Monday, March 15, 2010

The Semiotics of AVATAR.

Finally last night I saw the most expensive movie in history; AVATAR. there have been lot said about the film, the money involved, how much it has made from the box office and how James Cameron did not win the oscar for best director.

But the most interesting thing for me was the semiotics of the film, the signs and the signifiers, and how this could be related to Cameron not wining the oscar. Mind you, this is not the first time he had made a huge film that has been a flop at the oscars.

At least I can remember the TITANIC, one big movie I love so much. The film brought that us Kate Winslet and Leonardo Dicaprio, and make Celine Dion "my heart will go on" a hit in 1997.

So when he came back with AVATAR, i was more interested in his semiotics rather than the glamour and the scandals the film has attracted. It was really interesting that not in one newspaper has the signs and the signifiers of the film being discussed. This could be a deliberate attempt by the west to ignore what Cameron has to say, and in saying that he angers the "god" of hollywood and miss out in the oscar.

Now to the signs. To anyone watching the film, you are presented with "human" and the "blue people" or better "the blue monkey". While the human are trying to penetrate the life and daily activities of the blue monkeys. The blue monkeys on the other hand were protecting and preserving what they have. They had connection with their surrounding, they relate with nature, communicate with it and practice "juju" or what you will you call "voodoo".

The human (western white) were keen on destroying the heritage of the blue people, and they will do anything to achieve their aim, including behaving like them to get their trust and then destroy them.

If you are still thinking what is going on in my head, I will quickly relate this to my visit to the British museum on Saturday with my partner, my friend from New York and my two papas. We had gone to see the exhibition on "The Kingdom of ife" The exhibition has on display the great art work from IFE from Western Nigeria. These were art works taken away from the country during the colonial era.

I told my partner who is a British white man, that most of those works were actually stolen during colonization, they were forcibly removed by the colonial master that has come with the disguise of missionary. They had taken away the culture, the spirit and the soul of that community. They have put on display what the people of IFE used in community with their gods, and to add insult to the injury, are charging people to come see it.

So to go back to AVATAR, Cameron, explore the era of colonization, imperialism and oppression carried out by the so called "developed" world, or as my very good friend Peter Tatchell will say "first world". They invaded the land of the blue people, destroy their natural habitant and kill their people, and uproot their existence. Cameron also expose the wickedness of the west in the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other part of the world.

It explores the abuse of human rights and killing of babies, women and young people as we can see in Iraqi and Afghanistan, and the abuse of the Palestine by Israel backed by America and Britain.

So when it was time for awards, Cameron was seen at the BAFTA awards as a betrayal not fit for recognition, and in America he was considered as a not so good a director.

Though the "Blue people" were able to overcome the invasion of the "white people", many continent and countries were not so lucky in the past. Among them, my blessed Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas.

So when next you watch AVATAR, look beyond the film and see the message James Cameron is trying to tell.


Youngh said...

Interesting and very Insightful....

Anonymous said...


peripheries said...

Beside being manichean, ropy as and old western, with a paper thin scenario and subtle as 1D, that was probably the most over-hyped and over-rated movie of the year which made all the armchair warrior dream of being blue monkeys...

The myth of Mother Nature, which is good, compassionate, spiritual(in I don't know whose dream...) in all its spendor!


Do-You-Agree said...

Nice write up! Truly i like the idea and how you have shed more light on the need for Nigerians to protect our Heritage!

Now I understand the true interpretation of AVARTAR!