What Avatar (2009) Taught Me
When James Cameron’s CGI epic hit the theatres, I was a film critic for a local radio station. This meant I was invited to an early showing at 10am on a work day. I went to see it, I put on the glasses and marveled at specs flying through the air, swirling around me. But not much else. I was unimpressed. This was a film I had seen before. Pocahontas, Ferngully, Last of the Mohicans, etc., There are a ridiculous amount of parallels to draw from here.
So when I arrived back to my desk, I began feverishly writing “a technical achievement does not a story make”. I submitted the review to the website ready to launch after embargo. To my surprise, I gave it the lowest review over my fellow film buffs. I was literally shocked. Jaw dropped and just plain shocked. And that’s when it really hit me – people see things differently than I do. For some movie-goers, the swirling specs were enough for them. They didn’t need the rest of the story if the effects were on point.
Lesson 6: The lens in which you view the world is not the same lens that others use.
I’m reminded of this story today as I look at the news and see Donald Trump as the new President-Elect to our neighbouring country to the south. Yes, I am Canadian as I’m sure you’ve put together by the way I spell neighbour & theatre.
It was a late election and I did my best to stay awake but fell short. I decided to wake up early though to catch the results. The world of social media is devastated. I understand why, but as soon as President-Elect Trump entered the race, I thought he’d win. I’ve seen it before here in Toronto with our former mayor. And because I saw Avatar.
People like something they can understand. A simple story with a lot of hullaballoo. While I certainly can’t understand anything Donald says, what he does say is enough for a lot of people who aren’t me. And that’s why Avatar and the President-Elect get the box office results they were looking for.
And while I can speak easy in this ivory tower to the north, I understand the outrage. For all the reasons you have. The sad truth is I have friends living in America that may have to be turned away because they won’t be able to keep their worker visas if the NAFTA agreement is deconstructed. Highly educated people with jobs they’ve dreamed of and fought for. But people like simple stories they can understand and if you can give them a lot of sizzle, they’ll come back to you every time. Avatar had people returning every weekend for half a year!
Look, Donald Trump is a spectacle with small, easy to understand stories – he is the living Avatar film. The world is not what it should be or even close to the vision I want it to be. The world is just the place that it is, today. We thought there had been a lot of change, but there’s more work to do. Clearly, the majority of voters wanted to see the sequel, while the minority, saw it differently. This is why we’re getting 3 more Avatar films. And time will tell if Donald will get one too, with a second term.