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Avatar & Postmodernism

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

by Charles Arencibia

Photo by Robynne Hu on Unsplash

Postmodernism

Postmodernism began somewhere between the 1950s and 1960s. It is characterized by a lack of faith in institutions as well as relativity and purposelessness.


Many literary works written in this time period touch on these aspects; for example, The Things They Carried, written by Tim O'Brien, looks at postmodernism through the lens of the Vietnam War. Characters ask themselves whether or not there is a moral to war; they look at their circumstances as undeniably absurd and hopeless.


Absurdism gained popularity in the same time period, seen as a component of the postmodern era. This sense of chaos would drive the zeitgeist and direction of the postmodern era and lead us into the metamodern era. But this era still has aspects clung to it from the previous era.


Avatar

"Avatar" (2009) is a film about a Marine who is brought to a moon called Pandora, where a humanoid race lives. The film features heavy transcendental themes with the humanoid race, the Na'vi, who have a powerful connection to the moon they inhabit.


"Avatar," as a sci-fi film, has extremely imaginative world-building. This taps into a crucial part of postmodernism; it looks at the postmodern rejection of theology and spirituality. Even the characters in the movie that are a part of the effort to extract resources from the land reject the spiritual element of the moon, in which the head scientist, Doctor Grace Augustine, discovers that all life is connected through a network.


The film portrays this as something adverse to reality. This distinction between the postmodern reality and the utopian fantasy of "Avatar" would lead to a condition called "post-Avatar depression syndrome."


With the recent release of the second installment in the "Avatar" series, it resurged.


Post-Avatar Depression Syndrome

This condition is not recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). There are accounts of some viewers with symptoms of depression having extreme delusions; for example, one viewer with post-Avatar depression in theguardian.com said, "I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and then everything is the same as in Avatar.”


This phenomenon may be grounded in something that has arisen in modern society: the loss of morals. Many viewers with post-Avatar Syndrome report feeling disconnected from nature and an overall lack of purpose.


Others report a lack of hope for the future of humanity and Earth, especially with the growing issue of climate change and pollution.


With this growing concern for the future and a lack of faith in humanity, it appears that the postmodern era may have never ceased.

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