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Political messages in sci-fi nothing new

January 6, 2010

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FEW SCIENCE-FICTION fans will be surprised, as Martha Bayles (“The marketing of a global blockbuster,’’ Op-ed, Jan. 2) apparently was, to find political messages in James Cameron’s “Avatar.’’ Science fiction films have been using aliens to comment on events here on Earth since “The Day the Earth Stood Still’’ and “The Thing’’ in 1951.

In her surprise, however, Bayles has misread the film’s message. The invaders from Earth who plunder Pandora are driven by profit, not politics.

That alone makes the film a poor analogy for the Iraq War, but an excellent analogy for imperialist misadventures from the Spanish in Peru and the British in India to the Belgians in the Congo and the United States in the Philippines.

If there is a criticism to be leveled against the film’s political message, it’s that the message is not new. “Avatar’’ feels, philosophically, as if it could be titled “Lawrence of Pandora’’ or “Dances with Na’vi.’’

A. Bowdoin Van Riper
Marietta, Ga.
The writer is in the social and international studies
department at Southern Polytechnic State University.

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