In reading reviews of Avatar, I can’t help making mental comparisons with another couple of films from a different war era–Olympia and Triumph of the Will. Although Goebbels was the official minister of propaganda, he was no match for the artistic genius and popular appeal of Riefenstahl. Such is the surpassing power of great art as an instrument of great evil.
I have no inherent problem with moviegoers who can bracket the political allegory and simply enjoy Avatar at a purely aesthetic or mythopoetic level.
But reading about moviegoers who give it a standing ovation when it celebrates the defeat of the American armed forces–not to mention when it glorifies an American soldier who turns against his own comrades, what are we to think?
At the intended, allegorical level, that represents an American soldier who becomes a jihadist. Is that what moviegoers are applauding? The triumph of militant Islam?
Therein lies the power and peril of great art. It disarms the critical sense. The unwary and undiscerning viewer is swept away in the heat of the moment–just like the malleable German masses in Riefenstahl’s insidious masterpieces.