The movie Avatar by James Cameron is very hyped-even in libertarian circles. Austro-libertarians like Stephan Kinsella opine that the movie is very good and libertarian. Objectivists like Peter Suderman and Nick Rizzuto find the movie collectivistic. Rizzuto called it “The Atlas Shrugged of the Left”. “Atlas Shrugged”, writes Rizzuto, “is a story of the triumph of the individual over the collective, while Avatar is an amalgamation of Hollywood and the liberal left’s collectivist political fetishes.”What is the truth of the matter? The truth is somewhere in the middle. I won’t say that the movie is great. I found it unspeakably boring. The special effects were awesome. But, that’s about it. The movie is on Na’vi’s on Pandora defending their private property rights against humans. A human soldier, Jack Sully helps the Na’vi’s in the endeavor.
What struck me is the similarities Avatar have with a Malayalam movie “Vietnam Colony”. In that movie, a private company tries to forcefully evacuate people from a slum sort of place. They send the protagonist to trick people into accepting the deal. Later in the movie, like Jack Sully, the protagonist Mohan Lal joins the people and fights the company.
It all depends on how you look at it. We shouldn’t forget that Capitalism is a politico-economic system based on private property rights. What unites capitalists is their respect for the sanctity of private property. So, obviously the movie has libertarian themes in that sense. As Kinsella wrote:“The plot is about property rights. In particular, the property rights of the Na’vi, in an established tree-city that they have clearly homesteaded. The “Corporation” here is basically a mini-state, or an arm of a state–it has an army going around killing and destroying”. But, I won’t go to the other extent and assert that it is a full-fledged libertarian movie. It is not. It is obvious that the people behind the movie didn’t intend that. Their collectivist, anti-capitalist mindset is apparent.
Nick Rizzuto noted that the primitive protagonists find virtue in their collective identity and lack of individuality. Rizzuto says that “The theme is the classic condemnation of capitalism; that wealth created not through innovation as Ayn Rand seems to suggest, but rather through exploitation”. Now, it is true that wealth is created through innovation and exploitation. But, to say this is far from proving that some people acquire wealth through wrong means. Obviously, some people do-And the movie is on some such people.