Avatar — stereotypes and clichés

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According to David Walsh

[Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times] writes: “Perhaps the most surprising thing about Cameron’s visual accomplishments is that they are so powerful we’re barely troubled by the same weakness for flat dialogue and obvious characterization that put such a dent in Titanic.”

Perhaps Mr. Turan should speak for himself.

His contention, that the obvious, hackneyed elements don’t “matter as much” this time because of Avatar’s visual strengths, is echoed by numerous commentators (Denby and others, including Manohla Dargis of the New York Times, who asserts that “the movie’s truer meaning is in the audacity of its filmmaking”). This is a bad argument. Stereotypes and clichés are not neutral, “value-free” phenomena in any artistic context—they falsify life and stunt thinking.

The “left” variant of this argument, and it is one presently circulating, that cartoon characters are permissible as long as they bolster a “progressive” theme, is just as pernicious. This takes for granted that the population could not come to terms with more complex, contradictory movies.

According to Nick Cohen

The populist mood is seductive. When you are caught up in a focus group or planning meeting it can feel reasonable to give the sovereign consumer what he or she wants. Participants have to shake themselves into realising that if they followed the same principles with the young, children would never learn to read and write. In the end, populism always ends up as the truest version of elitism, because it assumes that the peasants do not want their little heads bothered with difficult ideas.

See also “The great books speak with everyone” and “Head music and epic theater“.

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