Last night Mike and I watched the middle third of Avatar. (We watched the first third two nights ago and, one presumes, will watch the third third tonight; time was when we could watch a long movie in one sitting, but now we are old and fall asleep at the slightest provocation, except when we want to, in which case we lie awake staring at the ceiling for hours (in Mike's case) or go downstairs and eat chocolate (in mine). )
I enjoyed Avatar when I saw it in the movie theater. I thought it was visually gorgeous and deeply moving. At the same time I was deeply disturbed by its politics. "Yeah," I said to friends the next day, "I just saw Blue Like Me." Thank God the white guy could come and save all the colored people. The—I don't know what to call it; blueface?—aspect just made it feel more shamefully self-satisfied.
The thing that I could never figure out was whether their acceptance/celebration of him once he showed up riding the Great Leonopteryx was realistic or just an Orientalist fantasy. On the one hand, it was his fault that the humans were there in the first place, and how could that be forgiven him in any way? On the other hand, he did lead them to a victory that implied the humans would never come back, so from a certain perspective they were better off even though he'd destroyed their home, and they did place a pretty high premium on being Toruk Makto. I tried and tried to figure out an analog in my life so that I could test the proposition, but I failed.
Then, last night, when the Home Tree fell, Mike—I'd mentioned my difficulty to him—said, "Well, obviously, it's 9/11." And I was like, Jesus Christ, I'm an idiot.
And it was pretty easy from that point on. I mean, imagine (if you're an American) somebody shows up, insinuates himself into your life, makes you trust him and like him, and then says, oh, by the way, I gave Osama bin Laden the plans to the World Trade Center. As far as I'm concerned, at least, nothing he did after that could possibly lead me to forgive him. He could probably manage it so that I would only want to see him exiled or thrown in prison forever rather than being executed for treason—which is saying something, since the list of people I think should be executed for treason is a long one—but if he was then like, oh, my friend Sigourney Weaver is dying, can you help her, I'd be like, fuck off.
"The Omaticaya," said Mike when I suggested as much to him, "are much more forgiving than we are. You can tell because they're blue and wear loincloths."
I'm almost hesitant to post this, given how obvious it all seems now that I've figured it out, but one of my new year's resolutions is to revivify my moribund blog, and it seems I'm now well-medicated enough to prefer follow-through to avoiding embarrassment.
Note, please, that none of this makes the colors in Avatar any less pretty.