I first heard of Avatar several months ago, possibly more than a year.
Normally, there would be nothing remarkable about that; after all, I search for information about the barely-greenlit Ghostbusters 3. I read HPANA (on RSS, even). I follow the development of rumored movies for embarrassing amounts of time, and I’m one of the three people who noticed there was a Lost Boys sequel.
No, what was notable about the first mention I saw of Avatar was that it was a mainstream news article. And it claimed that the sci-fi fanboy community was buzzing.
Oh, really? I wondered. I looked it up and determined it was some James Cameron film that promised to be epic. Since there was virtually no buzz at any of the sites I frequented, it slid out of my mind. Months later, I caught the trailer at either a showing of Inglourious Basterds or District 9. Visually, it sort of reminded me of Fern Gully, but I felt like the trailer showed the whole film. I was mildly interested, but soon forgot about it.
Then, in November, the media blitz began in earnest. And I began to get annoyed.
It wasn’t the constant commercials that were the problem – lots of big-budget movies advertise ad nauseum. It wasn’t even the numerous appearances of the film’s stars and Cameron himself on talk shows – that, too, is pretty standard.
It was something about the attitude of the talk show hosts, of the mainstream media. It said to me, Here’s some science fiction that’s not too weird – science fiction with the James Cameron name. It was like watching someone’s parent, or your fifth-grade teacher, try to be cool and knowledgeable about what the kids like.
That, coupled with the constant references to the fanboy buzz that still didn’t seem more than what you would expect with the constant hype – it began to rub me the wrong way.
Then I was faced with the ultimate insult.
Avatar infiltrated Bones.
For those who don’t watch TV, Bones is a cute procedural TV show based on the life and writings of forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs. It airs on Fox, which unfortunately seems obligated to hype Avatar in any way possible, and one of the minor actors on the show has a role in the movie.
So, the B plot of an entire episode featured some supposedly nerdy scientists trying to sneak out of their jobs to wait in line for more than a day – to see Avatar. Complete with “fanboys” in blueface.
Product placement is obnoxious in almost every context, but this was over-the-top. Drooling adults watched the trailer on the show. They said the name of the movie with reverence that would seem weird even in the context of Star Trek or Harry Potter. And maybe I could have even stomached that, if this were truly a movie with a movement that devoted and widespread – but I have yet to witness this in person.
Now, I understand, maybe the Bones writers were misguided. Los Angeles is a completely different world, where so many people are in the entertainment business in one form or another, with a completely different culture. Maybe, in the writers’ worlds, there was that much buzz and anticipation going on. But to the rest of the country (unless I live in some strange, Avatar-less bubble), it was ridiculous and came off as pandering to the mother company.
It was like that episode combined the two elements that were bothering me the most – the hype, and the furthering of the myth of some grassroots Avatar fanbase.
I acknowledge that maybe I simply missed the boat completely on this fanbase. I know there certainly are fans out there, but I wouldn’t have put them on the level of people who looked forward to Watchmen or even a big-budget film like The Dark Knight. Still, I know I don’t have eyes everywhere on the internet, and I’m not personally insulted by the idea that there might be fan movements I don’t know about. It’s just that this one seems so… fabricated.
I also acknowledge that now that the movie has come out, a few of my friends have said that the movie is even good. I might check it out when it’s on DVD or HBO. But for now, I’m not paying ten bucks to go see it in a theater. I don’t want to support bloated, unnecessary advertising and word-of-mouth from Kathie Lee and Hoda.
And I want Fox to keep their movie-of-the-season the hell away from one of my favorite TV shows.