I’ve been a science-fiction fan all my life. As a youngling, to put it in Yodaspeak, I watched the first episode of Star Trek ever broadcast, on my Grandparent’s color TV. So when I say I’m not enthused about “Avatar” it’s not because I’m cold to the genre. Granted, there’s just something about cerulean-hued biped cats flying around on dragons that doesn’t hit me precisely where I live these days, and I have to admit that the trailers did not impress me with the aliens’ realism. Gollum I could buy; these guys looked like Play-Doh. But I’m sure it’s better in high-def 3D. No, it was something else in the trailer: when the vast hordes of spacecraft and munitions showed up, I wanted them to be the good guys. Please let them be defending something. Is that too much to ask?
Apparently. The technological forces of the Earth are, of course, the Very Bad Guys. (Enjoy this vivacious rant for more.) They’ve come to a planet to steal resources, and shoot the locals if they interfere. As Lord Vader would say: impressive. Good-heartened people everywhere are meant to sympathize with the locals, naturally, and the entire plot is built around a soldier who switches sides and leads the aliens against the marauders. This would have been an interesting twist – 50 years ago.
You’d think that up until, oh, three hours ago we were making movies where cowboys were good guys, shooting treacherous Injuns while wearing white hats, pausing only to sing songs about The Trail and the Last Round-Up and other fictional conceits that undergird the myth of the west. But we’ve been revising that old story for 50, 60 years. For heaven’s sake, the old “Gunsmoke” radio shows regarded the “Indians” with respect, and reserved its concept for men who didn’t know enough to treat them with dignity. They ran a half-century ago, and if the message was so culturally offensive, it didn’t interfere with a seven-year run.
Obligatory but-of-course for the congenitally dim: not to say all such plots have been Fair and Balanced. But the anti-narrative is now the narrative, and it has been so for years. It you really wanted a revisionist story, try this: some scientists show up on a primitive planet to study its environment and perhaps bring a few benefits of civilization to its tribes. Unfortunately, they’re shape-shifting religious maniacs who believe that progress is evil, and use their knowledge of special herbs and spices to infiltrate the newcomer’s home world and kill them all at the behest of their tree-god. You’d still get the opportunity to depict and alien world in all its CGI beauty; you’d still get spacecraft vs. dragons.
But you’d have something unacceptable to modern critics, who are so irrevocably wedded to the Imperialism narrative they cannot possibly imagine that the strongest civilization might actually have merits – indeed, it is strong because it figured out something unique about the combination of freedom, invention, scientific inquiry and exploration. Unless that’s just too chauvinistic. Perhaps. But you wonder if Hollywood could make Casablanca today without changing its allegiances. Or at least having Rick and Renault walk off through the fog, heading to Iowa to exchange vows.Login to Listen
Episodes of The Hugh Hewitt Show Podcast are available to Hughniverse members only.
Commercial Free Audio
Access to a commercial free archive of The Hugh Hewitt Radio Show Podcast.
Listen to the show anytime you want.
24 hours a day / 7 days a week. Whenever and Wherever.