The big blue Jesus: A thought on Avatar

There’s been some discussion recently on the racist logic of the incredibly impressive film Avatar. I completely agree with the critique in Aaron’s post, but I’d like to add something else that jumps out at me as a student of theology: contrary to one of Ross Douthat’s recent absolutely valueless columns, this thing reeks of Christianity, with Jake Sully cast as (an at first reluctant) Jesus.

As one of the “sky people,” Jake takes on a Na’Vi body and becomes literally “one person in two natures” (two sets of DNA). He has his own temptation in the desert, with the devilish sadistic colonel offering him his legs back if only he will turn against his official mission and follow the colonel. When he is unplugged without going to sleep first, he is accused of having a demon. I’m sure there are many more parallels, but those are the ones that jump out at me.

This is a specifically supercessionist version of Christianity, however. The only way to be saved is to renounce one’s human roots, with only a small remnant of humans allowed to participate — the rest are cast off into the darkness, never to return. Recast the human/Na’Vi distinction as Jew/Gentile, and this sounds pretty familiar.

Since it’s the day after Christmas and I just got back from the movie, my ability to take this much further is limited right now — perhaps we can discuss in comments, and maybe the opportunity for a more developed follow-up post will present itself. For now, though, I’d like to suggest that the fact that this film follows both a racist logic (in its romantic mode) and a (supercessionist) Christian logic is no coincidence and that this is something that race-focused critiques of the film need to take into account as well.

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