An Exhibition of Conservative Paranoia
Exhibit 51: Avatar Derangement Syndrome
The ConWeb -- led by professional right-wing movie prude Ted Baehr -- goes nuts criticizing James Cameron's blockbuster movie.
By Terry Krepel
Any successful venture draws its share of haters, and so it is with James Cameron's "Avatar," which has become the highest-grossing film in history.
Because "Avatar" has something of an environmental theme, the haters in the ConWeb have lined up to denounce it. For instance, at NewsBusters:
(Update 2/14/201o: NewsBusters' stablemates at CNSNews.com joined in with a Feb. 11 article quoting "best-selling author and screenwriter" Andrew Klavan attacking the movie as "anti-American and anti-military" because the U.S. military "are sadists and killers. They are happy to march over the indigenous, native people to get their resources." Klavan further asserted that Cameron "hit the sweet spot of environmental irrationality.")
Over at Newsmax, James Hirsen's review of "Avatar" found that "Lots of capitalist-bashing, anti-military sentiments, and environmental propaganda permeate the movie's scenes," rehashes the plot by giving away the ending, and dismissed the film as "undisguised propaganda and cliche-ridden plot lines."
But for sheer "Avatar" derangement (as for derangement of many other kinds), one must go to WorldNetDaily, where Ted Baehr has written no fewer than four columns attacking the film. Baehr is head of Movieguide, which is a self-described "family guide to movies and entertainment"; Baehr has proclaimed that "His life’s purpose is to be used of God to redeem the values of the media while educating audiences on how to use discernment in selecting their entertainment."
In his Dec. 15 WorldNetDaily review, Baehr wrote:
In the story, a group of nature-worshipping aliens triumph over the greedy, evil human corporations that want to destroy their planet. The aliens eventually send the humans back to a dying earth to die. How marvelous!
In the space of two paragraphs, not only did Baehr spitefully give away the end of the movie, he's wrong about DDT, which has in fact been found to cause cancer, endocrine disruption, adversely affect the immune system; it also persists in the environment and affects the food chain. It is, however, more effective than other, more safe mosquito eradication treatments, so it's making a limited return in developing countries.
But never mind the factual errors; Baehr is off to the races since "Avatar" offends his delicate far-right sensibilities:
For hundreds of years, the pagan, communist ideas expressed in this movie circulated among a threadbare group of outcasts with dirty fingernails and greasy hair, who shared their obtuse, occult ideas amongst themselves with manic, alienated glee. Now, James Cameron has made these insane views the major bulwark of a very spectacular movie, but the spectacle does not make these Neo-Marxist views any more coherent, rational or uplifting.
Baehr concluded: "What the people in the movie need to deliver them from their greed and the aliens in the movie need to deliver them from their severe group think is the loving salvation available only through the true God, Jesus Christ."
Baehr's problem is that he's not reviewing the movie that was made; he's complaining that Cameron didn't make the movie he wanted to see. That's not how reviewing works -- but Baehr is too busy cramming his bias and his evangelism down the throats of his readers to notice.
Indeed, he does so again in a Dec. 17 column (co-authored with David Outten), bashing the film's storyline of the "great 'white' savior" helping the native Na'vi to "fight the evil human beings":
In "Avatar," they use the word "spirit" as if plants, animals and inanimate soil were joined in an invisible moral relationship. This false concept of spirituality is known as pantheism. It does not lead to salvation because it does not connect you to God.
Baehr and Outten ranted again in a Jan. 22 column, denouncing the movie's "pantheism" as "pure propaganda":
Cameron has done a masterful job in manipulating the emotions of his audience in "Avatar." He created a world where it looks good and noble to live in a tree and hunt for your food daily with a bow and arrow. He made capitalists with their huge machines look sinister.
But Baehr wasn't done yet. In a Feb. 2 column, he rants against those who the the film's "radical leftist agenda" is inconsequential by going the Nazi smear route:
If it doesn't matter what people communicate, then the L.A. Times should stop writing editorials and endorsing candidates, every student should be allowed to read the Bible aloud in class, Christian business men and women should be able to use Bible references in their product serial numbers and "Triumph of the Will" by Adolf Hitler's favorite filmmaker should be lauded along with "Birth of a Nation."
Baehr wasn't the only WND writer to lash out against "Avatar" (though one would think it would be more than enough). Phil Elmore unleashed his own Baehr-esque rant in a Jan. 28 column:
Just as Jules Verne's novel reflected the tide of popular and public opinion in his day, "Avatar" does as well: The movie is a spectacularly animated collage of left-wing melodramatic sentiments, misconceptions and prejudices. It scorns capitalism, rejects commerce, vilifies Western culture, deifies native Americans (for whom the blue aliens in what has been called "Dances with Smurfs" are an obvious analog) and spits on the United States military, portraying Marines working as mercenaries as little better than baby-killing, genocidal maniacs.
WND's in-house movie reviewer, Drew Zahn (who has, according to his end-of-column bio, a side gig as "co-editor of 'Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching'"), also took a dim view of "Avatar," declaring it to be "'FernGully' on steroids" and complaining about the film's supposed "liberal libel":
And if you're detecting the mythos of modern history education theory, which paints America's founding as "the evil white man destroyed the natives, who were really wiser and more in tune with the earth than us" like the biased America-bashing of the Zinn Educational Project then you have a good nose for sniffing out political agendas. But prepare to have your olfactory senses even more odorously offended, because it gets worse.
Zahn is perhaps even more offended than Baehr that the film presents a religious viewpoint other than far-right evangelical Christian:
But before dismissing "Avatar" as just another political agenda film, a strong word of caution is necessary regarding the film's religious content.
Finally, Zahn complained that the film's theology "plac[es] the onus on 'when you earn your place,' rather than when you repent and receive the gift of God's grace."
Since it appears to be official WND editorial policy to trash "Avatar" at every opportunity, why bother with the formality of pretending to do so-called "reviews" of it?