Are Heroes Like ‘Aquaman’ And ‘Avatar’ Challenging Our Terrestrial Bias?

Credit: Matt Hardy/Unsplash

Oceans are currently making waves in mainstream culture, as reported by Salon.

The oceans rule

James Wan’s “Aquaman” from 2018 and its upcoming sequel “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” and most recently James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” all prominently portray the oceans. The oceans aren’t just backgrounds, boring locations, or flat surfaces in any of these movies. Instead, the oceans are shown in each of these blockbusters as intricate ecologies that demand substantial and ongoing attention.

Blue humanities 

All of these films might be seen as a component of the newly emerging topic of “blue humanities,” which investigates the interaction between people and the waters. The oceans are becoming large, deep cemeteries as a result of a number of interconnected, human-caused circumstances, including but not limited to industrialised fishing, acidification, warming, sea-level rise, and pollution. This makes the field of study urgent. The United Nations estimates that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the water than fish, and dead zones are expanding and spreading throughout the oceans.

John R. Gillis, a historian, contends that popular culture is crucial to how we understand and conceptualise seas in his article “The Blue Humanities” from 2013. Hollywood blockbusters have recently emphasised how colonial powers are pillaging oceans worldwide, from Earth to Pandora, acknowledging the situation that the oceans are in.

Dramatising damage 

For instance, Cameron transports viewers to the oceans of the made-up moon of Pandora in “Avatar: The Way of Water” and dramatises how this biosphere is being destroyed for human profit. More specifically, the story revolves around the ruthless hunting of tulkun—whale-like creatures—by colonial armies in search of a liquid that can reverse human ageing.

The Sully family, who are one with the ocean and its creatures like the tulkun, are among the native Na’vi. They are being chased by humans and leave to live with the Metkayina tribe.

The plot and, maybe more crucially, the aesthetics are the two levels on which Cameron wants viewers to interact with the film. The plot is mainly suspended for extended portions of the film’s underwater segments, which enable viewers to be in awe of the ocean’s natural beauty and to acknowledge the wide variety of cultures that exist below the surface.

An opportunity 

In an interview with National Geographic, Cameron explains, “The film was . . .  an opportunity to show us what our oceans might have looked like 300, 400, 500 years ago before we really got busy toward an industrial civilization. If people see this film, and aside from the drama of the Sully family and the relationships and all these big, dramatic conflicts, if they just love the underwater experience — and they love that sense of the profusion of life and the magic and mystery — then maybe it will reconnect them with what we are presently losing here on this planet.” As Cameron proposes, the immersive experience of oceans in a blockbuster movie can perhaps turn audiences into budding ocean activists.


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Source: Salon