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Avatar, Utopia, and the Kingdom of God

A friend of mine recently sent an email to several people with a news article that I tracked down to AOL Health.  It is entitled, “Does Watching Avatar Lead To Depression”, written by Deborah Huso.  My friend asked us to consider these questions as we read the article, “What strikes your mind as you read it? What does it say to you about Christianity (the religion) as we know it, the current level of Kingdom influence in our world, and about what we should be doing?”

Here is the article that was posted on the AOL Health page in its entirety:

Does Watching “Avatar” Lead to Depression

By Deborah Huso

Hundreds of fans of James Cameron’s hit film “Avatar,” which has raked in $1.4 billion, are reporting symptoms of depression as well as suicidal thoughts after seeing the movie. The film is set in the future when the Earth’s resources have been depleted and a corporation is looking to mine the natural resources of a planet called, Pandora, which is portrayed as a world of beauty, with inhabitants that are close to nature and all creatures are connected. Many attribute their depression to the fact that the utopian world shown in the movie is unattainable here on earth and makes life seem meaningless.

One fan, who calls herself “Outsider,” wrote on Avatar-Forums.com, after seeing the film for the third time, “I thought the third time would help. It did not. I have slipped deeper into the depression than ever before. Now I am back at home and I am going to die. This depression will kill me.”

Crazy as it may sound at first, feeling blue after engaging in some form of escapism, whether it’s an especially touching movie or a great book, isn’t unusual. But if it’s impacting your ability to function, you could be taking escapism to the extreme. Escapism on that level can be a symptom of all kinds of problems from anxiety disorder to clinical depression.

“If a person has such an inordinate attraction to fantasy material and is prevented access to it, frustration, stress, anxiety or depression might possibly result,” said Frank Farley, Ph.D., a professor of educational psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia. “Modeling or identifying with media depictions is not unknown,” he added. “Yet most people make the distinction of reality versus fantasy.”

“Virtual life is not real life and it never will be, but this is the pinnacle of what we can build in a virtual presentation so far,” Dr. Stephan Quentzel, psychiatrist and Medical Director for the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York told CNN. “It has taken the best of our technology to create this virtual world and real life will never be as utopian as it seems onscreen. It makes real life seem more imperfect,” he said.

But even as some moviegoers despair over the human condition after seeing Cameron’s film, not all of “Avatar‘s” fans are singing the blues. Many have seen the movie as inspirational. Another fan, “One of the People,” commented last week, “Sometimes I get to thinking that it sucks that our planet can’t be like Pandora, that we have to be so vain and greedy, but at the end of the day all I’m trying to do is feel better with myself and “Avatar” has helped me do that. I may have had the ‘depression‘ for a day, but all it did was make me want to improve myself.”

The same fan later wrote:”I have also experienced a positive outcome. I feel inspired to do a great variety of things and make my life more meaningful. Whenever I need motivation, I just think about Pandora and Neytiri and Voila!”

I read several good responses to those questions, and felt compelled to respond as well.  Before I post further, though, I would like to invite you to respond with your own thoughts.

What strikes your mind as you read it? What does it say to you about Christianity (the religion) as we know it, the current level of Kingdom influence in our world, and about what we should be doing?

1 comment to Avatar, Utopia, and the Kingdom of God