Posted by: kshayes513 | February 3, 2010

Five Ways to View Avatar

Aiming at movie history. Image: 20th Century Fox

Avatar takes aim at movie history. Image: 20th Century Fox

Cameron is still king. Avatar is ruling the awards nomination season, and holding its place at the top of the box office for the 7th straight week, the first movie since Titanic sit in the top for so long. And of course, like anything hugely successful, there’s plenty of debate about whether it’s really that good..

So this seems like a good time to introduce you to Professor Henry Jenkin’s  analysis of all the critical baggage people are bringing with them into the biggest movie of the decade. Prof. Jenkins, who pioneered the study of fandom as an aspect of popular culture and media, sees five different ways that people are looking at this movie. In his blog Confessions of an Aca/Fan, he writes,

Smart guy Henry Jenkins. Image from his blog.

“Cameron is trying to balance and satisfy at least five different sets of interpretive expectations which sit uneasily in relation to each other. Clearly most viewers experience the film first and foremost on the level of audiovisual spectacle and thus this is often the first thing anyone wants to comment on. How they feel about the plot and characters, though, has to do with which of these other levels enter into our interpretation.”

Read the rest here. Longer than your usual blog post, but very insightful.

Prof Jenkins’ analysis is worthwhile for worldbuilders, not just because it’s about Avatar, the most remarkable original world to hit movie theaters in over 30 years. All of us who are creating worlds for public consumption, are going to have to contend with these five kinds of interpretation from our fans. We might have an easier time understanding our audience if we know where they’re coming from.

After you’ve read and thought, you might ask yourself, which kind of viewer are you?


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