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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

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Ahistoricality

you've put the invention of the wheel before domestication of animals

I tell my students all the time: it's not the exact dates that matter, it's getting things in the right order, and putting the right things together.

SEK

I'm glad someone liked that line, as I was inordinately proud of it before realizing its probable origin was in the months of my life lost to playing Civilizations.

Richard Pennyfarthing

I think Jake Sully "revels in the toys that the world has provided for him" because in "real" life he's paralyzed.

P.T. Smith

I tell my students all the time: it's not the exact dates that matter, it's getting things in the right order, and putting the right things together.

Awesome lesson, seriously. I am the absolute worst at numbers - the second they appear I get confused and a little scared - and I am terrible at any sort of memorization, but I always did really well in any social studies/history course because I never bothered trying to remember dates, just understanding what events had to happen before others to make them possible. No one taught that to me though, good that you are doing it.

P.T. Smith

I'm glad someone liked that line, as I was inordinately proud of it before realizing its probable origin was in the months of my life lost to playing Civilizations.

Did that realization diminish the sense of pride, or the feeling that the pride was inordinate? Because if I were you, I'd opt for the latter.

Karl Steel

great post, Scott. I'm glad I watched me some Herzog and some McCarthy adaptation on Xmas instead of Cameron.

Karl Steel

I think Jake Sully "revels in the toys that the world has provided for him" because in "real" life he's paralyzed.
And the easy take away from that is that we have a straightforward mind (Jake)/body (Na'vi) split dynamic, with all that implies.

zunguzungu

When I wrote "revels in the toys that the world has provided for him," I was thinking of the way he discovers that the planet has all sorts of fun inside-a-pinball-machine plants to play with, and (as if they are like a pinball machine) he goes around slapping them. The thoughtless viciousness of it reminded me of nothing more than a 9 year old, convinced of his centrality in the universe, walking around smashing stuff with a stick because he can. But surely a marine on an alien world would have more sense? apparently not.

Ahistoricality

But surely a marine on an alien world would have more sense?

Known many marines, have you?

Jack

Hey Scott,

Have you seen kvond's (Frames /sing) series of posts on Avatar? They're something of a sideways take on the issues you're discussing here. The concluding section of the second post is perhaps the most relevant:

"Indeed the ideological and plot-character layerings work to dis-fuse the viewer in any number of directions, sending her or him into sweet spots of recognized cover, core inter-relation. But this is only a means for the potential to remove the “remote” in remote control. To assume the avatarship of one’s life. For this reason the racial component is an interesting aspect of the plot telling. There certainly is a “white” amid the ethnicity (and animality). But I think we should be careful not to polarize this into an essential binary (there is a “male” as well, and also a “class”). Instead what the experiments of technological achievement suggested by the film imply is something of the order that anatomy IS destiny, or rather, anatomy is possibility. Sully must take on the anatomy of another species in order to perform their world. Ultimately though, our anatomy is our technology (and not just our signification). Our bodies are made of the fibres, and switches, and tempos of all that extends us into the world. “White” is simply that which consciously refuses this dis-location as a mode of its own affect control. In this way there can be said to be something “white” in the Na’vi as well.

We must transmute our anatomies before the alien of the world. For those viewers that granted innocence to the film, Cameron already has performed a first transmutation. And sometimes those who have not logged hundreds of hours in the technology are better suited for the avatarship."

Here's his last post which links to all the others: http://kvond.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/the-becoming-woman-of-machine-in-avatar-a-comparison-with-the-fist-of-white-lotus/

Kvond

Headless wrote: "The whole point of the film is to stuff brains in those bodies, so which brains are stuffed into which bodies is not a minor point, it is the point."

Kvond: I have to say that this is precisely NOT the point. The point is that WHEN you stuff a brain into a body, it is transformed by that body, that there is no brain (really, mind)/body pure split. Instead, once Sully's brain is stuffed into the Na'vi form, it becomes altered (it does not direct that body like an superior instrumentality), sculpted not only by that body, but the entire body/environment interface. Remember as well, the "body" that Sully enters is not some "other" body, but rather a body woven in part from his own body's DNA (well, his twin brother's).

Ahistoricality

Tell it to Poul Anderson, Kvond.

Chet

The Na'vi possess all the agency of a leukocyte: they may respond individually, but they are not, properly speaking, individuals.

I think this is an unjustifiable interpretation of their ecology. They're only "online" with Eywa when physically in contact with it, and even while doing so they're not lost to it, like Picard in the Borg. It's really more like the planet acts as a collective, but passive, memory silo for the Na'vi. They're no less individuals as a result than you or I might be as we use the internet, and participate in collective knowledge projects like Wikipedia or blogging.

If they have no agency it seems strange for them to gather in supplication of their deity, but they do that in several scenes.

What I was curious about is why they have a ritual for the transfer of a consciousness from one body to another. Who did they have to do that to before the introduction of the humans and their empty avatars?

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