First off, I found myself responding to the film in ways I didn’t expect. Avatar wasn’t a story about how amazing it is to switch consciousness between bodies. If it had been, I’d have been bored for 3+ hours. Instead, I found myself getting drawn into a world that still had some “green” left in it.
This was a compelling story line, not because it reawakened some smoldering environmentalism in me, but because it invited me into another possibility of world.
I couldn’t help but read the film through the lens of Heidegger’s language of Enframing. In a Question Concerning Technology, Heidegger suggests that the posture of human being has been taken over by technology. We don’t see the world anymore when we look at it, we can’t. Rather, in the place of trees we see lumber. Rivers become hydroelectric power. Animals become meat, etc.
This Enframing extends even to human being: as we grow accustomed to ordering the world (into what he calls a “standing reserve”) we begin to re-order ourselves as well. If we’re not careful, we become resources too.
According to Heidegger, this is our destiny. Cameron challenges this outcome, not by disagreeing with Heidegger, but by offering a vision of a different world. This vision serves as an interruption to our frame. It creates the space for us to shift our posture toward the world.
The question remains: what frame do we choose for our world?