plot want to leave the theater and say, "Death to America," or at least to the America that has existed ever since it wiped out the Native Americans and took New Mexico from Natives and went into Vietnam and Iraq and so on. I mean, if we all so sincerely feel that Empire is a bad thing, that working against the interest of Natives is bad, why are we still doing this?

How can we watch a movie starring us as the bad guys, and like it? What a strange development in moral history.

3 comments:

Kevin said...

Hah--just had this movie recommended to me as 'the greatest ever'.

Though I suppose the the Joy and Love of Christmas should make me a less-contentious and cynical commenter, I completely disagree with the idea that it is odd to 'see a movie starring us as the bad guys and like it'. I think there is nothing more natural than a need to praise one's enemies, because praising one's enemies and denouncing ones friends is a form of Self-Praise. That is, self-revilement is a fundamental aspect of a certain type of moral self-congratulation, presently gone viral.

Happy Holiday version of how I think it works: nothing is more important to some people than their own sense of moral authenticity/ integrity. And the easiest way to exhibit this authenticity to ones self and others--j.e. the easiest way to exhibit that one is morally OBJECTIVE-- is to turn against everything to which you have a NATURAL or SUBJECTIVE affection/connection. Why? Because: If one stands with a group or country to which you have absolutely no natural affinity or connection, one CANNOT stand accused of any sort of subjective favoritism. For look (let us suppose) how you are even HARDER on those one would expect you to favor. Your alliances and associations with what look like your cultural--even ethical--opposites, only shows these alliances are unalloyed by local/personal concerns. No nepotism possible if you are publicly cruel to kin.

Hence (this shaky inference goes) those who stand with groups/cultures which look like their natural enemies must be acting out of 'pure' principle. (cf. Kant's examples of acting 'from duty' in "Groundwork...")

Present example:
If one supports one's OWN country, this stance MIGHT be moral--then again, it might just be jingoism dressed up as morality. Those who cannot live with being uncertain of their own motives, and/or those who cannot abide OTHERS not being sure of their motives, now apply a kind of motivational process-of-elimination game, so as to secure their moral credentials. Eliminate all possible motives for allying/supporting country/culture X EXCEPT Objective/impartial Principle.

So one shows one's moral bona fides by exhibiting a fide to something utterly foreign, while roundly denouncing anything to which you have a natural relation. The ideal case is when one can support a country/culture that OPPOSES one's own--even defend a country/culture that reviles you and your dearest principles. After all, once all possible profit or natural attachment is gone as an explanation of your support of them, what other motive could there be but your own ethical excellence? By process of elimination, you must be supporting them out of Principle, and all are forced to hail your undeniable Impartiality.

And thus: what a Principled Soul you have demonstrated yourself to be, by turning against everything and everyone to whom you have natural attachments; you are the Young Pioneer who turns in her parents; bravo for overcoming all such bourgeois attachments! You have proved yourself worthy to join those who revile everything/everyone familiar--with the exception, of course, of those who share your familiar penchant for moral exhibitionism.

Ok. That seems accurate to me--and that fact now depresses me somehow.

At any rate (he brightens suddenly) Have a great holiday, Casey. Good year of thoughts. Keep at it.

Wishydig said...

think also of who's making the "art" and who's pushing for an empire.

Casey said...

I really liked the movie, Kevin -- just in case I gave the wrong impression. I just found the historical/cultural viewing experience exceedingly bizarre.