Avatar: Is it Zooey?

Hello there readers! Today we'll be determining if Avatar, as well as Avatar 2: Way of Water, are zooey. If you're still waiting to catch the second one, don't worry, there's going to be minimal spoilers for the second film, and a few more for the first. We're going to talk a lot about the ecology and world, but not so much about plot elements past what you see in the trailers. Still, heads up in advance just in case. Anyway, let's get to it!
Avatar is maybe one of the most zooey films ever made. As a brief recap if it's been a while, Avatar is a film about humans who fucked up Earth so badly that they have to go into space and find new planets that they can harvest resources from. One such planet is Pandora, the setting of these movies. Pandora is a beautiful world filled with all sorts of amazing flora and fauna. It's also home to the Na'vi, the apex species of this world, much in the same way humans are to Earth. The difference, however, is that instead of rejecting nature, they've chosen to embrace it and live with it. They hunt, but they respect the animals they hunt. They live in trees like Wood Elves in a fantasy setting. They even have cool bird pets that they fly around on.
The humans in the film, on the other hand, are the aggressors. They already fucked up their own planet, and they have no intentions to make better decisions this time around. They clear cut the forests and drill huge holes in the ground seeking precious minerals. This puts them into direct opposition with the Na'vi who want to protect their home.
If it wasn't clear, the Na'vi are the good guys in this story and the humans are the bad guys, to the extent that the main character of the movie even starts off as a human but becomes a Na'vi. Our story follows the Na'vi fighting againt the destruction of nature using a ton of various Pandoran animals as their allies. 
That's already a pretty zooey premise, but it actually goes even deeper. Every creature on Pandora (that we've seen at time of writing) has a set of special hairs which can connect with any other creature, giving them an intimate and sometimes spiritual connection with them. It's hard to say whether or not that process is technically procreation, but in a scene very much parallelling the second act sex scene, the main character and the main love interest link their hairs together in a display of intimacy, something they feel the need to leave the village and distance themselves from other Na'vi to do. If it's not sex, it's clearly something very personal and intimate.
What we see more often in the film, however, is the Na'vi linking their hairs with the animals in their world. Specifically, we most often see them do this with animals that they use as mounts, although they can do so with other animals too. Supposedly, the idea is that it makes you and the animal more connected, as a way of understanding each other even though you can't directly communicate. It's the same intimacy that, again, if it wasn't sex between the main character and the love interest, it was Pandoran third base.
So that's it, right? Case closed? Avatar is Zooey written by Tarro yada yada?
Today friends, I am here to tell you that Avatar is, in fact, NOT zooey. In fact, due to the nature of the world, I would go so far as to say that Avatar is maybe one of the most NON-zooey films ever. And here's why. 
The humans in this movie are obviously the bad guys, that much is clear. Their seeming hatred of nature is inexcusable. However, let's also look at the way that the Na'vi actually view the animals around them. First of all, as astute readers may remember, the Na'vi are big hunters. They have an innate connection to nature, but still haven't figured out how to eat plants I guess. We never really get a deep dive of their nutritional needs, but you'd think with so much care for the animals around them, they'd have come up with a better solution. And it's not just hunting predators to keep the ecology in balance, we've seen them hunting animals like fish as well, just for fun.
Speaking of using animals, they also keep beasts of burden around to work on the land. In the first movie, we see animals plowing ground for the Na'vi, rigged up to large harnesses with plows behind them. 
And speaking of beasts of burden, you know what's fun? Flying! You know how I mentioned before that the Na'vi have these big flying raptors that they ride around on? Well, it's not like once Na'vi reach flying age they just throw their arms up and one appears. They have to be subdued. There's a mountain where a number of these raptors live, and the Na'vi will sneak up to one and seal their mouth shut. Then, one Navi will have to jump onto the raptor's back and link hair follicles with the animal in order to "claim" it. In the movie, this is explained as earning the respect of the animal, but the raptors throughout this are flailing, screeching. They clearly don't want this to happen. That is, up until the hair connection is made.
And there-in dear reader, is where the real dark twist of this film exists. It's in the hair. 
You see, in the film touching hairs is viewed as a spiritual bond with an animal. As we actually see it though, it seems more like spiritual subjugation. Maybe even like a lobotomy. Once that connection is made, the animal is (as far as we've seen) under the total control of their new Na'vi owner. 
To make it clear, it's not just the one raptor species this is applicable to. Later on in the movie the main character even does this same mental take over on the "king of the skies," a much larger and deadlier dragon-like creature. And in much in the same way, the animal was hostile, and then immediately under control.
So, we've established that the Na'vi have totally dominated animal slaves. How do they use those animals? They take them to war. There were already the beasts of burden they use to work for them, but when the battle with the humans escalates there is no question asked about whether or not it's morally correct to deploy these animals into direct combat. No effort is made by the Na'vi to try and take out the humans without endangering their animals. And I get it, it's war. It's us or them. You have to use the tools that you have at your disposal. Because that's exactly what the animals of Pandora are to the Na'vi. Tools. 
In the second film, the main character and his family go on a long journey, flying on the backs of their raptors to a new aquatic setting. A main point of the story is the family learning to adapt to the new environment. But the raptors they flew in on are gone as soon as their purpose is done. There's no effort made for them to stay, because they aren't a part of the family the way that our partners are in real life. The family instead gets cool new water birds to ride around on.
Now, if you've seen Way of Water, you might be thinking "But what about the whales?" And that's a fair question to ask. For those not in the know, the second movie introduces cool whales that are friends with the water Na'vi. They have deep connections and bonds that grow even generationally. You'd be forgiven for thinking this is an example of the Na'vi having a positive relationship with animals, right? Well, not really. See, these whales can speak. And not just to each other, but to the Na'vi as well. They're also said to be 100 times more conventionally intelligent than the Na'vi. While I'm definitely not saying that our animal partners aren't intelligent in their own ways, the bond between the Na'vi and the whales isn't presented as one that's like what we would expect with animals. It's technically interspecies, but not really making any effort to be a zooey parallel to our own lives. Instead it's more like a high elf talking to a crusty human than a human talking to a dog. The whale-to-Na'vi connection is the closest we get to a zooey dynamic, but even then it's not very good.
And that's why at the end of the day, yes Avatar is zooey. But not in the way you'd expect. It's a zooey horror movie. It presents us with two parallels. On one hand is the humans, who have rejected nature to the point that they've destroyed it. On the other is the Na'vi, who have embraced it so tightly that they're strangling it. This is a story of a false utopia.
We're charmed in, thinking we've finally found a world where "humans" and animals can have the deep emotional connections that we as zoos have with our partners, but it turns out this is just another kind of hell.
But that's just a theory...
A (is it) ZOO(ey) THEORY
Thanks for reading.
Article written by Tarro (May 2023) 
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