An ‘Avatar’ Awakening

Let’s face it, if James Cameron had made a movie with the Iraqi resistance as the heroes and the U.S. military as the enemies, and had set it in Iraq or anywhere else on planet earth, the packed theaters viewing “Avatar” would have been replaced by a screening in a living room for eight people and a dog.

Nineteen years ago, Americans packed theaters for “Dances with Wolves” in which Native Americans became the heroes, but the story was set in a previous century and the message understated.

The Na’vi people of “Avatar” are very explicitly Iraqis facing “shock and awe,” as well as Native Americans with bows and arrows on horseback.  The “bad guys” in the battle scenes are U.S. mercenaries, essentially the U.S. military, and the movie allows us to see them, very much as they are right now in 177 real nations around the world, through the eyes of their victims.

People know this going into the movie, and do not care. For better, and certainly for worse, they do not care.

Millions of people stand in lines, shell out big bucks, wear stupid-looking 3-D glasses, sit in the dark for three hours, identify with twelve-foot-high pointy-eared blue people, cheer as the credits roll, and simply do not care that actual human beings suffer the same fate as the computer-generated creations, albeit without miraculous happy endings.

Imagine if a tenth of the people who now sympathize with these bony blue beings were to take three hours to read a book or watch a movie about the people of Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Yemen or Iran. Our real planet would then be a different world.

When I saw “Avatar” in a packed 3-D theater in Virginia, and the crowd cheered the closing shot, I shouted: “And get out of Iraq too!” No one cheered for that. But no one called me a traitor either.

But will anyone in that crowd lift a finger to pressure their representatives in Congress to stop funding the evil they’d just seen sanitized, animated, relocated, and ever so slightly disguised?

Rob Kall at OpEd News suggested that we make flyers to hand out at theaters following screenings of “Avatar.” Having now seen the film, I think he’s right. Here’s a flyer (PDF). Here’s the text:


Did you know that the Na’vi people are real, their troubles are real, and you can be a hero who saves them? It’s true!

The story of “Avatar” is the story of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries attacked and occupied by U.S. mercenaries and U.S. troops.

It’s harder to think about that, than it is to sympathize with giant blue computer-animated creatures. But it’s extremely important that you take the step to explicitly admit to yourself what you’ve just watched in this movie, and that you take the additional step of doing something about it.

You don’t have to ride a dragon or shoot an arrow, but you do have to call this number 202-224-3121 and ask to speak with your representative in the U.S. House of Representatives and tell them that their career will be over if they vote another dime to pay for the evil depicted in “Avatar.”

Tell them that investing your money in education, transportation, energy, or infrastructure produces many more jobs than investing it in killing. Tell them that diplomacy and aid work better than bombs, and that we do not need unobtainium, which is called that for a reason, although we know it as “oil”.

Call every day until you get the right answer, and report your daily progress at

David Swanson is co-founder of and author of the new book Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union by Seven Stories Press. You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town by visiting

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8 Responses for “An ‘Avatar’ Awakening”

  1. yoshi says:

    Its sad that you cannot disconnect from the world long enough to just enjoy a movie and that that you feel the need to project your ideology into everything that you see and ruin an entertainment experience for a group of people . If you yelled “and get out of Iraq too” in the theatre I was saw the movie in I wouldn’t of called you an traitor – I would of called you an idiot.

  2. mcthorogood says:

    I agree that its sad you can’t disconnect from reality and just enjoy yourself. The really sad part is that the majority of Americans are permanently disconnected from reality and live out their lives in a hyper-reality of knownothingness. Go and enjoy your movie.

  3. demosthenes says:

    Whether or not you disconnect from reality to enjoy the movie as entertainment is irrelevant. The author’s point is that the same Americans — sheep– will blindly follow as our government commits horrible offenses against other nations, including invasion, nation-building, war-mongering, and generally meddling in 177 countries where it is none of our business. Now, if you are one of these moronic sheep who feels your government is morally correct in any of the wars mentioned in this article, then I pity you and your corrupt moral system. What you call “disconnected,” an educated person would call “desensitized.” In the 1990s there was a lot of concern over the amount of violence our children watched, and since we cannot trust American sheep to raise their own children without society’s brand of approval on everything we do, we allowed the FCC and other govt agencies to censor our forms of entertainment like this was Nazi Germany or socialist Soviet Russia under Stalin. The truth is, all americans, regardless of age, are subject to desensitization by media and entertainment, to the point where we no longer value human life or the sanctity of sovreginty. To say that you “disconnect” from reality when you watch a movie is to admit that you are sheep, and that you are desensitized to the point where other human rights, human life, and the right to self-govern are not as important as acheiving paranoid, self-benefitting, xenophobic foreign policy goals designed to keep the top 4% of earth’s population consuming 27% of its natural resources and 34% of its wealth. The truly sad part is that any sheep can sit there and watch this movie without allowing themselves to assimilate its message and apply it to real-world situations. It should smack of the injustices caused by the American military abroad, and should ring true to anyone who has served: we ARE the global bad guys. Whether or not you enjoy yourself at the movie, please remember that such horrors do occur in real life and that your tax dollars are supporting the deaths and removal of rights of millions of foreigners in 177 different sovreign nations we have a permanent military presence in. I’ll be Mr. Yoshi up there claims that Schindler’s List didn’t remind him of the holocaust and make him feel for the victims. Typical sheep response. Go pay your blood money in taxes so you can support killing Iraqi children, and when you shell out $7.50 to see this in theatre, remember that real life is generally reflected in our art forms, such as cinema, and please remember the 117,000 non-combantant Iraqis killed so far by “real American heroes.” Since terrorism is defined by Oxford English Dictionary as “use of force or threat of force to coerce a population or government into meeting our demands,” it should be noted that the American military is, in effect, the largest, best-funded, and most-murderous terrorist organization in the world– backed by your self-righteous, xenophobic, irreverant American government. Take a message from this movie, and help the generation of our progeny to live in a better world than Avatar.

  4. Michelle says:

    You are insane. Really. You need help! The situation in the Middle East is in no way like the situation in Avatar. We are not overtaking coutries over there, or attacking their holy places. I can see how maybe Dances with Wolves was similar in some ways to Avatar but other than that your entire post is a bunch of BS!

  5. Clearbrook says:

    Being Native American, I find the Author here Racially Discriminatory to say that Iraq, Afghanastan, Iran, Yemen or Pakistan are anywhere near the same thing as American Indians! He offends me, deeply! That Indians were used in the French and Indian wars (and only some tribes, mind you, unfortunately ones related to me..) as bloodthristy mercs does not mean that the Jihadists are Like Mercenaries working for a buck and making it bad for their brethren! Nope. They are just plain nuts! Fruit Loops! That we have power and *do* have agendas, (mostly about peace and security — not economic conquest) does not make this the same thing a what happened to *my* people! Although not everything we do overseas is right by a long shot, some of what we do wrong is letting evil prevail where we have the power to do otherwise!

    Are we herding Iraqis off to Reservations and telling them that is the only land they have? Are we taking their Holy Land and calling it ours, and they better stay out? Nope. Nope. Do we treat them even half as bad as American Indians were treated (and are still treated today, mind you — it is much better to be black than Indian, for the most part!) and say it was our Destiny to take their land? No Freaking Way!

    That Avatar might be a commentary that is worthy of saying we did something wrong might be the intent of the Movie’s Producer or Director. That is fair for them to delude themselves about. However, although I consider what happens in the movie reflects the History of the Indians, I don’t try to stretch it to Iraq and Iran, etc in some hashish dream like the Author of the article has here. Iranians are not Repressed by the US in any way close to the same method in the movie. That connection, although good for wine sipping conversation of the disconnected liberals who have done *nothing* for my people, is of *NO* relevant social value. It is entertainment at best. When it trys to reach that “feel good” place of being “penitent americans” it is so full of it that it stinks like the dead! Go appologise for what you did to *My* People, Jerks!!! You want to be penitent? Give us half of what you gave those who might have been realated to slaves 150 years ago! There were more of US than there *ever* were of the Slaves! We deserve treatment at least as good as they!

  6. Clearbrook says:

    By the way, demosthenes, you need to look who killed your 117,000 non-combantant Iraqis. Gasp! The numbers that you hear on the news fromtime to time are quite clear, although the Liberal Media only wants you to use their numbers for *their* reasons, not the *truth* if it is against them!

    Gasp! Insurgents have killed better than 11 to 1 the people reported as civilian causualties. Know I know that some of those casualties killed by americans and officially claimed as direct combatants may not be so. However, if I were to grant you leeway in suggesting that not one of them were truely combatants, then the ratio would fall to around (just shy of) 7 to 1!!! Damn. We are just not doing as good a job as the militant insurgents from Iran, I guess! Yes, they are from Iran (at least some of them are) when they are found with Iranian Currency in their pockets that they can’t use to buy anthing in Iraq with, I tend to think that. Unless they are tourists who just happen to carry and use automatic weapons and RPGs, etc. I’d like to be able to go to Mexico and have fun like that!!!

  7. anti_fascist_freedom_fighter says:

    BS Clearbrook. Cite your source for such a nonsense fact that 11-1 were killed by the insurgents. Hogwash. The US declined to report how many the US killed, claiming they “don’t do body counts” as a part of their propaganda control of US journalism. They learned from Viet Nam to control the images of death and destruction and to control the images of dead soldiers coming back to the USA – keep it all sanitized for der Heimat!

    It’s obvious to anyone who looks into it that America is an empire building militaristic fascist state. The war on terror is a ruse so we can conquer and subjugate every strategic resource-rich nation on earth for the benefit of multi-national corporations. Swanson and Desmonthenes hit it right on the head, and if that upsets your little tummies, well, take some rolaids, turn on Dancing With the Stars, and make yourself a little note to maybe think about it tomorrow.

    I’ll give you another one. If Star Wars was a real movie, its the Americans who would be living inside the Deathstar – the wouldn’t be the good guys in white, i.e., Luke Skywalker and Chewie… Those guys would be the Iraquis and the Afghanis… Even our uniforms, and helmets, match that of the Nazis….

    I had a building super at a building where I rented an apartment, and she had lived in Germany during the war. “Hitler was a good man! He did a lot of great things for our country! Germany was a very wonderful place to live under Hitler!” Clearbrook, Michelle, and Yoshi are just happy, thoughtless fascist drones, who think our wonderful strong soldiers must be in-the-right, because Ve are Vinning, und das NEWS FROM DAS FRONT is Good, mein comradern!

  8. dent says:

    to the people who are ridiculing the auther of the artical now i say to you that you must be completly oblivious to the point his making or you wouldn’t have been so rash to comment. he’s saying that sheep like you who can show sorrow on three hours for animated characters being opressed but with every day the news will report in afganistan and it doesn’t effect you in the slightest. people are living in afganistan normal people who fear for thier lives as thier small communities are turned to battlegrounds for NATO forces and the taliban if fighting occured outside your home you would call the police to stop the voilence, why can’t you take the time to argue against your goverment to stop the fighting there

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