You search it up in Google and the first three results are about the blockbuster, sci-fi, highest-grossing film of all time, Avatar. But how does this film about humans blasting off into deep space and forcefully colonizing the strange, alien world of Pandora, dealing with blue-skinned humanoids along the way actually link to transnational film?
How does such a sci-fi-esque movie that topped billboards globally in 2009 tie into the far reaches of globalization, specifically cultural hybridity?
For the unaware and uninitiated, cultural hybridity is basically a central part of globalization – it’s the idea that people tend to combine elements of local and global culture which is particularly shown in global mediascapes.
“You’ve got people projecting their consciousness into a fleshly body, a biological body and that’s what you know, the Sanskrit word [Avatar] means, the taking of flesh, the incarnation of a divine being, in the case of Hindu religion, and although our characters aren’t divine beings, obviously, the idea is that this is actually a fleshly incarnation…” (Cameron, 2010)
James Cameron, director of the film succinctly summed up this relationship, you’ve got a movie which pretty much “borrowed” from traditional Indian mythology.
The blue skinned Na’vi humanoids are reminiscent of powerful religious avatars in Hindu culture.
The plot of a foreign invader clashing with avatar-led characters mimics Indian religious texts, and the Na’vi really use rudimentary weapons such as bows and arrows, which is also used in religious texts within Indian mythology.
So here we can see that Avatar borrows strongly from other cultures despite being an American pioneered film, there are subtle Hindu references in mainstream North American media.
Avatar presents an illustration of the rising influence of ‘Bollywoodisms’ in current media, which can be blamed for the recent influx of interest in Bollywood itself and Bollywood-esque elements in globally recognized films.
A fairly recent film which incorporates more obvious elements of Bollywood would be Slumdog Millionare, a British-Indian drama film produced also in 2009, which incorporated Westernized production values with ‘Indian cinema’ and popular-culture references to appeal to a Western audience as well as an Indian one. You’ve got locales such as the internationally famous Taj Mahal to further emphasise this link between Bollywood cinematic production and how westernized American film-producers can tackle this hybrid.
Transnational elements in film-making are becoming more and more obvious in this rapidly globalized world with the lesser impact of Americanization, instead encouraging diversity in terms of cast, crew and production locations.
A clear example of a Transnational film would be Christopher Nolan’s rebooted Batman film The Dark Knight. Although the film can be seen as heavily Americanised, the production team and actors are from different countries and the director is British. You’ve got filming locations ranging from London in England to Hong Kong and China.
Avatar can be further classified as a transnational film.
Although on the surface you have a significant amount of English-speaking American cast, crew such as lead Sam Worthington and James Cameron originate from England and Canada respectively.