Why It's OK for Conservatives to Enjoy Avatar

So Avatar fits into a long tradition, with a few asides that can safely be ignored. What kind of observer of contemporary geopolitics really supposes that what the U.S. has been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan amounts to fighting terror with terror? Only the most juvenile one.

Though the Na’vi in the movie may be meant to have overtones of American Indians (because of their close kinship with nature), the Viet Cong (they live in a jungle and fight the U.S. military), or the shocked-and-awed Iraqi insurgency, they are no more than 21st-century Ewoks. We like them because they’re cute and they’re fun to share adventures with.

Without intending to, moreover, Cameron has provided an important lesson about taking care of our military. Like the Ewoks, who managed to knock over armored imperial stormtroopers by firing tiny wooden arrows not much bigger than fondue forks, the Na’vi in Avatar highlight a weakness in their foes. The Marines’ majestic helicopter-like aircraft have windshields that, in one scene, are impervious to automatic weapons but a few scenes later prove entirely pervious to wooden arrows. Lesson: make sure your military has the correct weapons and defenses for your enemy. Besides, wrongheaded as the Marines in the movie are, Cameron at times seems shocked by his own awe of iron-tough jarheads and their beautiful killing machines. Cameron may be a liberal, but at least he’s no pacifist.

There’s also a property rights issue at stake. The corporation has traversed the galaxy for the sole purpose of harvesting Pandora’s resources and is resolved to take them by force if no agreement can be made. Conservatives who don’t like eminent domain power grabs in Connecticut should be pleased that local property owners are sticking up for their rights a million miles away.

If box office returns mean anything, Avatar is as close as any movie of the decade to holding a place in the popular imagination akin to the one Star Wars held for children of the 1970s. Both movies are, at their core, about the joys of rebellion and justified battle against an oppressor, framed in dazzling technology no one had ever seen before. Cheering on the upstarts of Na’vi shouldn’t be any more troubling to you than cheering on Luke and Han.