Human-Nature-Technology interfaces within the Avatar cinema-scape

Keywords: Science-fiction, fantasy, James Cameron, Avatar (Cameron 2009), ecocriticism, ecofeminism, film study, liminality, feminine, feminism, Other, ecology, technology, nature


Traditional relational models prefer Humanity as colonising the eco- and technolandscapes, distinguishing Humanity as Self, and Nature and Technology as Other. However, this essentialist view is challenged through regarding them as an open network of collaborative potential. Posthumanist works, such as Donna Haraway’s ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’, have promoted this potential, and popular filmmakers such as James Cameron have followed suit in integrating posthumanist philosophy into their work. Cameron’s hypothesis regarding the potential of Human-Nature- Technology interfacing is offered in his film, Avatar (Cameron 2009).

Where Cameron’s previous films tend towards an essentialist view of the feminine being more connected with Nature and Humanity, and the masculine with Technology, in Avatar, he is conflicted. He wants to promote bio-conservatorship through perpetual Human-Nature-Technology interfacing, but also wants to honour a common storytelling imperative to favour a single, masculine protagonist as saviour and relegating the feminine, Nature and Technology as serving a masculine agenda. Though Cameron does, upon closer scrutiny, present a masculine protagonist that does not subscribe to Self-Other, active-passive binaries, he does default towards an essentialist stance in resolving his story. However, the film does act as a catalyst for debate between essentialist and posthumanist views, where Cameron offers Humanity, Nature and Technology as symbiotic potentials alongside antonymous absolutes.