Hypocritical or helpful?
Today in Hill/Street Greens, from the Street…
The movie director James Cameron will embark on an eco-tour of Alberta, Canada’s tar sands (aka the controversial Canadian oil development), which he recently referred to as a “black eye” on the country. Did you know that Alberta native activist George Poitras of the Mikisew First Nation met with Cameron this weekend at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and that the Hollywood heavyweight pledged to visit the Athabasca oil sands project first-hand? Now the comparisons between his latest movie Avatar, Pocahontas and Dances with Wolves can truly get under way. Hoo-boy.
The director-cum-eco activist (which I’ve shortened to directovist) has been swigging at the blue Kool-aid he so expertly concocted last year with his environmentalist epic Avatar, which Cameron screened in New York on Saturday night to coincide with the U.N. gathering.
The Canadian-born director recently chastised Alberta in the press for causing a “black eye” to Canada’s environmental record – he’s also been touting his Academy Award-winning Sci-Fi epic’s debut on Blu-ray and DVD. It was released on Earth Day, natch. I’m torn here.
Joining the Canadian environmentalist bandwagon is a good thing. There is a groundswell of complaints that spillage and seepage at Alberta’s oil sands project in Canada’s north is a disaster in the making. But does James Cameron have to be the tip of the movement’s iceberg? (Sorry.) His popular movie is just so riddled with contradictions, after all.
With themes of colonialism, terrorism, malevolent corporations and destruction of the Earth, Avatar is very much a public service announcement pitched as a movie for all audiences. (It’s got action! And romance! And fantasy! And a political agenda somewhere that would make Al Gore…wait for it…green.) The film depicts invading, technology-worshiping, environment-ravaging humans who are set upon by an angry planet and its noble inhabitants. Fine. But then comes the hypocrisy. Cameron’s story clearly curses the proliferation of human technology. In Avatar, the science and machinery of humankind leads to soulless violence and destruction. It only serves to pollute the primitive but pristine paradise enjoyed by the indigenous peoples the director invented called the Na’vi.
But the process of setting that vision on the silver screen is an example of that science and machinery in action. Is there an industry more conflicted with its carbon footprint than movie-making? And is that industry best represented by James Cameron? His film cost upwards of $300 million to make. How many natural cycles of life on earth did it disrupt in the process? How much carbon dioxide was produced? Why is it okay for James Cameron to devote entire rooms filled with energy-gobbling computers to amplify his environmental morals? Especially in the wake of a media push that included Life magazine running a photo spread titled “Avatar: Jet-Setting with the Cast.” Dovetails with trumpeting a lighter carbon footprint campaign beautifully, doesn’t it?
I am curious to see if people will actually pick up on Cameron’s mixed message. His movie distributor certainly didn’t: Neither the DVD nor the Blue-ray boasts the eco-friendly packaging that Pixar’s Wall-E flaunted when it hit the shelves. So Avatar‘s green message has been imprinted on landfill-destined items.
Cameron says that his film’s environmental message is a lesson for all moviegoers to accept. He explains that our planet “will be a dying world if we don’t make some fundamental changes about how we view ourselves and how we view wealth. We’re going to have to live with less.”
Pixar, for its part, was clever. The company distanced itself from Wall-E‘s eco sensibilities, with director Andrew Stanton telling reporters, “I don’t have an ecological message to push. I don’t mind that it supports that kind of view.”
Editor’s Note: This is the latest installment in Christopher Correa’s weekly column, Hill/Street Greens, examining the environmental deeds (and misdeeds) of Washington, D.C. and Wall Street.