What do you do, as a Chinese film board, when the Hollywood science fiction film Avatar smashes Chinese box office records in its first three weeks in theaters, when online chat sites are buzzing about the uncanny parallels between the fictional film plot of developers raping the land and forcibly evicting the people and real life in China?
As this report makes clear, Avatar vs. Confucius in China, some Chinese netizens are calling for a boycott of the Confucius biopic, arguing that the government is only promoting Confucianism in order to help suppress political dissent. In contrast Avatar is seen by Chinese people as a fable regarding the power of the state over local communities:
“What is ‘Avatar’ about?” asked one contributor on the Web site Mop. “It’s about the government’s forced evictions of people, and about them risking their lives to protest. No Chinese director dares to touch this topic.
The report goes on to note that an estimated 30 million people, that’s nearly the entire population of Canada, have been evicted or relocated during China’s rapid economic development. On top of this China has an estimated “floating population” of some 100 million migrant workers who live in poor conditions on the edge of China’s gleaming cities. It’s doubtful that James Cameron imagined that he was making a movie about China, but Avatar may well turn out to be one the most significant mythologizations of China’s economic development.
For more on the ways Avatar is being received and used by activists, see the “Avatar as Nature Religion” under ‘books’ then ‘dark green religion’ at my website.