The US head of the WWF, when invited to choose a film to “help guide the way we think about the future,” selected the intellectually vapidAvatar.

According to, Carter Roberts – who earns nearly half a millilon dollars a year as CEO of the US wing of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – is “an international leader in the fight to save Earth’s great ecosystems.”

Roberts, therefore, will be the featured guest at an upcoming screening of the 2009 blockbuster Avatar. We’re told that this event, co-sponsored by Slate and the Arizona State University:

features a leading voice from the realm of science and technology sharing a favored film that can help guide the way we think about the future.

Did you catch what happened there? Slate has just described an executive with an activist, agenda-driven lobby group as “a leading voice from the realm of science.”

I remember sitting in my optometrist’s office early in 2010, shortly after the holiday season release of Avatar. Making small talk, she mentioned that she’d taken her family to see the film. “The story was stupid,” she said, “but it was great to look at.”

That summed up my own response perfectly. As eye-candy, it’s a magnificent piece of work. The plot, however, is paper-thin, clichéd, and formulaic even by Hollywood standards. And I speak as someone who, as a young woman, thought director James Cameron deserved a medal for the way he made strong female characters believable in his Aliens and Terminator 2 films.

Over at, there’s lots of discussion about Avatar’s shortcomings. As one person says, “the words being used to describe it are ‘cliche, dumb, formulaic, written by a two year-old.’” Someone else suggests that, if you have $300 million to spend on a movie, you shouldn’t “pay a third-grader ten bucks to write the script.”

Here are some other comments

  • “the plot sucked horribly”
  • “It portrays the Na’vi as Noble Savages who live in harmony with nature.While the idea of peacefully coexisting with nature is good in theory, the Big Bad Wolf doesn’t understand that you want to live peacefully.”
  • “The way humanity is portrayed in Avatar is yet another cliche. Humans are imperialistic, genocidal, uncaring butchers. I call BS.”
  • “the special effects were a work of art, and the plot was ridiculous.”
  • “A lame, annoying, preachy, and manipulative story with 1 dimensional, unlikeable characters.”
  • “As far as the central themes of Environmentalism and Peace go, they are superficial and targetted at morons..”

Targeted at morons. I like that one.

At last, I think I’m starting to understand what’s wrong with professional activism. Groups such as the WWF have tons of money, and tons of staff. But their political analysis, their view of themselves and those with whom they disagree, is as predictable and tepid as dishwater. It never grew up, it never made it out of grade-school (those evil climate deniers are preventing us from moving forward on climate change).

People who are serious take the time to learn about – and understand – their opponents. They take the time to gather accurate information. They change their views of a situation based on this new information.

People who are playing games, the poseurs, prefer to tell themselves elaborate stories in which they and their friends earn imaginary glory slaying dragons that don’t actually exist.

So Avatar is the film the head of the WWF chose when invited to “help guide the way we think about the future.” Amazing.


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