One of the most interesting aspects of the movie Avatar is the culture that makes it up. The Na’vi is an entirely made up and brand new culture with language, norms, relationships, religion, and beliefs. Western civilization tries to move in on their land and their ways, believing the Na’vi are savage and primordial who must be living in the past due to their lack of modern technology uses and spending their every day and night in nature. The Na’vi have very close ties to their ancestors and believe that they themselves make up the land.
Their life revolves greatly around nature, and it is significantly respected by the researchers who are using participation observation with them-living among their tribe and thoroughly studying their lives. It is very similar to anthropologists today who study diverse indigenous tribes and respected their beliefs regardless of the differences to their own society. It is very important for the researchers in the movie, just as it is to anthropologists in reality, to spend a significant amount of time studying their culture.
For example, when the military first decided to cut down “Eywa”, researchers knew, even without living among the Na’vi, how to crucial it was to their own society; Eywa is the divine “mother” that connects deceased and present living creatures. To them it meant cutting down a circulation of life. To understand new people is crucial before living with them because it can lead to non-acceptance and/or disrespect within the community. The Na’vi almost never let an outsider live with them-until they met Jake. It is interesting, however, how much of an impact Avatar as a movie has had on modern society.
The culture wars between the conservatives and progressives seemed to open the eyes of many that pushing beliefs into another civilization just won’t work, and in some cases like this, can be taken too far and become controversial. Personally, I enjoyed the strength of a woman expressed in the Na’vi tribe; Neytiri has shown much independence and was able to stand up to a man if needed. The explanations of how the Na’vi lived, ate, slept, and their beliefs on family, nature, marriage, etc were all demonstrated to Jake through her.
She gradually granted him the opportunity to be so intact with the Na’vi culture, that he spent the rest of his life with them. This is a considerable difference between movie and anthropological research; most anthropologists do not end up transitioning into the humanity being studied, although it may seem like it to some with the amount of time they put in. Avatar showed a significant amount of not just culture, but also ways of anthropological methods. Researchers spent years studying their complicated language, beliefs on nature and Eywa, ancestral ties, and so much more.
After that, they still didn’t arrive person to person with them; they had to turn themselves into a Na’vi and practice how to move, how to eat, and basic understand of what it is like to truly be in their place. Plenty of location and animal study was involved as well. With the planet they lived on, dangers were around every corner in relation to the creatures that resided. The Na’vi’s did not kill them, however, but had learned to live among them in peace. If something should happen where defense was needed, a prayer was said to the dead animal to put there soul at one with the land and with Eywa.
They were very skeptical of outsiders. It was outstanding that the humans were able to provide Jake because he was the first to get first hand lessons about the Na’vi way of life. There is no right or wrong way to live and to believe, but there are millions of different cultures that masses of anthropologists study every day. James Cameron, the director of Avatar, was able to create an entirely new, fictitious one. This movie was an excellent source of culture studies, and made it easy to see how important it is to realize there should be no ethnocentrism-one culture is not greater than another, just different.