Avatar (2009) and Princess Mononoke (1997)
Literature is a powerful tool that can be used to address very pertinent issues in the world today, a major concern is a human interaction with the environment and the aftermath of the interaction, CGI Avatar and Anime Princess Mononoke have been used to illustrate the effect of human interaction with the environment.
The two sets are primarily meant for children who need to be environmentally conscious as they grow up. Various postulations have been used to define the relationship between human beings and the environment. Therefore, there is a need to evaluate how literature can be used to address environmental issues, Glotfelty and Fromm (1996) state that ecocriticism revolves around establishing the relationship between various kinds of literature and the surrounding physical environment.an analogy is drawn of the way feminism examines the language and literature from a gender-based perspective is the same way ecocriticism bases its notion in an earth-anchored approach to literary studies.
One of the most important aspects that can be used to dissect how human beings interact with the environment is using literature to figure out is either gender is majorly involved in the destruction of the environment or not ,as addressed by Bradford, Mallan, Stephens& McCallum( 2008) Ecofeminism is viewed as , ”Arising from the fusion of feminist and ecological thinking in the early 1970s, [ecofeminism] proposed that the social assumptions that underpin the domination and oppression of women are the same assumptions that bring about the abuse of the environment.”
Avatar (2009) and Princess Mononoke (1997) offer contrasting views on the relationship between the environment and human beings.CGI Avatar, by James Cameron, forces the viewer to only choose between deep ecology and anthropocentrism which is environmentally destructive. Whereas Anime princess Mononoke, directed by Hayao Miyazaki tries to offer a more balanced and relatively less idealized notion as opposed to Avatar, the realistic arrangement between non-human nature and human beings.
Avatar is in 3D, while Princess Mononoke is characterized by shades and nuances. Avatar is about a struggle where the victor has to destroy the competitor whereas Princess Mononoke is about a heated struggle between the conflicting parties where both sides eventually end up learning from each other.
Representation of the environment in Avatar
Avatar employs a Manichaean worldview (Givens and Matthew,2011) this is where two antagonistic forces viciously oppose each other and aim at being victorious over each other by elimination. Narminio and Kapell( 2011) The Na’ vi, cherish and happily live with nature characterized by religious practices that respect the environment ,they use analytical methods and instincts to understand how to coexist with the environment and at the other extreme end are the humans ,who viciously conquer new lands with paying homage or respect to the initial inhabitants ,they end up colonizing the new lands, the human beings behavior can be condensed in a western colonialism metaphor.
In the first encounter, Neytiri shouts to Jake. “You have a strong heart, but you are stupid, like a child!” This modestly represents how our species coexist, Jake who is initially depicted as destructive when it comes to dealing with the environment. Whereas the Na’vi have always maintained and affirmed to the wisdom of their ancestors of always adopting deep ecology, this is despite the fact that they are not technologically endowed but they are able to interact better with the environment than humans.
Human being practice shallow environmentalism, all they do as depicted by Cameron in Avatar is centered towards them. This is in contrast to the Na’vi, who always seek forgiveness for the animals they kill for food because they acknowledge they are taking away precious life. They always avoid destructive activities that affect the environment and only kill human beings when defending themselves. From this Avatar depicts that there is no sure way to interact peacefully with nature.
In Avatar, the Na’vi can be depicted in terms of environmental ethics as being ‘holistic biometric’ this is because they comply with the approach. In fact, they comply thoroughly Arne Naess (2005) assertions on deep ecology as depicted below;
The nurturing and flourishing of human (Na’vi) and the non-human(non-native) interaction should only benefit the Na’vi as the latter’s life form doesn’t benefit it benefits the former’s.
The diversity of life forms is a catalyst that spurs the growth and development of both human life form and non-human life forms.
Social justice environmentalism which can be defined as humans are obliged to ensure that they should not destroy the diversity of life forms expect if the activity is meant to satisfy very vital needs.
The human being as depicted in Avatar behaves like a machine which is programmed to comply to cost benefits. What this shows is that they are ruthless colonizers who are only motivated by self-interest materialism. The notion of ethics has been mutilated in Avatar because it only defines the interaction between humans but quiet on how they should interact with the environment.
Therefore, the human being as illustrated by Cameron in Avatar is a narcissistic figure, who is a cynical pragmatic and very suspicious of his environment and end up destructing it ,they do not position themselves in the role of ensuring they protect and conserve the environment ,they see them as being superior to everything and end up destroying the environment.
Zeman( 2012) Avatar has clearly deviated from the expected Hollywood formula of having the Victors suffer but eventually triumph over evil. It is appalling that almost. In 99% of Avatar’s cases, humans have been depicted as not being able to evolve and live in harmony with the environment, they do not shift their beliefs to adjust to pressing issues and are highly insensitive to other issues that do not affect them directly. The movie’s plot should have ended with human beings being defeated and sent back to their original habitat.
Representation of the environment in Princess Mononoke
In contrast to Avatar, Mononoke’s views on the interaction between human beings and the environment are very interesting because the characters are flexible enough to shift their beliefs to suit the ever-changing dynamics of realities. At the end of the movie, the wolf-princess ends up remaining in the forest as its guardian and a fascinating turn of events is that she befriended a human being, something that at the beginning of the movie would not have been possible.
Because she was furiously charging at human beings. Initially, the step of having human beings in the forest was faced with harsh criticism but later on both parties reconciled and they were able to live in together with harmony. Eboshi who was given chance to change her mindset, after being spared by Princess Mononoke agrees to change Iron Town by also considering the need to preserve it and the surrounding.
Mononoke’s message which Is in contrast to Avatar is that the human character should be flexible enough to adjust to the ever-changing issues that affect the environment. However, if they cannot be intrinsically driven to do so then if it means destroying and influencing them to change cause even against their will but at the end, their character should be molded to be flexible in regards to environmental interaction. If they are able to change even if it means through suffering then it means the suffering was for a good cause.
The new characters developed will be able to preserve the environment for future use. This is clearly depicted by Ashitaka who at the end says, “Even in the midst of hatred and slaughter, there is still much to live for. Wonderful encounters and beautiful things still exist.” In contrast to Avatar here, the characters define their own rigid paradigms, Princess Mononoke, flexibility in a change of beliefs encourages paradigms to shift and address the emerging issue.
In Mononoke, it becomes evident that human beings are able to evolve as dictated by changing beliefs into a state of rich awareness about their interaction with the environment, this is the product of having made mistakes in the past and using them to find the right path that defines how beneficial it is to have a healthy relationship with the environment, this can be viewed as a mix of both deep ecology and shallow environmentalism.
The advantage of this change in tune is that even if there are future challenges, ways will be invented to ensure that the challenge that bears conflict between human beings and the environment is amicably resolved. Because human beings inevitably have to exploit the natural resources but they should do so in a way that accommodates both the human and non-human.
Princess Mononoke can be condensed in, former times, humans and nature interact in harmony but this peaceful coexistence is broken when human beings start conquering and exacting dominance over non-humans by use of guns. What follows is a conflict between nature and man, brute force is used to end the conflict since dialogue failed.
The battle saw both parties losing and the iron Town was destroyed, the old forest set ablaze and this brought the forest spirit to an end. But Ashitaka and Mononoke eventually bring the peace that sees a peaceful coexistence between human and nature. In contrast to Avatar, Princess Mononoke brings forth a rather realistic lesson and effective in that it encourages both parties to acknowledge and learn from mistakes.
From the comparative analysis, it can be concluded that Avatar (2009) teaches a very poor lesson, this is because it shows that the majority of the species are incapable of constructively learning from their mistakes. It is also appalling that the mistakes mushroom to the extent that nothing can be done to change the whole situation, the film also states that those human beings who are able to adjust are those that have gone through a learning process to avert their prejudices and make their beliefs flexible in order to become a Na’vi.
The movie also lets narcissism win, the individualistic nature should be shrugged because it does not shape most characters in the movie to be environmentally conscious. This is in total contrast to Princess Mononoke, this movie brings out a philosophy that should be adopted by many. Initially, there was an antagonism between human beings and entry to the forest but after some suffering and heated exchanges, it can be seen that at the end human beings were able to change their stand and addresses the need to coexist mutually and in harmony in the forest.