The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Right wingers launch new attack on 'Avatar'

January 11, 2010 |  6:00 am
Avatar

It seems as if the more money "Avatar " makes at the box office (it's now officially the second-biggest-grossing film of all time), the more incensed its critics on the right become. The best example? Die-hard right-wing blogger/columnist/anti-Islam crusader Debbie Schlussel has now weighed in on the Jim Cameron blockbuster, which managed to drive her so around the bend that she ended up comparing it (I kid you not) to the writings of Noam Chomsky and the speeches of Hugo Chavez.

If you're a regular reader of Schlussel's fulminations against pop culture, you'd know that contempt for Hollywood is standard fare for her. In case you'd forgotten, she's the conservative fanatic who attacked Oprah as "a supporter of Islamic terror," mercilessly bashed Ed Zwick's "Defiance" claiming that "Hollywood loves the dead Jews but they hate the live ones" and told parents that they were "morons" if they took their kids to see "Watchmen." So you can imagine what she had to say about "Avatar," which is viewed in conservative circles as a vapid, left-wing celebration of primitive peoples, the environment and anti-military attitudes.

So what's her take on "Avatar?" She calls it bloated, highly overrated, an incredible waste of time and "just like a million diatribes from Daily Kos, Democratic Underground and every other far-left outlet about how we invaded Iraq for oil ... yes, cinema for the hate America crowd." After spewing out a host of other barbs against the film (she describes the Na'vi as smurf-like natives who "looked like Jar Jar Binks with arrowheads," she ends with this coup de grace: "Why drive to the movies, pay for tickets and spend hours in a dark room when you can just as easily read Noam Chomsky or the speeches of Hugo Chavez in the comfort of your own home and couch? Same difference. 'Avatar' is an intelligence test. If you fell for it, you failed."

It's Schlussel's favorite rhetorical tactic--if you liked a movie she loathed, you must be a moron. Sadly, like so many other conservative critics, she fails to even make an attempt at explaining why if "Avatar" is filled with so much left-wing extremism so many tens of millions of Americans have flooded the multiplexes to see the film, many of them more than once. The obvious answer is that, unlike Schlussel and other conservatives, most Americans are enthralled by the film. As for its themes, my guess is that people either find themselves in agreement -- maybe it is a bad thing to destroy a pristine primitive culture -- or manage to ignore the message altogether. Unfortunately, today's conservative pundits can't ignore even the faintest whiff of a political message in a movie or TV show -- they view everything through a partisan political lens.

"Avatar" is a great movie, and most of America knows it, which is why it's breaking box-office records everywhere. Back in the '80s, it was liberals who were so blinded by their ideology that they were unable to see that Ronald Reagan was a formidable, incredibly popular president. They underestimated his appeal and paid the price for it. Today, it's conservatives who are viewing pop culture through ideological blinders. If they want to bash "Avatar" the same way they've bashed Barack Obama, they'll end up paying a big price for it too.

"Avatar" photo: WETA/Twentieth Century Fox

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