Avatar’s ideal self

Over at Psychology Today, Ethan Gilsdorf (author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks) offers his take on James Cameron’s blockbuster in “Avatar’s Dream of the Ideal Self.” Gilsdorf’s thesis is that, in a world where many of us spend ours locked in front of our computers, playing videogames or surfing the Internet, AVATAR’s tale of a paralysed man finding new life in a new body is peculiarly relevant, playing to our fantasies of not only of escaping into a different world but of transforming ourselves into something better:

And what is that transformation all about? I think that classic geek dream — “if I were only not me” — has leaked now into the general culture. Even the jocks want to be someone else. Fantasies about transcending the self ain’t just for 98-pound weaklings anymore.


Sully’s journey may be the well-worn hero’s journey, but with a new chapter. His journey is not just about saving the day. It’s about becoming one with nature, returning to state of Eden, tapping into a wholeness with the world as Mother Nature, God or the deity of your choice meant it to be. To be re-aquainted with our primal selves.

I think I said more or less the same thing in my review:

Part of what makes Sully’s journey so moving is that he is not merely switching sides; he is ascending to a higher order of being, becoming something better than he was.

I think this element has a lot to do with the film’s success, and it’s something the film’s critics (who have some valid points) tend to overlook.


About the Author

Steve Biodrowski

Cinefantastique's Los Angeles Correspondent from 1987 to 1993 and West Coast Editor from 1993 to 1999. Currently the webmaster of Cinefantastique Online, I also run a website called Hollywood Gothique that covers Halloween Horror and Sci-Fi Cinema Events in the Los Angeles area.

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