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kvond

The Becoming-woman of Machine in Avatar

A Comparison With The Fist of the White Lotus

[Early concept art for Cameron's Avatar]

In following up this rhizome series on Cameron’s Avatar, which involves this series of posts:

1. Avatar: The Density of Being, 2. Avatarship and the New Man: Reading Ideology, Technology and Hope, 3.Two Vectors of Avatar’s Cinematic Achievement: Affect and Space Interface, 4.Is the Medium the Message? Avatar’s Avatar, 5. Peking Opera and the Aesthetic Freedoms of Avatar.

I want to pick up on the last Peking Opera/Hong Kong Action reference, and open up a comparison I’ve suggested, between Avatar and the Kung Fu classic Fist of the White Lotus (1980, originally title among others Clan of the White Lotus). In each the process of education involves an implicit feminization of the more masculine powers, something that may have bearing upon both philosophical vitalism and the general fears about left, liberal, Hollywood pantheism. In Fist of the White Lotus the hero Hong Wending, played by the incomparable Gordon Liu (Liu Jiahui, forget Tarantino’s souless homage the character and actor in Kill Bill 2) seeks revenge against an evil martial arts master who has murdered nearly all of the hero’s Shaolin brethren. To be sure one has to be rather thoroughly steeped in the Hong Kong aesthetic to appreciate how the seemingly stilted plots, characters and actions of this film transcend into graced expression and very significant matters (or correspond to perceived weaknesses in Avatar), but it is enough to see that gender is under transformation in the film.

To give a sense of the storyline, Pai Mei “white eyebrows”, the evil villain high priest, has achieved a nearly undefeatable level of martial arts that required a highly choreographed combined attack of two persons, an attack used to defeat his twin brother. With the hero now a sole survivor after a White Lotus Clan ambush, having lost his martial arts compatriot, he has no way to fight this arch enemy and avenge his close friend’s death. The movie consists in Gordion Lui trying to perfect new forms of attack, and repeated showdowns that fail. The principle unusual powers that Pai Mei possesses are the bizarre defensive capacity to withdraw his genitals back into his body to protect them, and the ability to become so weightless that the force of any blow thrown just floats him back as if he were made of paper. 

At one stage in the hero’s development he comes into the tutelage of the wife of his fallen comrade, whose child she has now born. He believes that if he learns her “woman’s style” he may be able to combine it with his aggressive Crane and Tiger and finally be able to get close enough to strike his opponent. But first he must learn women’s work, he is told. This is the sequence of his feminization (the whole film is posted in parts on Youtube):

As the plot goes, this woman’s style is not sufficient to defeat the great Pai Mei, but it is componented to the skills that in the end prove necessary. The character must go through a feminization in order to draw up the powers of the feminine into his eventual expression of righteous force. Many of the social fears over the liberal creep of pantheism are no doubt linked to deeply entrenched gender notions, bodily configurations, cultural identifications with what is appropriate. One can see this in the conflict between the two kinds of technology in Avatar, the masculine puppetry and instrumental expression, machines operating in a kind of robotic Kung Fu like Hong Kong Tiger or Crane Style, and the limpid, synthetic and lithe Pandoran DNA lightness, which involved a distinct feminization of Sully’s body (the lengthening of his features and limbs, the corsetting of his waist, a general feline framing of his person). Sully learns, and becomes a mutuality of gender expressions, recovering a brute, warlike masculinity on the other side of woman. The mushy, spiritual New Ageism that makes much of the American Right recoil goes in two powerful directions. There are the strong gender (and sexuality) political questions that can at times dominate social discussion (for instance the question of Gay Marriage which rears its head and subsides with great tidal force), but these are intimately linked I believe to questions of technological synthesis, the way in which we feel the world through our technologies in such a way that they engender us, and steer us away from a much more (symbolically) masculine instrumental relationship to our capacities. The entire Gaia feminization of the world which some protest, and which marks something of the vitalisms of contemporary philosophy, are questions of immersion, how deeply should our body sink into our capacities, and feel our way forward through what is modern. The contest between instrument and embodiment is an aesthetic contest between distance and speed, something mediated by affect and our control of affects (most regularly codified and regimented in the register of gender). In this sense, the battleground of gender, in politics, and the seemingly reactionary political entrenchment on the issue of sexual rights and actions is to be expected, and in fact, respected, as the entire social body seeking equilibrium amid vast change in capacity to feel and do.

Animal, Woman, Child: Vitalism and Technology

To give some context to what is as stake, here is a selection from Deleuze and Guattari’s a thousand plateaus which I juxtapose to the gender, technological and conscience transformations of Avatar’s Sully:

What is a girl, what is a group of girls? Proust at least has shown us once and for all that their individuation, collective or singular, proceeds not by subjectivity but by haecceity, pure haecceity. “Fugitive beings.” They are pure relations of speeds and slownesses, and nothing else. A girl is late on account of her speed: she did too many things, crossed too many spaces in relation to the relative time of the person waiting for her. Thus her apparent slowness is transformed into the breakneck speed of our waiting. (292)

The girl’s becoming is stolen first, in order to impose a history, or prehistory, upon her. The boy’s turn comes next, but it is by using the girl as an example, by pointing to the girl as the object of his desire, that an opposed organism, a dominant history is fabricated for him too. The girl is the first victim, but she must also serve as an example and a trap. That is why, conversely, the reconstruction of the body as a Body without Organs, the anorganism of the body, is inseparable from a becoming-woman, or the production of a molecular woman. Doubtless, the girl becomes a woman in the molar or organic sense. But conversely, becoming-woman or the molecular woman is the girl herself. The girl is certainly not defined by virginity; she is defined by a relation of movement and rest, speed and slowness, by a combination of atoms, an emission of particles: haecceity. She never ceases to roam upon a body without organs. She is an abstract line, or a line of flight. Thus girls do not belong to an age group, sex, order, or kingdom: they slip in everywhere, between orders, acts, ages, sexes; they produce n molecular sexes on the line of flight in relation to the dualism machines they cross right through. (297-8)

Although all becomings are already molecular, including becoming woman, it must be said that all becomings begin with and pass through becoming-woman. It is the key to all the other becomings. When the man of war disguises himself as a woman, flees disguised as a girl, hides as a girl, it is not a shameful, transitory incident in his life. To hide, to camouflage oneself, is a warrior function, and the line of flight attracts the enemy, traverses something and puts what it traverses to flight; the warrior arises in the infinity of a line of flight. Although the femininity of the man of war is not accidental, it should not be thought of as structural, or regulated by a correspondence of relations. It is difficult to see how the correspondence between the two relations “man-war” and “woman-marriage” could entail an equivalence between the warrior and the girl as a woman who refuses to marry.61 It is just as difficult to see how the general bisexuality, or even homosexuality, of military societies could explain this phenomenon, which is no more imitative than it is structural, representing instead an essential anomie of the man of war. This phenomenon can only be understood in terms of becoming. We have seen how the man of war, by virtue of his furor and celerity, was swept up in irresistible becomings-animal. These are becomings that have as their necessary condition the becoming-woman of the warrior, or his alliance with the girl, his contagion with her. The man of war is inseparable from the Amazons. The union of the girl and the man of war does not produce animals, but simultaneously produces the becoming-woman of the latter and the becoming-animal of the former, in a single “block” in which the warrior in turn becomes animal by contagion with the girl at the same time as the girl becomes warrior by contagion with the animal. Everything ties together in an asymmetrical block of becoming, an instantaneous zigzag. It is in the vestiges of a double war machine— that of the Greeks, soon to be supplanted by the State, and that of the Amazons, soon to be dissolved—that Achilles and Penthesilea, the last man of war and the last queen of the girls, choose one another, Achilles in a becoming-woman, Penthesilea in a becoming-dog.

The rites of transvestism or female impersonation in primitive societies in which a man becomes a woman are not explainable by a social organization that places the given relations in correspondence, or by a psychic organization that makes the woman desire to become a man just as the man desires to become a woman.62 Social structure and psychic identification leave too many special factors unaccounted for: the linkage, unleashing, and communication of the becomings triggered by the transvestite; the power (puissance) of the resultant becoming-animal; and above all the participation of these becomings in a specific war machine. The same applies for sexuality: it is badly explained by the binary organization of the sexes, and just as badly by a bisexual organization within each sex. Sexuality brings into play too great a diversity of conjugated becomings; these are like n sexes, an entire war machine through which love passes. This is not a return to those appalling metaphors of love and war, seduction and conquest, the battle of the sexes and the domestic squabble, or even the Strindberg-war: it is only after love is done with and sexuality has dried up that things appear this way. What counts is that love itself is a war machine endowed with strange and somewhat terrifying powers. Sexuality is the production of a thousand sexes, which are so many uncontrollable becomings. Sexuality proceeds by way of the becoming-woman of the man and the becoming-animal of the human: an emission of particles. (299-300)

In a strong and distinct sense, every technological evolution requires a becoming-woman, a becoming-animal, a becoming-child, which necessarily must also involve distinct political reterritorialization of categories, a reaction, at the social-political level. Techologies are micro- molecular invasions of affect upon the body politic, one might say, and involve necessary immunological response.

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30 responses to “The Becoming-woman of Machine in Avatar

  1. parody center January 2, 2010 at 1:05 am

    ‘s far as I know the hero’s Avatar in Avatar is male, and when he decides to leave his human existence to become a Ninco’p’op, he again chooses for a male body.
    In this way the pseudo-Christian patriarchal narrative is just reproduced, instead of being challenged, except of course by the dreadful HR Giger makeup.
    So how does this story relate to Avatar?

    • kvond January 2, 2010 at 9:50 am

      Hmmmm. Well, in the Fist of the White Lotus the hero is male, and though he learns the womanly work, and the “woman’s style” remains a male. Does this mean that the film “fails to challenge the pseudo-Christian patrriarchal narrative”, even though this is a Hong Kong film? Your presumption is that there is only one authentic way to “challenge” instead of looking for ways to transform.

      I don’t know. Sully takes his place as a “male”, in fact a kind of uber-male, but in a society that seems to be structured by female power (at least the witchy priestess mother-in-law has a lot of say, and they worship a fundamental goddess principle, and Sully has been taught “how to be a man” by a woman). Does this “challenge” the Xp Pat you have so much fear of, enough? I have a hard time imagining that whatever film you would have preferred is the only authentic one that could have been made, or even imagining that the required “hautological” authenticity is anything more than intellectualist malarky.

      You seem to have missed out on what Deleuze and Guattari mean by “becoming woman”.

  2. parody center January 4, 2010 at 6:30 am

    He indeed becomes an uber-male, but the ”woman” who teaches him that is more like the Grace Jones character in CONAN 2, that is to say an uber-WIMMERN in that she is more a man, than a woman. Women are masculinized through and through, and ultimately the Phallus reigns. There is further an unpleasant dash of Fascist Aesthetics in the gigantic bodies of the ‘primitives’, sort of like Riefenstahl’s vision of African tribes.

  3. kvond January 4, 2010 at 11:21 am

    I guess you just see whatever you want to see, and the film itself is pretty secondary. “Women are masculinized through and through, and ultimately the Phallus reigns.” The Phallus reigns? Did you take a look at that phallus tree goddess with all its tendrils of pervasive sensitivity. You see the phallus everywhere, maybe its your phallus-colored glasses. Further of course, what is “masculine” in one culture need not be “masculine” in another.

    As for the gigantic bodies and Riefenstahl, as Cameron explains, the 12 foot blue woman came as a image from a dream his mother had sometime in the 80s I think. What can I say, you just make up whatever you want about films, select the pieces that are meaningful to you, and care much less for context or overall aesthetic effect.

    • Chai February 26, 2010 at 10:00 pm

      thankyou for this very sensible post, I enjoyed reading it. I don’t know if it’s true but it rings true in part for me. Who KNOWS which hairbrained analyses we can all subjectively come up with actually DO match the intentions of the creator of a text? For example I’m convinced that the transhuman aspect, is the dominant theme so potent it is in this film on many dimensions that the rest of the themes, which are high quality, are to ensure the successful transmission of said transhumanist concepts. We are voyeurs of a character whose actor has been scanned into a computer, then he is incarnated into a blue giant, then he plugs himself into trees and animals – Never seen anything like it.

      I’m sure there are many bizarre interpretations. A few may be actually true but never actually be admitted. Maybe there are some that are unconscious… like the blue giant thing from Cameron’s granny.
      Man I’ve read so many interpretations of this film my head is starting to spin.

      • kvond February 27, 2010 at 2:35 am

        Thanks for the good words. Often what is “true” about an interpretation is the weight of associated ideas that cluster about it. For my part, as you might guess, indeed the “transhuman” is the point of the film, and so many of the cliche and ideological pitfalls are pulled in the service of this message/effect. Now for some “transhuman” is not sufficient enough an end to justify such a means, or even merely an excuse or a fantasy. It remains to be seen – in history – just what transhuman is, and even if it has already happened.

  4. parody center January 4, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Did you take a look at that phallus tree goddess with all its tendrils of pervasive sensitivity.

    Well that’s just what I was saying, everything is full of Phallic tentacles. When Sully is choosing his dragon, he has to insert his cock in the poor animal’s butt before he can ride it. His main romantic interest is a butch tranny with more musculature than poor Sully himself. And then when the Tribe loses faith under colonial attack, Sully sports typical American machismo to lead the pack into a rebellion. Where for goddamn’s sake do you see femininity in all of this, it’s all classic marine macho antics.

    The Tree of Life was one of the most idiotic things in the movie. It reminds me of the disco electronic tree with animated snowflakes of light which they’re selling right now for E 3.99 at the Christmas Thrift Shop. And its New Agey ”pluralism” suggested forcibly that Cameron didn’t even finish highschool.

    • kvond January 4, 2010 at 2:16 pm

      Like I said, you see what you would like to see. Good luck in your phallus-colored glasses. Lord, Freud and Lacan have done so much for us, mummy/daddy everywhere, vagina/penis lurking. The whole world a sterile copulation.

  5. parody center January 4, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Anyway all this analysis is perfunctory when it’s obvious from the film’s affectless affect, its too-smooth operation, that there’s no genuine intent of crossing the boundary to Otherness, only a sort of an apologia for colonialism, sentimental-humanistic-moralistic ”washing of sins” through a one billion dollar enterprise.

    But I won’t be the first one to judge your tastes, why not shop at the thrift shop if that makes you happy. Rather, it’s the Consensus that annoys me, the fact that people are buying at the thrift shop in such massive numbers. This testifies not to any success of popular culture, but to its successful totalization, on a par with Stalin’s brand of socialist realism.

    • kvond January 4, 2010 at 2:39 pm

      PC: “Anyway all this analysis is perfunctory when it’s obvious from the film’s affectless affect, its too-smooth operation, that there’s no genuine intent of crossing the boundary to Otherness”

      Kvond: But that’s the whole point, there is no absoulte or even categorical “boundary of otherness” (only a prediposed, and I would argue Capitalist, and even quite diseased intellectual manufacture of one). There is nothing to cross, so to speak, but rather the investigations of KINDS of connections.

      PC: But I won’t be the first one to judge your tastes, why not shop at the thrift shop if that makes you happy.

      Kvond: I love the thrift shop some times. But I guarantee that I’ve eatten more cinematic caviar in tuxes than you have. And, occasionally what is found in the yard sale is a masterpiece.

      PC: “Rather, it’s the Consensus that annoys me, the fact that people are buying at the thrift shop in such massive numbers.”

      Kvond: There are different things to buy there, and for different reasons. An old Giacometti might make an interesting paperweight to some.

      PC: “This testifies not to any success of popular culture, but to its successful totalization, on a par with Stalin’s brand of socialist realism.”

      Kvond: I always laugh when people (intellectuals really) make up this fantasy of “totalization”. Ah, the enemy is EVERYWHERE, only me with my secret decoding device can be the hero, and in the nick of time blow up the “totalization”. Talk about junior fantasy 101.

  6. parody center January 4, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Lord, Freud and Lacan have done so much for us, mummy/daddy everywhere, vagina/penis lurking.

    I have not applied any psychoanalytic perspective on Avatar.

    • kvond January 4, 2010 at 2:42 pm

      You are so inculcated in your psychoanalytic ideology of self, you can’t even keep track of when you are spouting it, and when you are not. That you see phalluses everywhere, well, let’s just say its a symptom.

  7. parody center January 5, 2010 at 5:26 am

    Kvond: But that’s the whole point, there is no absoulte or even categorical “boundary of otherness” (only a prediposed, and I would argue Capitalist, and even quite diseased intellectual manufacture of one). There is nothing to cross, so to speak, but rather the investigations of KINDS of connections.

    I don’t know what this means; ostensibly the plot is about how the marine ultimately decides to leave his humanity in order to live in the alien body, in the Otherness, which isn’t even properly designated as female, as transgenderism, because he chooses for a male body. A suggestion is also given through the death of Weaver that in doing so, he would be accepting a kind of a distributed collective networked identity or whatnot, becoming one with Nature, with Universe, and from this you can spin any New Age philosophy you want because there isn’t any concrete philosophy to be found in the plan. However this pasted-on ending lacks both the ambiguity of a Cronenberg ending (cf Scanners) and a motivation. Everything that takes place prior to the event is just a display of military antics, with the added insult of the white colonist ending up the leader of the tribe. I think I am even justified in terming it a fascist fantasy because what the hero actually does is find a way to download himself, Kurzwell-style, into a superior body, sort of embalming his white privilege or demonstrating that it is immortal. Cameron with his championing of Schwarzie had always been a body fascist, and his aesthetics celebrates the military.

    You are so inculcated in your psychoanalytic ideology of self, you can’t even keep track of when you are spouting it, and when you are not.

    Maybe so, I tend to think that I am not as willing as others to drop psychoanalytic insights in the name of sexless blue Smurfs; Deleuze and Spinoza do challenge some of these views, but their ideas have not yet seen the light of the day quite as persuasively as psychoanalytic insights. I also still firmly believe in the inherent subversion of Freud’s words on sexuality, and I meant it seriously when I complained against the absence of sex in Avatar, yet another politically correct conceit that sells itself as intellectual advancement.

    • kvond January 5, 2010 at 10:06 am

      PC: “Deleuze and Spinoza do challenge some of these views, but their ideas have not yet seen the light of the day quite as persuasively as psychoanalytic insights.”

      Kvond: Ah, yes, they have not had their thinking caught up in the great Capitalist affirmation, I can see that now.

  8. parody center January 5, 2010 at 6:15 am

    Kvond: I always laugh when people (intellectuals really) make up this fantasy of “totalization”. Ah, the enemy is EVERYWHERE, only me with my secret decoding device can be the hero, and in the nick of time blow up the “totalization”. Talk about junior fantasy 101.

    I still think we the intellectuals are justified in being worried because a widespread cultural habit develops where any expensive piece of trash that in the xx century would be considered commercial fodder, now suddenly acquires the qualities of sublime art. This is exactly how it went in Soviet Stalinism, where the values of social realism propelled Russian artists to flee to the States. There is not a single review of Avatar on imdb.com that isn’t somehow apologetic: ”yes it’s stupid and flat, but STILL it’s magic”

    • kvond January 5, 2010 at 10:11 am

      The thing is, psychological realism is not the only authentic artform. In fact, there are all sorts of “flat”, allegorical artforms, some of them from “high” culture, some of them from “low”, that are quite powerful. The problem is that intellectuals of critique, are always looking, indeed STRAINING for a “content” that then becomes the justification of their own importance. That many of the resort to mythological inventions of “totalization” (and other “the sky is falling” fantasies), well, perhaps is a mark of their desperation.

      I do find Avatar “flat” but I don’t find it stupid. And yes, it is magic. Part of the magic comes from its flatness (Gustav Klimt is flat, Peking Opera is flat, Hong Kong action is flat) and can deserve critique, or at very least analysis (as I have argued, there are many reterritorializations of stereotype that are necessary for other creative projections, Cameron for instance wanted the Na’vi to be far more “alien”, more eyes for instance, but it interfered with the proceses of identification), but part of the magic is also a recreation of an aesthetic form.

  9. kvond January 5, 2010 at 10:23 am

    PC: “I don’t know what this means; ostensibly the plot is about how the marine ultimately decides to leave his humanity in order to live in the alien body, in the Otherness, which isn’t even properly designated as female, as transgenderism, because he chooses for a male body.”

    Kvond: You still don’t seem to have much of a clue about what “becoming-woman” is for Deleuze and Guattari. It is not “becoming ‘a’ woman”. If interested, this article may be worth your while:

    http://kvond.wordpress.com/2008/05/15/23/

    “Wasps, Orchids, Beetles and Crickets: A Menagerie of Change in Transgender Identification”

    It does not specifically take up “becoming-woman” but through the concept of the Body Without Organs you may get a sense of the KINDS of transformations D&G are talking about, and thus the kinds of transformations that Avatar as an artform and a plot touch on.

  10. parody center January 5, 2010 at 11:38 am

    In fact, what Deleuze and Guattari want us to see is the insufficiency of a language of physical boundaries and a language of psychological aims when describing the powers of transformation, in particular, when mimicry or copying is involved.

    Well I totally understand (and partially endorse, as long as it isn’t all too easily generalized from animals to humans)… but where do you see this in the goddamn movie? No transformation, or transgenderism, takes place there. Absolutely none.
    It’s all a male military fantasy, right down to the Nature that the army seemingly embraces out of bourgeois guilt.

    • kvond January 5, 2010 at 12:41 pm

      Well, you called my rather detailed exploration of the capture of space and affect in the technology incomprehensible, so I am at a disadvantage here. With some hope of precision I explained my point in my discussion of Cameron; I trace out the exact mappings that are going on, both in the technology, and in the audience involvement. As for the film, this too exemplifies these mappings. Sully, through the powers of his DNA inhabitation (a weave of Na’vi and his own, not too far from the wasp/orchid mapping), traces out the lines of a Na’vi lifeform, yes, as a male, but also in a kind of becoming-woman (feminized aesthetically to some degree, and animalized). He MOLECULARLY (in the Deleuzian sense) becomes Na’vi, and in his consciousness traces out the virtuality of a human/Na’vi interface. He becomes other without becoming THE Other (because the categories of Self and Other are intellectual props). He synthesizes and maps. He traces out lines of flight. And to be sure, there are very strong ideological reterritorializations, compass points of OBVIOUS and problematic ethnic idealizations, flatnesses of plot and archetypal heroisms. But these are NOT the point. They are risked to secure the travel, the transformation. The entire film could be crystalized into that vertiginous scene where Sully gets his legs, and immaturally just gets up and starts to run. Not having the hundreds of hours in the technology, he doesn’t know, he just runs, stumbling, toppling forward. This is the raison d’être of the film, the innocence of technological launch. He has not yet discovered the video-game/archetypal plot he will stumble into. He has not collapsed into the stereotypical and ideological identifications which will again and again capture and contextualize his flight. He is just tumbling forward in a kind of joy, a joy that the innocent movie-goer (the one not hunting for ideological mine-fields), experiences as well. The rest of the film is him passing into these lines of flight, and experiencing/expressing idealizations that secure the audience’s mythic landscape (here is where criticism falls), but he is also mapping, tracing the Na’vi, performing a kind of molecular becoming that atomizes itself beyond the gravitous centers of our easy recognitions.

  11. parody center January 5, 2010 at 11:56 am

    The thing is, psychological realism is not the only authentic artform. In fact, there are all sorts of “flat”, allegorical artforms, …

    I did not mean ”flat” in that sense. I love the flatness, and the affectlessness, of a Kubrick. it is flat in the sense of having no sense of rhythm. It unfolds as a video-game. there are no surprises.

    • kvond January 5, 2010 at 12:27 pm

      PC: “I did not mean ”flat” in that sense. I love the flatness, and the affectlessness, of a Kubrick. it is flat in the sense of having no sense of rhythm. It unfolds as a video-game. there are no surprises.”

      Kvond: Well, we’ve actually had this argument before, but coming from a much different direction, if you recall. You were whining (I can think of no better word) that there were no cinematic achievements in THIS generation of young film makers(unlike yours), and I was telling you that actually the video game had contributed a definite serial aesthetic to cinema. It was just that you failed to recognize this as an aesthetic achievement, you failed to appreciate it. You simply dismissed it as the degeneration of cinema. Now this is just one generation thinking that the next was bringing about the loss of culture and value, a typical, conservative, self-oriented view. YES Avatar unfolds like a video game, YES it is flatly and serially “boxed”, but this actually forms part of its aesthetic strength, the degree of the power of its communication.

  12. parody center January 5, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Now this is just one generation thinking that the next was bringing about the loss of culture and value, a typical, conservative, self-oriented view.

    No it is a typical neoliberal New Agey progressive view that things always and necessarily progress, which gives you the ludicrious idea that Avatar is about some innovation. Besides even as a kid, in ”my generation”, I watched art movies, not STAR WARS. It’s got little to do with age or aging.

    • kvond January 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm

      PC: “No it is a typical neoliberal New Agey progressive view that things always and necessarily progress, which gives you the ludicrious idea that Avatar is about some innovation.”

      Kvond: I don’t even know if I believe in “progress” (as a concept), and certainly NOT “necessary” progress. This is silly. But with technological innovation there is the necessary POTENTIAL for progress (if you can call it progress). This increase in potential of course could result in all kinds of regressive possibilities. It is merely the chance for increase in freedoms.

      PC: “Besides even as a kid, in ”my generation”, I watched art movies, not STAR WARS. It’s got little to do with age or aging.”

      Kvond: Ooooo. You were an art critic at age 8. The case is worse than I thought.

  13. parody center January 5, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    the innocence of technological launch.

    yeah RIGHT like that time Bambi learned how to walk from Thumper!

    And I repeat, this ”innocence” is unpaid for, it is unwarranted, it comes out of nowhere, and I’m not buying it. There are no scars on the American colonist.

    • kvond January 5, 2010 at 6:52 pm

      Uh. Innocence is unpaid for? You are looking for PAID FOR innocence? Now who is the devout Capitalist?

      There are all kinds of technology. Writing is technology, its techne.

  14. parody center January 6, 2010 at 6:30 am

    No I was not an art critic, but Russian culture which at the time was dominant in Serbia exposed kids also to art movies, this shifted after the Berlin wall to a kind of a happy clappy Stalinism of which Avatar is I guess the pinnacle. Out there we were not forced to eat Star Wars if we didn’t want to. While on the subject, Star Wars had charming gay characters like r2d2, this one didn’t have a single redeemable quality except for Sigourney’s brief appearance as a smoking bitch,

    Becoming through technology is not a novel idea at all but if you look at the Becoming in Cronenberg eg THE FLY it seems to involve a lot of pain as well. Didn’t Deleuze say himself that you don’t get the Body without Organs without any EFFORT? Or at least concentrated stoicism?

    The way that Na’vi wakes up in virtual reality is like a goddamn Nike commercial, he just gets up and JUST GODDAMN DO IT.

    • kvond January 6, 2010 at 1:59 pm

      Well, thanks for bringing your childhood Russian culture sensibilities to bear upon the movie Avatar.

      As for the Fly, one of my favorite films, as are all of the flesh of Croenburg. But this is not the ONLY message about technology nnd flesh that is authentic or even interesting.

      PC: “Didn’t Deleuze say himself that you don’t get the Body without Organs without any EFFORT? Or at least concentrated stoicism?”

      Kvond: Most certainly, and Spinoza even more so. But it not necessary that in all expressions, all mappings that the “effort” is the entire point or even the focus. There are times when DIAGRAMS are drawn which provide experiential pathways meant to trace out the possibilities of new relations. Part of this is involved in the aesthetic of art experience. Yes, Francis Bacon’s Pope Innocent X is a brilliant painting, but the suffering involved in its witness is not the only REAL way of expressing our relations. The Velazquez is also authentic, one in which the viewer is not quite so (pleasurably) contorted.

      I would say as well, the great and enthused embrace of “the effort” (actually, the suffering) itself can be an auto-erotic aesthetic that cuts off some open paths. There are also the quixotic of becoming, the happy stumble fowards, the quick joy that is not cheap but rather, enormous.

      Agreed, the Avatar is not an adequate story about “the effort” (and the necessity of effort is important), but I am interested in exactly WHAT it is a story of, or better, what hidden else it is exemplifying. As I’ve tried to explain, I read the ideological difficulties as actually the cost of the other radical attempts. It is not an art film, but it is filled with new art. And being melded with Fly DNA into some horrible, suffering and monstrous figure is not the only future for human- technology and species interface. Those who think so are in no less a fantasy than dragon riders.

  15. dejan January 8, 2010 at 7:40 am

    Yes, Francis Bacon’s Pope Innocent X is a brilliant painting, but the suffering involved in its witness is not the only REAL way of expressing our relations. The Velazquez is also authentic, one in which the viewer is not quite so (pleasurably) contorted.

    I wasn’t talking about masochism (joy in suffering) only that the problem of pain is utopically explained away by these kinds of stupid Kurzwell fantasies about downloading yourself into an avatar. I wasn’t either saying that we should draw jouissance from negativity. The technotronic optimism of the Avatar scenario is unmistakably fascist, and it feeds also into the fantasies of the rich that they will evolve into a superior race via chips and prosthetic devices. It’s legitimate to look for the things you’re searching, but not in Avatar, as I told you other 3D productions bring you much closer to them.

  16. Josh W January 11, 2010 at 12:36 am

    I’m not impressed by that D&G quote at all, it seems like a the sentence fragment “and so we see blue becomes fish”, with unclear relationship to the conventional experiences aligned with those terms.

    It sets alarm bells for me of the metaphor that cannot decide it’s own strength, are real women as experienced by a man just a jumping off point? Or does the concept track alongside reality, retouching the experience of femininity by men? Does it even aspire to match up to women’s experience of their own femininity? If not either it’s a probably better to call it something else if it is expected to retouch gender and stuff, otherwise we won’t know if we’re talking about the practical experience or a species that migrated from this area long ago and is only now coming back, much changed. On that kind of basis I’m just not sure D&G are that relevant, or if they are, the relevant concept probably has a word for it apparently entirely unrelated to women-hood!

    As for things frequently considered feminine, I loved how the central failure of the mercs is their blindness, their insensitivity. A friend of mine said the film annoyed him because the side with the greater technological advantage could have just won if they were more tactically subtle.

    It is their lack of comprehension that fails them, because although they are vigilant, (as the head of security advises) they are not understanding. Unlike the Na’vi or many of the scientists they do not link into the place they are in, they do not attach to it in a participative fashion.

    Now is this sensitivity feminine? Maybe, seems pretty universal to me though, associated with adulthood rather than gender. But, and this is the big bit for me; for many people it is considered incompatible with masculinity (and this is partially where I think you’re right on track with your analysis of conservative approaches)! In my view this is people limiting their own development under the assumption that they will be betraying their gender by showing sensitivity, empathy and understanding. They assume that masculinity is scars and burnt nerve endings.

    Interesting then that in a battle between the two male characters (super-spoilers ahead flyby reader), one almost wins through his endurance of damage, and another through his relationships. Now to muddle the metaphor a bit, both use reactive speed to save themselves at important moments, both are using tools to express themselves, and the scarred guy uses deductive insight to land a crucial blow (letting pandoran air in), but fails because he doesn’t understand the substantialness of the connection, it is not broken by revealing uncomfortable realities, it merely finds new expression.

    I must say I agree with you about the similarities between this and a martial arts film, as the above suggests, the physicality of the film and the relationship of that bit to the underlying ideas is quite similar.

    It’s interesting you distinguish between [speed,embodiment] [distance,instrumentalisation], and I can see it in the film to a degree, but I think the mercs do combine detachment with speed (ie rushing ahead, with Bush references as expected!), so I think a distinction like the one I suggested matches closer to the movies view.

    Now about the full uploading, is that (as a rejection of human living) a rejection of connection to human things? Not really, because of the upgrade/fantasy nature of Na’vi, he can do everything he could before in terms of human interactions, and is now also plugged into the Na’vi forms of connection also. If they ever do another film, this very “connecting back” would be a very interesting avenue; what is the relationship between the humans and the Na’vi now? His only innovation so far is changing the relationship between the Na’vi and their worldmind, but as that was just executing temporary judgement on his (ex?)people, the going native is mostly just a replacement, but one that could be developed in interesting ways.

    Dejan, the world the main character is entering by this film’s uploading is certainly not pain free, although they are tougher, earlier in the film it’s clearly shown that the Na’vi world is full of pain, including the pain of varying kinds of loss throughout the expanded network of concerns. Cameron does suggest it as an upgrade of a kind, but not in the same direction as Kurzwell. As I’ve suggested it is in some senses in the opposite direction.

  17. the voice of parodic reason January 11, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    it’s clearly shown that the Na’vi world is full of pain, including the pain of varying kinds of loss throughout the expanded network of concerns.

    Yes this is shown eg the death of the leopard-like animals, but the transformation, the resurrection, seems to happen without any toil whatsoever, all you have to do is plug the tentacled cord into your brain and hey presto! the Tree of Life will do the rest of th job for ya. (Even more absurdly, the Sully character doesn’t seem to have a psychological history, or any discernible psychology himself, he’s defined solely by his status as a soldier and his handicap. In this way he’s already an ”avatar” when he enters the story.)

    It is this… how to call it? perhaps DIGITAL, without glitches, without organic decay, way the story unfolds that gives it the qualities of wishful thinking, a kind of a psychotic restitution, like the ”dream” of Diane Selwyn in Lynch’s MULHOLLAND DRIVE in which she is all of a sudden this famous actress and everything goes smoothly according to plan.

    But I don’t even know if I should be commenting anymore since Kvondique fled to Thailand at the first sign of serious disagreement, and narcissistic injury.

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