January 29th, 2010
I think I have the Na’vi blues. You know, the pandemic that’s running rampant across the country, affecting mostly dorks and the emotionally unstable? If you’ve escaped as a result of either a staunch (and well grounded) refusal to watch James Cameron movies, or because you’re just awesome and/or mentally healthy – the Na’vi blues has been classified as depression brought on by watching James Cameron’s Avatar and the crushing realization that real life will never, ever be as beautiful as Pandora.
Although, in Pandora you run the risk of being eaten by a giant rat thing and stomped by enormous rhinos, not to mention the imminent threat of being clawed to death by the big bird-dragons. (In my perfect paradise, all wildlife is fuzzy, vegetarian and likes to cuddle.) Never mind all that though, when you get past the ridiculously dangerous predators in Pandora, you get to plug your hair into plants and CGI’d animals and commune with nature.
I think we’re all suffering from the Pandora Blues. It’s been a creeping epidemic for some time now, and I think we have James Cameron to blame. The Abyss was the first movie to exhibit unearthly CGI effects, Cameron’s stilted writing and character development. Titanic followed in the tradition, bigger than life sets, ships, characters, flowing dresses that in real life would have caught on fire as Rose ran in slow motion through the coal burning room.
I don’t think Avatar is to blame, necessarily, but I do think it pushed us over the edge. There are a lot of CGI wonder movies out this year. The Lovely Bones is another that created a heaven (sorry – not heaven, it’s the in-between) that is so beyond our imagining beautiful that it makes our everyday lives look drab by comparison. That’s kind of the problem though, in The Lovely Bones, the novel by Alice Sebold – Susie Salmon’s in-between wasn’t glorious CGI’d rolling planets of butterflies and turquoise skies melting into impossibly high snow-capped mountains.
It was a the high school where Susie would have gone if she hadn’t died, and hundreds of dogs that ran across the field to her house at twilight to play. It was faintly skunk-scented air that reminded her of home. It was effective in its simplicity. If Sebold’s theory that we create our own afterlife is correct, that is more on par with what us normal folks will imagine, it won’t be enormous blooming roses trapped under a lake of clear blue tinted ice, it will be our homes at the time we felt most safe, most at peace. It will be warm oatmeal cookies and fireplaces that keep the house just perfectly cozy.
But that doesn’t make for very good cinema, does it? So Avatar and The Lovely Bones both have broken the bar for beautiful. Anything else will too much like real life – no wonder we’re depressed.
It’s all symptomatic of a much bigger restlessness. We’ve made our celebrities impossibly good looking, too skinny to be a ‘normal’ person, their lives too dramatic to be at all comparable to our own. We revel in finding photographs of celebrities doing ‘normal’ stuff like going to the coffee shop without makeup on – in fact you can get whole tabloids who specialize in celebrities without makeup doing human things like buying groceries. Then we sit back and act shocked that they aren’t red carpet gorgeous all the time.
It seeps into our politics. We want wondrous results, and we want them NOW. While logically we know that many of the reasons for our current economic recession started eight, even ten years ago – you see hoards of outraged voters, ready to drop kick Obama for not fixing the problem in under a year. Before Obama was even inaugurated you started hearing hints of ‘The Obama Recession’.
I think it’s less about politics, I find that the more the person actually knows about politics, the less likely they are to start pointing fingers at any one president be it Obama, Bush or Clinton.
No, I think it’s more of the Pandora Depression, we took the concept of Hope and Change and turned it into 200 story tall trees with little white jelly fish magical souls floating on our shoulders when it should have been a gentle twilight and a field of happy dogs.
Hope and Change are concepts, the reality of our country and our lives is that things take time, and the results rarely resemble what you imagined. The real power of Hope and Change is the concept that you will always be able to deal with unexpected results and gradually, over time, forward motion won’t be as difficult as it once was.