Trailer for the 2009 film Avatar exemplifying the eco-Utopian discourse
Avatar demonstrates how symbolic resources circulate in the global media ecosystem in complex and contradictory ways. On the surface, Avatar is a typical product of the culture industry. Its production, marketing, product tie-ins, and normal hype that accompanies blockbuster films point to it being just another Hollywood spectacle appropriating social anxieties for profit. In particular, the film was criticized as a simplistic New Age fantasy that demeans and stereotypes indigenous cultures. Yet audiences reacted profoundly to the movie. The film visualizes a war of opposing knowledge systems: one based on the commodification of natural resources versus a sophisticated ecoculture struggling against colonial forces of extraction and destruction. The former is represented by a extractivist corporate colonial forces attempting to conquer what they view as a lifeless planet, and the latter by its native inhabitants, the Na’vi, who are connected to Pandora as an entity that is animate and alive. The Na’vi are an example of the eco-Utopian discourse. As a melodrama about the conflicts between anthropocentric and ecocentric values, it likely resonates with global audiences because of how it dramatizes a struggle that is ongoing and real on contemporary planet Earth.