A brief look at the lessons of cultural integration as shown in the film, Avatar.
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. This is an expression that holds true to a variety of situations including modern globalized thinking. Each culture throughout the world is different. Even those who share physical borders with each other can have different living conditions, culture, problems and inherent benefits. The allure of something new and different can have a tremendous impact on an individual’s happiness. The possibility of discovering something that wouldn’t exist in someone’s home culture is an especially risky though inviting prospect. These non-indigenous pieces of life can range from economy, quality of life, medical care, political environment, and even love.
We are all born into a culture that accepts us as one of it’s members. This is due to a relationship between the individual and the mother culture. This relationship is a dynamic shaping of each entity. The mother culture has an active role in the shaping of an individual’s personality, dreams, aspirations and direction in life. While the individual when grouped with others make up the culture. The mother culture and the individual both define each other.
Occasionally an individual comes around who through life events or due to a progressive upbringing is able to accept another culture as a primary culture. Sometimes this is due to disillusionment with one’s own environment, traumatic emotional experiences or just a new perspective that comes with experience. In the film, “Avatar”, Jake Sully is a war veteran who has lost the use of his legs as a result of his service. he is then stuck without the money to pay for the surgery to fix his wounds and becomes collateral damage of the capitalist society in which he lives. A society that has exhausted most natural resources, one in which urban centers are over crowded and crime runs rampant.
It is because of the loss of part of himself as symbolized by the death of his twin brother by his society that he agrees to travel to another world named Pandora and help with experiments involving the local population known as the Na’vi. At first Jake finds a comfort level working within the military system until he finds himself lost in the wilderness in his Avatar body and comes across a Na’vi female, Neytiri. It is through Neytiri that we are introduced into the true culture of her people. As expected in tis genre, Jake falls in love with her despite many differences; cultural only being one of these.
He finds a sense of community, acceptance and spirituality that his culture had lost a long time ago. He finds a cause worth dying for and he finds the happiness that he had never experienced. This film is of a similar plot as Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, and The Last Samurai. It is one that many people can relate to. Most people wish for a better life though many do not know how to go about it which is a true sadness about today’s society. We are taught that the culture we live in is the best possible and are not given the tools to regard other societies in a positive light.
While the catalyst for this film was environmental concerns and displacing peoples from the Amazon River basin the true value of this film is the recognition that a path to true happiness may involve stepping outside yourself and seeing the world through a different light. If this is possible it eliminates many societal boundaries that one may not even knew were there. After all, love is the great unifier and if a person can help to build a bridge between two communities a whole word of possibilities opens up. That is how you change the world.