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I would probably be impossible for someone who has spent time in a virtual world not to identify with the movie Avatar. In the movie a crippled humans enters and Avatar and the entire movie is essentially about how he forms and strengthens his identity as the Avatar, in the end predictably he is able to completely assume the Avatar identity and shed his humanity.
Having spent way too much free time in Second Life I was amused throughout the movie on how it showed end resolved the key issues of assuming an Avatar. The movie made pretty explicit the cultural forms that govern ones becoming a virtual other person in a technology govern other places.
What was interesting is that the "virtual" world of the Avatar was tribal, it was highly symbolic and entirely collective. The Earth world of humans was gray, technical, logical, driven by the logic of techno Capitalist society.
By assuming the Avatar our hero enters a different kind of social exist. The group is small. Life in the Avatar is a difficult process of learning in order to become part of the tribe. The tribe makes his identity of the Avatar real by demanding he gains a set of skills and competencies. During this process that Avatar develops and emotion connection to a woman and to the entire reality she is grounded in.
I loved the sex scene, I wanted to shout out that all Avatar experience is the same.
Overall I would say the movie opens up a new way of imagining a collective alternative virtual reality being to a large part of the public. The humans in the movie are very much the same as the humans in the Aliens movies. And yet rather than a dark threat the humans find an alternative social mode which is more human and rewarding than the ugly technology and Capitalist driven world in which they live. The Avatar is constructed via technology and much of what is going on in the movie is technology. You are continually thinking about the CGI and yet it works very well.
Even though the movie follows basic Hollywood logic to the letter, it still manages to faithfully show the emotional and mental "process" of developing an Avatar in a social group, but it shows it on a scale and wonder that is beyond any thing before. This also goes a long way to prove that the new media process like Second Life are in fact governed by established media ideology like movies and TV shows, which I have blogged about before.
Also I have to say the movie just looks fucking amazing in 3D. I mean fuck me the thing is amazing.