Janus’s Interspecies Faces: Biomorphic Transformations in the Ecology of Mind in James Cameron’s Avatar

  • Daniel White


James Cameron’s Avatar (Three-Disc Extended Collector’s ed. Los Angeles: Produced by Twentieth Century Fox, in Associating with Dune Entertainment, Ingenious Film Partners, and Lightstorm Entertainment, 2009.) represents both the optimistic dreams and the postcolonial nightmares rising with digital media in the new era. The film is a technical masterpiece and, on a superficial level, provides a vision of panhuman and interspecies liberation in the context of colonialism and imperialism, here expanded to interplanetary spaces. Yet, at the same time, as its critics point out, the film becomes itself a vehicle of colonialist expansion, importing Eurocentric subjectivity and entrepreneurial exploitation into its hero’s, Jake Sully’s, composite human-Na’vi persona. Thus, film audiences are transported by the film into a fantasy of being heroes of democratization and indigenous rights while, in fact, being implicit in cultural and economic imperialism. Which view is right? For a wider perspective on the film, I draw upon Jason Moore’s Capitalism in the Web of Life, to combine dialectics with cybernetics in a critical-theoretical viewing of Avatar. Mental ecology forms the “mind” inextricably linked with the “bodies” of human and the myriad other species who form the laboring multitude of Gaia rising toward universal emancipation. The critical model here might be invoked in the interpretation of Black Panther (2018), and other films epitomizing conflicts of the Anthropocene.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel White
    • 1
  1. 1.Honors CollegeFlorida Atlantic UniversityJupiterUSA

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