Experiencing "Avatar" for the second time on IMAX 3-D, I found myself pondering how unusual it is to find ourselves rooting for the ETs, when the choice is between life and death, between us and them. In other films such as "ET" and "Close Encounters" it was not an existential choice.
Turns out the enemy is us.
Leaving aside the Gaia Theory so beautifully depicted in "Avatar" -- that of Earth as one sentient, interconnected organism -- when we consider the biological fact that all humans share 99.9 percent of our DNA, what someone said about all war being a civil war takes on literal meaning. Despite such superficial differences as skin pigmentation - -not to mention our beliefs -- we are ONE race. Interestingly, we also share 98.4 percent of our DNA with chimps, and 50 percent with bananas.
The film pits archetypal forces locked in mortal conflict: Nature/The Goddess (Eywa/Gaia) versus the culmination of the patriarchy -- the Military/Industrial Complex -- personified by the Colonel and the Company Guy. We watch in helpless dismay as the Colonel contentedly admires the destruction that he has prematurely ordered at terrible cost to the Indigenous Na'vi, so that he can get back to dinner.
While the military is portrayed as the epitome of worldly power, seemingly unstoppable with its "shock and awe"-inspiring technology, ultimately they are hired hands. Surprise, surprise: It's all about money and these goons answer to investors and the bottom line, for which they kill, destroy, manipulate and deceive, no matter what the consequences. The real enemy is greed and the real power is the Corporation that has hired them to extract an extremely valuable mineral, the largest deposit of which lies underground beneath the Na'vis' home.
A college friend, Michelle, had a gender theory about New York architecture: the Empire State? Feminine -- tall, slender, graceful elegant lines. The World Trade Center? Masculine -- studly, angular lines. The Chrysler? An over-the-top, flamboyant drag queen. Is it not fascinating that it was the bastion of masculinity, the center for trade and commerce, that was attacked -- along with the Pentagon -- by the regime most oppressive of women in the world? In a way, the symbolism of 9/11 was the patriarchy imploding, taking itself out.
In "Avatar," the ultimate source of power turns out to be the Goddess, the Great Mother. The Na'vi have no fancy weapons, but their connectedness to Nature unleashes her power. The Feminine emerges victorious: Intuition. Living in balance. The interconnectedness of all life. The ancient wisdom of the ancestors.
We are presented a male heroic figure, but the Na'vi princess is as fierce a warrior herself. Nature surrenders to her too, in the spiritual sense of the word. Together they defeat the bad guy, but it is she who delivers the coup de grace. This is no wimpy, lovey-dovey Feminine.
Among the Na'vi, leadership is shared by co-equal leaders, mated for life. The female interprets the messages from Eywa and provides the all-important spiritual guidance. The Sacred Masculine and the Sacred Feminine have struck balance.
In his brilliant historical analysis "The Alphabet vs. the Goddess," Leonard Shlain posits a theory that the patriarchy arose with the birth of the alphabet -- at the very same point that the male, monotheistic deity first appears. Reading and writing trigger linear, abstract thinking and activate the left brain. The image, holistic thinking, the Goddess and feminine values are oppressed every time cultures achieve literacy.
Shlain connects the birth of the suffragist and modern women's rights movement with the discovery of photography and the typewriter -- which involves both sides of the brain in the writing process -- in the mid-1800s. Interestingly, "Avatar" triggers both left and right brains: in addition to visually stunning images, we must read subtitles to understand what the Na'vi are saying. Image and words. Balance.
For the truth is the Na'vi are our creation, a product of human imagination. We are thus ultimately rooting for ourselves, for our own survival, for our planet. And, yes, at some level, for the return of the Goddess, who is clearly back...and not a minute too soon.
In the film, the defeated humans are sent back to our "dying planet" with metaphoric tail between our legs. We have killed our mother, as Jake, the Human/Na'vi avatar explains. The movie is a wake-up call for each one of us to arise and help restore our planet before it is too late. Nothing is insurmountable when we come together as One.
Yes, we are the Enemy. We are also the Avatars.
Christian de la Huerta is the author of "Coming Out Spiritually" and the forthcoming "The Soul of Power." More about his work may be found at www.SoulfulPower.us.