AVATAR is a good example of the tension between ideology and fabulation in modern myth-making that I have been tryng to describe.
Zizek can only see the ideology and the oedipal foreground:
« In a typical Hollywood product, everything, from the fate of the Knights of the Round Table to asteroids hitting the earth, is transposed into an Oedipal narrative » (Return of the Natives)
So AVATAR is oedipal, conservative, racist, and imperialist. But one can wonder if this interpretation is not rather an artefact of Zizek’s own interpretative spectacles. In his discussion of War of the Worlds in IN DEFENSE OF LOST CAUSES Zizek spells out his interpretative orientation:
« One can easily imagine the film without the bloodthirsty aliens so that
what remains is in a way « what it is really about, » the story of a divorced
working-class father who strives to regain the respect of his two children.
Therein resides the film’s ideology: with regard to the two levels of the
story (the Oedipal level of lost and regained paternal authority; the
spectacular level of the conflict with the invading aliens), there is a clear
dissymmetry, since the Oedipal level is what the story is « really about, »
while the external spectacular is merely its metaphoric extension. » (p56)
To which one can reply that yes of course if you leave out all that is difference and alterity and archetype, then all that remains is the same, identity, and the stereotype. So how is Zizek going to approach a film that’s defining feature is world-building?: the awesome, marvelous, sublime world of Pandora, whose imagined existence is a devastating critique of our world while the hope it alludes to is not one of a literal balance of Nature that a dualistically conceived external »Gaia » can restore. He’s going to ignore all that metaphorics and concentrate on what the film is « really about ». But the « metaphorics » of the film are what it is really about. This time the alterity is not the hostile Martians of War of the Worlds , for in this film we are the hostile aliens, but more radically an entire imaginatively rich and detailed world, a figuration of the unconscious as a whole and no longer of the irruption of certain of its elements into our world. The stance proposed in relation to the unconscious is more radical too, we are invited to go over to its images, its energies and values not so much to save it, that is narrative foregrounding, as to save ourselves. Zizek sees the ideology but represses the fabulation, re-enacting, and so making himself a part of, the problem.