“Avatar” moviegoers suffer Post-Pandora Depression


Did you feel depressed after watching Avatar? Not in the sense that the movie itself depressed you, but because you came to the stark realization that the world of Pandora and the Na’vi are not real? That life here on Earth is gloomier and more meaningless in comparison? Apparently, you’re not alone. Not by a long shot.

According to a recent CNN article, message boards all over the Web have been filling with comments such as these:

“One can say my depression was twofold: I was depressed because I really wanted to live in Pandora, which seemed like such a perfect place, but I was also depressed and disgusted with the sight of our world, what we have done to Earth. I so much wanted to escape reality,” Hill said.

“Ever since I went to see Avatar I have been depressed. Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na’vi made me want to be one of them. I can’t stop thinking about all the things that happened in the film and all of the tears and shivers I got from it,” Mike posted. “I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and the everything is the same as in ‘Avatar.’ “

And with CNN covering, there’s credence in this. Read the full article here and check below for my thoughts.

I’ve always believed that one of the core elements at the movies is escapism. It’s what makes film universal, it’s why 90 percent of the people who can afford to see them on this Earth go and see them. Avatar, I suppose, can be seen as the pinnacle of escapism. This was the first fully-3D motion picture offering taking place on a completely fictitious and vivid world. Motion capture was used to make the entire film seem more lifelike — in short, the line between fiction in reality at the movies took a giant step closer with Avatar. In this case, our escapism was more than two-hours or so of suspension of disbelief, but actually — for some of us — an immersion of the senses, an escape so real (like an amazing dream) that you wish you could have it back.

Personally, when it comes to film (and maybe this is because I critique it 98 percent of the time) I’m careful about drawing the line between fiction and reality, but I can certainly see how for some people that’s not an easy thing to do. Not everyone is happy with his or her life and film is sometimes an all-important escape from that. But because of the technological spectacle that is Avatar, that escapism lingers just a bit longer, the impression stays in ones mind both consciously and sub-consciously.

My friends Michael (who helped me with this site) and Sam went to a late-night showing of Avatar in IMAX 3D. The next morning, both mentioned how they had incredibly vivid dreams about Avatar and Pandora. Without question, our minds have processed this visual epic just a bit differently than other films. I have no trouble imagining that for those of use struggling with day-to-day life, that Avatar would leave a deeper imprint or spur on depressed or even suicidal thoughts.

I wrote about this in my review, but I also find part of this is unintentionally encouraged by James Cameron. I know, blasphemy, I’m sorry, but take a look at our antagonists in this film: Col. Miles Quaritch and the humans in the military are not capable of being sympathized with. This might be the most anti-human film ever created and we like it because frankly, we know that we’re assholes. In Avatar, our planet is defunct so we raid others and show them no kindness. Cameron has sewn seeds of self-hate in this film. When we choose sides, it’s not merely because the Na’vi are the oppressed, but because they live in this amazing world, they live a simpler life in tune with nature and we have none of it and seek to destroy it so that no one can have it at all.

Avatar is on track to beat Titanic, around No. 6 on the all-time list at the moment, so the exposure is enormous. People are seeing it and they’re seeing it again, some of them possibly to taste that world once more. So if someone does commit suicide and Avatar contributes in any way to those depressed feelings, Cameron will have to live with that on his conscience. He will have created a world so vivid that someone decided to leave this world in hopes of finding something like Pandora. That’s tough to stomach. We’ve all seen Avatar as just the beginning in terms of technological advances in film, but we have our first warning sign in this depression.

Remember the film Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz? I don’t remember much of it as I saw it when it came out in theaters and I wasn’t quite the film intellectual (and I have a lousy film memory anyway) but there are these machines that simulate alternative worlds for people as well as sexual intercourse, etc. Weirdly enough, Avatar is a step toward that. Can you imagine if we actually had those kinds of machines in our society how fragile we would all become, addicting ourselves to fiction, to lives better than what we have? Scary thought.

We have a long way to go before that becomes a problem, but I think without question we have to move forward in Hollywood with a bit more caution, understanding that now the door is open for the psychological consequences of this work on a large scale. Before there was the controversy of The Basketball Diaries in connection with the Columbine shooting, but that  crap about video games and movies leading to violence has always existed. I don’t believe in any of that being the cause of violent action, but it’s the large scale of Avatar and the proof in that article that makes it different. As we enter an open-ended future in filmmaking thanks to technology like that used in Avatar, that we ourselves need to adjust our line between fiction and reality and the filmmakers have more of a responsibility to be careful about just how much they blur it.


  1. Brittany says:

    That CNN article and everyone in it made me roll my eyes. We may not be blue and have tentacles to connect to plants and animals, but to think that there is no meaning in this world is ignorant. Earth is beautiful and there is spirituality. If these Avatar fans would get out of the house, go for a walk, swim in the ocean, visit the mountains, wander through a forest…rather than seeing the movie again, playing the video game and reading endlessly about Avatar on message boards and blogs…then maybe they wouldn’t find their own lives so bleak.

    Though maybe I don’t understand the hoopla because I watched the movie without the 3-D glasses on and I fell asleep in the middle…

  2. Steven says:

    Yea, I agree. Unfortunately, it is also testament to just how many people close themselves off to only digital forms of experience. Is it their fault 100 percent of the time? Probably not, but there are still ways they can give themselves a much needed perspective/outlook shift on Earth.

  3. Jenni Hanley says:

    I saw this movie with Don, and when we walked out, his first words were, “Man, the real world sucks!”

    Then again, we were staring into a parking lot…

  4. Michael Moramarco says:

    I saw the movie and did not feel this emotion at all. But after reading this and the CNN article, I was reminded of my feelings about the Harry Potter series. I feel that in Avatar, there was not enough time to really get into the world and characters, vs. series like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings in which you have a long time in which to know and love the characters as well as the unique world in which they live. It was a good film, and I think only original in that it created new worlds, but in the end, it is merely a different setting for the story of Dances with Wolves. Just my two cents. Cheers.

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