Avatar and Suicide

Breaking free of the Box.
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Avatar and Suicide

Post by TerryS » Sun Apr 04, 2010 9:22 pm

Avatar and Suicide

Thanks to Chris for sending me this CNN link on Avatar,
and how it is effecting some viewers:
James Cameron's completely immersive spectacle
"Avatar" may have been a little too real for some
fans who say they have experienced depression and
suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because
they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world

On the fan forum site "Avatar Forums," a topic thread
entitled "Ways to cope with the depression of the dream
of Pandora being intangible," has received more than
1,000 posts from people experiencing depression and fans
trying to help them cope. The topic became so popular
last month that forum administrator Philippe Baghdassarian
had to create a second thread so people could continue to
post their confused feelings about the movie."

Ever since I went to see 'Avatar' I have been depressed.
Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na'vi
made me want to be one of them. I can't stop thinking about
all the things that happened in the film and all of the
tears and shivers I got from it," Mike posted. "I even
contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be
rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and the everything
is the same as in 'Avatar.'"
http://www.cnn.com/2010/SHOWBIZ/Movies/ ... index.html

Being a huge science fiction fan, I did go and
see Avatar and can attest to it's amazingly
beautiful portrayal of a utopian Pandora.

Buy why would it have such an extreme effect on so
many people?

I think that Peter Stromberg, not talking specifically
about Avatar, nevertheless does an excellent job describing
the general effect:
This is especially important because entertainment
(such as TV, movies, novels, sports events, and so on)
aims to provide powerful emotional experiences. As we all
know, our emotions can strongly influence our assumptions
and actions in ways that remain at least partially outside
of our awareness. Thus it is possible to be influenced by
entertainment without really knowing that this is happening.

A good example of this is what I call "romantic realism."
These are images that are similar to the world we live in,
but somehow better. Think, for example, of a TV ad for
food: the beautiful food sizzles and bursts with flavorful
color, it is surrounded by gorgeous people having great
fun as they consume the food. It's like life, but better.
Romantic realism is sold directly to people (movies, for
example) and is also used to promote products.

There is a cumulative effect of observing these romantically
realistic images day in and day out: We begin to be convinced,
on an emotional level, that there is a world like our world
but a little bit better. We begin to wonder why our own lives
are marred by imperfections.
We are prone to fantasies that
our lives could be transformed "if only" If only I could get
a new cell phone, if only I could lose weight or get cosmetic
surgery, if only I could get a date with Mary...
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex ... t-literacy

Dr. Stromberg goes on to write "Entertainment can be a lot of fun,
but it may also contribute to a sense of dissatisfaction with
real life." As it happens there is are a number of studies
that support that supposition:
"Desperate Housewives and other TV soap operas may help make
adolescent girls desperate for a thinness few can healthily
achieve, new Australian research suggests."
http://www.lifeclinic.com/fullpage.aspx ... 142&type=1
"We found men who were exposed to images of the so-called "ideal"
male became more depressed and significantly more dissatisfied with
the size and shape of their own muscular build once they were exposed
to those commercials."
http://www.ivanhoe.com/channels/p_chann ... ryid=11103

"Women Of All Sizes Feel Badly About Their Bodies After Seeing Models"
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 152704.htm
"Men are barraged by images of unobtainable women in the media,
making it difficult for them to desire the ordinarily beautiful."

Avatar is an extreme example of "romantic realism". Nature on
Pandora is more beautiful than nature on earth. The humanoid
Na'vi are more beautiful and sleek (and catlike) than any human
on earth.

What struck me reading about Avatar was that the movie stars
who played the main characters looked pretty plain in comparison
to how they looked once they were computer enhanced. Usually
we viewers just have to compare ourselves with beautiful movie
stars, but with Avatar even the movie stars just don't look that
great in comparison to the extremely gorgeous Na'vi.

Another point is that Avatar, as with all movies, portrays
life as much more exciting than in real life. The story-line
seemed to cover about a 3 month period in a little over 2 hours.
So the two hours only covers the highlights. The time spent
doing day-to-day stuff is glossed over. If we spent 3 months
watching "Jake" learning the language, learning how to hunt,
having long conversations, eating, etc., it would get very boring
after a while.

Chris also pointed out to me the "actual message in the movie
about the destructive nature of humans", which is a good point
that hadn't occurred to me.

Again according to the CNN Link:
One can say my depression was twofold: I was depressed because
I really wanted to live in Pandora, which seemed like such a
perfect place, but I was also depressed and disgusted with the
sight of our world, what we have done to Earth. I so much wanted
to escape reality," Hill said.
http://www.cnn.com/2010/SHOWBIZ/Movies/ ... index.html

It is pretty scary what we are doing to our environment and to
each other. Unfortunately escaping into fantasy, and ignoring
our problems has become all too common, and all too facilitated
by commercial interests who would like nothing better than for
everyone to spend all their free time in front of the tube, immersed
in a fantasy tv/movie land.


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