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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/16/2011 Category: Arts
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,949 times Debate No: 17529
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (10)
Votes (5)




Avatar, the motion picture directed by James Cameron, is an AWESOME work of art.

My opponent in this debate disagrees with that assertion.

Avatar is awesome for the following reasons: it is a huge creative achievement because of its theological, philosophical, social, moral, cultural, technological, existential, and other themes; because of the quality of its visual effects and related technology; because of the attention to zoological, linguistic, geographic and botanical detail, and other details; because of the vast amount of labor, cooperation, and time invested in Avatar's creation and execution; because of its unprecedented popularity and economic revenue; and for many other reasons that I might recall and argue in subsequent rounds.


I would like to thank my opponent for this debate. This is an issue that has been of serious contention for some time, as I have casually argued with my friends against my opponent's points since the day Avatar was released. I'm excited to hear more of my opponent's opinions and look forward to an interesting debate. Good luck.

My opponent contends that Avatar is "An Awesome Work of Art". We will assume that as subjective as art is, that in fact Avatar is indeed a work of art, and that it is incumbent upon my opponent (of which he has the burden of proof) to prove furthermore, that Avatar is in fact, "An Awesome" work of art.

It will be my responsibility to show that Avatar is not an "Awesome" piece of art, but rather a mediocre film, with the usual bright lights and shiny things, devoid of original substance, typical of modern Hollywood films. As such I will prove that instead, Avatar, is a mediocre work of art (if a work of art, at all).

So lets get to it…

First let's look at some of the contentions of my opponent:

"[Avatar is] A huge creative achievement because of its theological, philosophical, social, moral, cultural, technological, existential, and other themes"…

Had Avatar been the first movie to present such themes, I might agree with my opponent to a certain extent, however the plot and themes aren't original in the least, with several movies, decades old now, doing nearly the same plot, much earlier and much better.

Annalee Newitz of takes it a step further calling Avatar "…Just the latest sci-fi rehash of an old white guilt fantasy"[1]

Just a few examples of better films with a similar theme:

Ferngully: The Last Rainforest (1992)
Dance With Wolves(1990)
District 9 (2009) same year, better film [2]

"…Quality of its visual effects and related technology; because of the attention to zoological, linguistic, geographic and botanical detail"

My opponent may have a valid point regarding Avatar's special effects and attention to detail. The effects are quite stunning, but this alone does not make anything an "awesome work of art". I hope to explore this more in later rounds.

"Because of the vast amount of labor, cooperation, and time invested in Avatar's creation and execution"

This is an entirely subjective conclusion. Would my opponent conclude that based on the amount of time and effort spent on ‘Water world' or ‘Battlefield Earth' or ‘insert crappy movie title here', that those were "awesome works of art", unlikely.

Now I'd like to make my first independent argument.

For any new film to be "an awesome work of art", I'd expect it to be original, compelling, entertaining, and thought provoking. For any movie to be any of those things, I believe that, at the very least, the characters have to be interesting, original, or compelling, and Avatar's are none of those.

Instead, the characters we get with Avatar are nothing but rehashed archetypes and stereotypes we have seen many times before. Let's take a look: (warning: spoilers)

Jake Sully: Reluctant to confident replacement that gains conscience to become great white savior of the natives.

Grace: Idealistic scientist who wants to study natives.

Neytiri: Well meaning but na�ve native girl, who naturally falls in love with the ‘great savior of natives' character.

Parker: Evil corporate overlord who just wants to mine the planet.

Colonel Miles: Type-A militant who wants to kill them all.

Trudy: Spicy badass Latin chick.

These, among others, are all rehashed character designs entirely devoid of subtlety or originality, though the actors do a great job playing these archetypes with their one-off motives, the depth of the movie is no better for it.

I'd like to add that Michelle Rodriguez is a beautiful and talented actress who can continue to be whatever archetype she likes. [3]

Finally, I'd like to conclude this first round by pointing to the only original concept/idea this movie actually offers:

Dragon rape.

Dragon rape is something film and literature haven't really touched before. Had the movie focused entirely on the Na'vi's backwards culture of bestial rape and domination, Avatar could have been a fascinating look at what an entire planet of un-evolved, single-ethnic beings can become. Any level of plurality and diversity may have actually saved this culture from becoming what they are.

But instead, the Na'vi are militantly ethnocentric isolationists, content with carrying on their dragon raping lifestyles. Shame on them…

Avatar is an unoriginal, though pretty looking, rehash of other, better movies you have seen many times before.
If anything, it's a mediocre work of art.

Vote con.

Thank you to my opponent, I look forward to his response.

Debate Round No. 1


I gladly accept the burden of proof. Avatar is fracking awesome. If my opponent proves that Avatar is merely excellent, he wins. THAT's how confident I am of Avatar's awesomeness.

I reject my opponent's assertion that a film has to be "original" in order to be awesome, or that it has to be "the first movie to present such themes." Every basic plot structure has been around for literally thousands of years (see e.g., and every major artist in history introduces mere variations on these fundamental themes. By a purist standard of originality, no movie has ever been awesome, nor can any artwork created since the classical age of mythology be awesome. It's a useless standard. A better standard is simply whether an artwork presents its themes well or not.

Annalee Newitz is a fool.

None of my opponent's listed films are better because they are all one-dimensional, whereas Avatar is multidimensional. Anybody who believes Avatar is one-dimensional has simply failed to notice all but one of its many themes. Avatar has the thematic depth of those listed films PLUS a whole host of others that I could list, including but not limited to Adam's Apples, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, Tron, The Seventh Seal, etc., PLUS books like The Holy Bible and all other religious texts, One Dimensional Man, and Zarathustra, among other works.

I agree with my opponent that special effects and other details are not the sole determinant of awesomeness,but I believe that they are to a film's credit, and in this film there's a whole lot of thoughtful detail and therefore a whole lot of credit that is relevant to Avatar's awesomeness.

I agree with my opponent that labor-hours are only subjectively valuable, and not self-evidently valuable. But I think that the scale of an artwork is closely related to the amount of labor hours invested in it, and scale is definitely one important part of awesomeness (large scale artworks often being more awe-inspiring than small scale artworks). Thus part of what makes the Pyramids of Giza or the Great Wall of China awesome is that they used such an unfathomable amount of human effort to create. Likewise, Avatar, which in this era of supercomputing still took a decade to make, and entailed the coordination of thousands of highly skilled experts from across many scientific disciplines, is an awe-inspiring effort. It's the Hollywood equivalent of the Manhattan Project.

By this standard, I concede that Waterworld and Battlefield: Earth are partly creditworthy. But they fail to achieve awesomeness for other reasons (as a side note, be aware that Waterworld was actually a huge financial success).

I reject my author's list of archetypes because it is rooted in the same unrealistic standard that I cited above, which is that an awesome artwork has to present "new" themes. Again, there's no such thing as a truly novel theme; likewise, after thousands of years of storytelling, there's no such thing as a truly original character type. And even if someone invented a heretofore unknown character type, then the next critic could just boil that type down to just goodness, badness, or neutrality. So this whole business of originality is not just an unrealistic and distracting standard, but a slippery slope that tends towards absurd reductionism.

But even if I grant to my opponent that the characters are re-hashed archetypes, I do not believe that that makes the film less awesome. Archetypal characters are the vehicle for plot and theme driven stories, and the use of archetypes has been a hallmark of many legendary authors: Ovid, Chaucer, and Shakespeare, to just name a few. I argue that the use of archetypes is essential for telling a theme driven story, because in a theme driven story the conflict presented is greater than the life of any individual character Fleshing out the characters distracts the audience's attention from the greater themes at issue. In a psychological story or biopic, on the other hand, the point of the story is to flesh out the characters. To say that unique, non-archetypal characters are a necessary ingredient for awesome artwork is to be biased in favor of merely one type of artwork: psychological stories, character profiles, or biopics. My opponent should justify his bias in favor of such artwork and against large-scale thematic epics, like the Odyssey and Avatar. It's not self evident that only character-driven stories can be "awesome."

Nonetheless, I'll address my opponent's characterization of the characters in Avatar:

Jake Sully: His transformation is very powerful: he abandons his previous life, his worldview, and his very species in a land that that is nothing like the world he knows. Analogous real-life examples are extremely rare (Mother Teresa, Siddharta Gautama, St. Paul the Apostle), and this is even a special theme in literature (Kurtz in Heart of Darkness, for example). Avatar presents a unique twist on the theme because Jake Sully's transformation is inter-special. It's a thought experiment about how difficult it would be for homo sapiens to show altruism and love for a non-human species, given how rare such altruism and love already are in a word where we're already the same species and our differences are merely cultural. Jake Sully's ultimate abandonement of his human body touches the age-old question of what defines the self, and what is mind-body dualism (

Grace: Yes, idealistic character, evocative of Jane Goodall. It is interesting to contrast her non-interventionist approach to the Na'vi with the full emotional and physical investment of Jake Sully's. This issue of non-intervention is a recurring theme in anthropology, in which the mutual gain of cross-cultural immersion must be balanced against the fact that increasing interaction irrevocably changes the character of each respective culture. It's also a tension in exploratory biology, in which our desire to collect data about nature conflicts with our desire to keep such nature "undisturbed." Grace even echoes the scientific theme of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle (

Neytiri: She is fascinating not only because she makes a similar cross-species leap to that of Jake Sully, but also because it underscores how disabling the experience of falling in love can be. She is totally on-guard about humanity's destructive habits, yet her inhibitions are nonetheless weakened by the experience of falling in love with another person. this happens to any of us who suffers from a broken heart, and it's interesting to see it happen to an alien character. Moreover, her relationship with Jake raises the theme of forgiveness: must forgiveness be earned or purchased, or can forgiveness be gratuitous? Neyriti forgived Jake, but did she do so only because Jake performed restitution for his betrayal of her? (Was it even adequate restitution? after all, he caused the death of many Na-vi and theloss of their home tree.) If so, is it truly forgiveness, or just settled scores? If not, then it shows forgiveness can be sought for even the most grievous of sins, which is a theological theme.WWJD

Parker: This character is a touchstone for capitalism, utilitarianism, and existentialism. To whom does the Na'vi planet belong?To the na'vi because they were there first, or to the humans because they can exercise dominion over it, or to nobody, or to everybody? What should be done about the planet's resources: how should we weigh the benefits to humanity of obtaining the element "unobtainium" (or whatever it was called) versus the costs to the Na'vi of exploitng that material? Is it right for this apparently critical natural resource to just sit there unused? Also, how should humans appraise the interests of non-humans? Do they experience co-equal utility simply because they're intelligent?

I could go on.

D-rape: interesting


I'd like to thank my opponent for this interesting debate, and appreciate his timely response.

My opponent concedes to several of my arguments, while making several of his own. His first, a rejection of my premise that a film has to be original to be awesome…

"I reject my opponent's assertion that a film has to be "original" in order to be awesome"

"A better standard is simply whether an artwork presents its themes well or not."

I agree that originality is not the only factor in weighing awesomeness and that the entirety of the film must be taken into consideration. With that understood, I reiterate my statement regarding Avatar's lack of originality, the rest of the film is nice to look at, but isn't quite awesome at any deeper level.

Think of the Mona Lisa, without the mystique…[1]

Or the Venus de Milo…with her arms…[2]

These are "Awesome works of art".

The contention regarding how to gauge ‘originality' in any medium is a subjective one. The criteria for what makes a work of art awesome should certainly be dependant on some level of originality, though with amazing special effects, cutting edge 3d visuals, and a ‘serviceable' plot line, Avatar doesn't quite reach that level.

I will concede to my opponent that a better standard is whether an artwork presents its themes well…

For Avatar its theme was wrapped in a nice shiny package that was great to look at, but the story was predictable and filled with more montages of cool scenery than interesting plot twists

If Avatar had come out 10 years ago, that would have been awesome. But after so many special effects movies, the audience needs to ask for more. I think the original star wars trilogy (4, 5, 6) is closer to awesome than the prequels, if any of them really can even be called awesome works of art. Almost identical to the originals in theme and relative special effects, the modern trilogy just doesn't have anything ‘special'.

"Annalee Newitz is a fool."

All 50 words I've read from Ms. Newitz seemed reasonable, perhaps provocative, but certainly within grammatical compliance. My opponent's assertion is unverified and must be proven, or disregarded.

"…In this era of supercomputing [Avatar} still took a decade to make, and entailed the coordination of thousands of highly skilled experts from across many scientific disciplines, is an awe-inspiring effort. It's the Hollywood equivalent of the Manhattan Project."

This is a pretty lofty statement by my opponent and he is partially correct. The special effects in Avatar are very cool. The Manhattan Project however created something tangible, while Avatar is just very cool special effects that overshadow a serviceable plot. It's difficult therefore to compare these projects in any way other than the amount of money spent on them.

My opponent then spends the rest of his rebuttal conceding, and then refuting my generalization of recycled themes and archetypes. He attempts to refute the archetype arguments by writing a detailed and lengthy analysis of these one-dimensional characters, in the hope that it will make them appear to have actual depth.

As a fan of over analysis, I know how easy it is to make anything seem complex and deep if one wants it to. So in that spirit lets look at some obviously one-dimensional characters and make them seem like something more:

White Spy – Spy Vs. Spy (Mad Magazine)[3]

While culturally connected to the other white spies around him, and thus pressured into an unending conflict of death and destruction with the black spies, White spy has, at times, seemed to be regretful, even remorseful, of his actions. Having blown up, crushed, mangled, and obliterated each other for decades, often we see White spy (or black spy) attempting to maim or injure his foe with minimal efficiency. Is this a sign of his desire for peace with the other spies? Is this an attempt to perhaps try to save the black spies? Because the white spy is the silent and deadly type, and refused an interview, it is difficult to ascertain. But it is clear that should the pressure of the cultural influences surrounding him change, he may have a desire to change as well, and this may lead to an era of peace in the spy vs. spy world.

Mr. Peanut – Planters nuts mascot [4]

With his top hat and monocle you can always tell Mr. Peanut is a peanut with class. Not only is Mr. Peanut well dressed he is on the front of containers of planters nuts. Mr. Peanut may seem calm and smooth in all of his commercials and promo videos, but behind those monocle eyes, lives the pain of unsalted peanut demons.
Mr. Peanut knows he should be grateful for all his success, but he never has been comfortable with lending his image to the sales of his kind for consumption. He tells himself that if he didn't do it, someone else would, but it barely gets him to sleep these days. He's often reminded of the time he was at the bar with Mr. Potatohead. Mr. Peanut was asked to see if Mr. Potato head might be interested in being the face of a product out of Idaho…the next thing Mr. Peanut recalls was being in the emergency room, having been shot in the leg. Needless to say, Potatohead and Mr. Peanut are no longer friends.

I could go on…

Neither of these characters is interesting at all, but if you added some really cool special effects, they could become a lot more interesting.

The plot of Avatar is interesting enough that it carries some cool special effects, but note the amount of time you will just be watching special effects, to distract from the lack of anything interesting in the plot or characters.

To reiterate, the special effects are cool but Avatar lacks anything special or interesting (other than special effects) to make it, "an awesome work of art".

So as of right now, besides for some special effects, my opponent and I agree on only one thing that is interesting about Avatar, the last line of his response,

"D-rape: interesting"

Other than that, Avatar is just recycled American film conventions with a sprinkle of sugar(perhaps a pound of it), and not "an awesome work of art".

Vote Con.

Debate Round No. 2


I am already grateful to my opponent for having opened my eyes to the bestiality theme present in Avatar: it just goes to show how deep and multi-layered this film is.

I agree that the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo are "awesome works of art," but that is not relevant to the issue of whether Avatar is an awesome work of art as well.

My opponent reveals an inconsistency in his argument because were he to scrutinize The Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo by standards analogous to those which my opponent applies against Avatar, then he could not consider those artworks to be awesome, either. Venus de Milo is a totally unoriginal subject matter, and the only reason it's famous is because lots of people advertised it when it was first unearthed (Venus de Milo is apparently a product of hype, which is what my opponent considers Avatar to be.) Likewise, to the extent Avatar is "just another Hollywood blockbuster," so is the Mona Lisa "just another Rennaisance portrait." What makes the Mona Lisa awesome, however, is the same thing that makes Avatar awesome: it has lots of subtle phenomena going on within it that can be the touchstone for artistic speculation and imagination, just as the plot, setting, and characters in Avatar are a touchstone for myriad themes and conversations about philosophy, science, economics, love, and theology, etc.

I'm not a Star Wars fan, I'm more of a Trekkie. That being said, I think the original Star Wars trilogy is comparable to Avatar in terms of the revolutionary special effects and in terms of the deep multi-layered plot, though James Cameron accomplished in 1 film what took George Lucas 3 films.

For more discussion of Avatar's revolutionary special effects, see

Annalee Newitz is a fool because she's forcing a pop-psychology racial theme into the film to insult it. Plus she's dismissive of the fact that people of all races and creeds love Avatar. This transcends Newitz's assertion that the film is just an appeal to white guilt. Nonetheless, I will acknowledge that white guilt can be consired yet another one of Avatar's many engaging themes, and thus any critics who are willing to explore this theme in Avatar are just helping to make the case that it is an awesome epic. Professors of college literature make a living by picking apart literary canon and exploring different themes found in a work (feminism, racism, class, etc.), and the fact that Avatar fits right into this academic tradition just goes to show that it is an important cultural masterpiece, like Moby Dick or anything else that inspires such diverse and unconventional analysis.

Avatar did create something tangible: Avatar reels, discs, and assorted memorabilia. What's more powerful, however, is Avatar's moving effect on many millions of people, and its revenue generation of several billion dollars. The "nothing tangible" criticism is not very relevant, anyway, because much awesome artwork (music, stories) is intangible.

The predictability of the story does not detract from Avatar's awesomeness. Most awesome stories are predictable, especially epics: the good guys generally win, the bad guys generally lose.

Plot twists are not valuable in themselves. Lots of Hollywood trash these days relies on plot twists to make an otherwise boring film interesting. See, e.g., M. Night Shyamalan.

My opponent unsuccessfullly rebuts my exploration of Avatar's archetypes. I understand his point about over-analysis, and I think his purposeful over-analyses of White Spy and Mr. Planters are pretty funny, but compare my analysis of the Avatar characters to my opponent's analysis of his characters and you'll see that my analysis is tethered to the actual plot developments driven by the characters, and to the actual motivations for those characters' decisions in the story. I'm not grasping for straws here: the themes are all very obvious if you just pause to reflect on the characters. Therefore, instead of over-analyzing the film, I'm using the appropriate level of analysis to show how deep Avatar truly is.

I'll take the opportunity to discuss other themes in Avatar:

Environmentalism and Imperialism: These are the two biggest and most obvious themes in Avatar. The Na'vi are a culture defined by their worship of nature and "peaceful coexistee" with it. The humans are out to conquer a foreign land for its resources and destroy the natives if necessary. These characteristics are the basis for the film's primary political message, with which I disagree which I believe was well executed.

First Contact: Related to the question of imperialism, the film suggests that in first contact with an alien species, the powerful species will disregard the other's dignity, and will be callously indifferent to their suffering. Stephen Hawking agrees with this view: I, however, believe that our civilization has advanced to the point where we would respect the life and dignity of a weaker alien species, and that our civilization's moral values are very different from those in an earlier era when we might have justified conquering and slaughtering "inferior" primitive people. Avatar invites discussion on this topic.

Theology: The Na'vi religion worships their planet as an omniscient, intelligent being. What's interesting is that (outer space notwithstanding) the planet is actually omniscient and intellient. This raises the question: are the Na'vi religious? After all, if their ecology is actually and demonstrably intelligent, and can communicate with all sentient life through a "bio-internet," then the Na'vi brand of animism is not faith-based, but evidence based. (Moreover, it's a fusion of animism with monotheism: the Na'vi believe in "one god"--the planet or the home tree or whatever they call it--but their one god maniests itself in and courses through all sentient lifeforms.) The film doesn't tell us all the details of the Na'vi religion, but we can infer that the arrival of humans challenged the Na'vi theology. After all, once the Na'vi learn that intelligent life exists outside of ther own ecology, then they have to adjust their perception of god. They might conclude that their god is omniscient with respect to their home planet, but not with respect to alien planets, thus maintaining an evidence-based theology. Or the Na'vi can assume a faith-based theology in which their god is also somehow present outside of their own planet. The Na'vi theology presented in Avatar is not only interesting in itself, but also as an allegory for Earthly theology: to what extent can a religion be rational and evidence-based? How should theology change when scientific discovery poses challenges to it? To me, the rational origin of Na'vi religion evokes a time when mythology and miracles were mankind's best explanation for natural phenomena, and the theological challenge to the Na'vi culture by the arrival of mankind suggests episodes in human history such as the discovery of heliocentricity, the emergence of radiometric dating and evolutionary science, and the arrival of European conquerors in the western hemisphere.

Technology: Avatar poses the question: is technology natural, or artificial? On one hand, all human technology is created from human innovation and from dramatic, often non-intuitive exploitation of matter. Thus we often conceptualize technology as man-made. And yet all technology only functions because it is consistent with the "laws" of nature: chemistry, physics, thermodynamics, electricity. Mankind doesn't so much "make" technology as it does manipulate matter and name it "technology." Avatar shows us an ecosystem where the Internet appears to have been created spontaneously, perhaps through evolution. It's great sci-fi: evolved bio-internet is no less plausible than evolution from amino acids to humans.


I would once again like to thank my opponent for this debate, as it has been an interesting experience. I'd like to add that I hope my opponent does not take it as a slight if my arguments should seem, peripheral or eccentric, as debating a film's ‘ranking in art quality' doesn't often lend itself to much empirical data through 4 rounds. Nonetheless I wish I had more words.

My opponent refutes my comparisons to The Mona Lisa, and Venus De Milo. He points out that based on the standards that I have for those pieces my analysis would be inconsistent. My opponent would be correct about this in general, however his interpretation of my argument is wrong.

Our agreement of the 2 pieces of art being ‘awesome' is because of their existence today and not when they were created. Both of these creations are considered ‘awesome', in part, due to the passing of time, and the ‘mystique' it has created.

It would be unfair of me to compare Avatar to these works then, being that it is just 2 years old. But in only 50 years when we look at the ‘awesome' films, a plot lacking in subtlety (which I hope to prove by the end of this round), and special effects that are no longer special, can only lose its ‘mystique'.

--"Avatar did create something tangible: Avatar reels, discs, and assorted memorabilia."
"The "nothing tangible" criticism is not very relevant, anyway, because much awesome artwork (music, stories) is intangible."--

This is the response from my opponent's comparison of Avatar to the Manhattan Project. The Manhattan Project advanced something, while Avatar advanced the film industry. To this extant my opponent and I agree. However, unless my opponent is calling the Manhattan Project "An awesome work of art", the comparison is irrelevant. The Manhattan project affected science in a way that would change our lives forever. Avatar may have changed movies like many other films have, but in 50 years its advancements will be forgotten, and it will be relegated to just another quality film from history with an interesting footnote.

My opponent is correct that predictability and lack of plot twists do not in themselves detract from quality. In the case of Avatar however, it's by the numbers plot, characters and unsubtle atmosphere, remove much of the chances for greater analysis, an aspect which my opponent places much of his contention.

I feel therefore that comparing Avatar to one of its contemporaries may provide an adequate description of subtlety that creates opportunities for ‘greater analysis'.

District 9 came out the same year and exemplifies some of the plot subtlety I'm referring to: (Spoilers ahead)

Avatar: Corporatist militants want the Alien's resources.
D9: Unwanted extra-terrestrial refugees seek shelter in Johannesburg.

The plot in Avatar portrays a very simple black and white case of good and bad, unless you always root for the bad guys in movies it was pretty clear who gained audiences sympathies. So naturally, all of the subtlety is found in our archetype characters:

The idealistic scientist needs more time, so our hero can find some way to end the conflict without violence. Naturally, the militant general type can't wait any longer and it's up to a ramshackle group of idealist humans, against superior weaponry, to save the good side.

The aliens win but at what cost? As our hero seeking redemption, naturally sacrifices something by the end. We all can cheer that good once against triumphs against evil. And it looked freaking awesome.

District 9 portrayed a scenario in which the audience's initial reaction is dependent on their views regarding what to do about a million aliens being camped in their neighborhood, as opposed to, ‘should we kill a billion sexy aliens and their children to get fuel'.

By the end of District 9 the last thing we see is the protagonist alone and changed into ‘what he once was meant to destroy', a theme similar to Avatars ending. The camera pans away and the credits roll. There is no triumphant victory, or moment of loss. Not really even any broader conflict resolution. It is just an ending to a story about a conflict with no easy answers. Just the premise of this movie initiates genuine critical thinking, providing a much greater and realistic look at the human condition.

I thought Avatar was a well made and entertaining movie, which is all you can ever ask from a film. It was a beautiful and fun ride through an interesting world, like many other big budget summer blockbusters (though it was released in Dec).

My opponent concludes with an analysis of the interesting topics the film can inspire. I believe the following touches on many of the greater themes my opponent has pointed out, but trivializes them easily, due to the films lack of subtlety.

For your consideration:
By the year 2154 it appears total egalitarianism has been reached. Human society has completely eliminated racism, sexism, and religious bias, and the only pejoratives seem to be from the ‘militant general type' towards the aliens. Otherwise humans seem to be united in their quest for fuel and a willingness to kill a bunch of aliens.
As a civilized nation of the universe, we would find it abhorrent that some civilization would be doing such things to dragons.

We'd be forced to tell them that our galactic empire does not allow such things.
They'd tell us your galactic empire means nothing to us.
We'd tell them it matters or we will sanction you.
They'd expel our diplomat, and we'd accuse them of having weapons of mass destruction, or whatever.

One way or another, their evil archaic ways of victimization must come to an end.

I'd like to add that I assume that this is partly how the human race became egalitarian in the first place, by the natural order of the strongest group with a set of values, killing everyone else until those values were the only acceptable and surviving ones.

Naturally then, moral Darwinism demands the destruction of the Na'vi civilization. The Na'vi's entire social structure and belief system surrounds itself with the oneness of the environment. The core knowledge that every being consists of a divine aura is crucial to understanding their entire way of life. The people, the animals, the plants, and the trees are all connected to the network of life, and a big tree.

And who wouldn't believe it if they saw it? The trees and plants glow and move and react to their surroundings. It's a wondrous mixture of colors, lighting and motion creating a truly awe inspiring, and religiously undeniable circumstance.
If anyone were to watch the more complex activities of these ‘Aliens', they would know their fundamental beliefs are not a hoax, or quirky ritualism.

Thus, the violation of dragons by the Na'vi is even more unforgivable.

The sporting nature of a group of people standing around watching a creature be dominated is not unlike the hyper masculinity seen at something like a rodeo, in which a cowboy ties up some cow, or something.
However, the difference in these two scenarios is that the Na'vi literally ‘merge' with the animal, and the human race at this point in history believes that merging should only be done with the consent of both parties.

So it looks like the Na'vi need to be reeducated and the humans refueled. Win-Win.

There are other ways to analyze this movie in less farcical (and borderline perverted) ways. But is it really necessary? Avatar offers an altruistic alien group to associate with whatever oppressed group one desires, while District 9 offers genuine depth to a scenario looking at the gray areas between a ‘right and wrong', in a situation that doesn't actually require a detailed sci-fi story background.

Perhaps the 2 Avatar sequels will paint in the rest of the picture and allow us to analyze the work of art in full, but until 2015 we will remain with simply an awesome film, or an ‘excellent work of art', that lacks the extra substance to be considered ‘an awesome work of art'.
Debate Round No. 3


I do not perceive any slights from my eloquent and clever opponent.

I reiterate my previous argument that, regardless of the merits of subtlety in plot, having a subtle or "unprecedented" storyline is not a necessary condition to establishing an artwork's greatness. It is but one quality among a wide variety that are relevant to the degree of a film's achievement, which, as a package, can qualift as a great artwork, in some cases being instantly great and classic. As I said earlier, the epic scale of Avatar, its ground-breaking technology, and the real thematic depth of the film are the reasons for its artistic awesomeness.

The comparison to the Manhattan project is apt because just as the Manhattan project marshalled a huge amount of resources and entailed ground-breaking interdisciplinary research, so did Avatar. Avatar had dedicated supercomputers and cloud computer networks ("a new cloud computing and Digital Asset Management (DAM) system named Gaia was created by Microsoft especially for Avatar, which allowed the crews to keep track of and coordinate all stages in the digital processing" See, a corporation dedicated to inventing new 3D and digital imaging techniques, linguists creating a unique Na'vi language (, and zoologists and botanists working with graphics engineers to create a biogically realsitic alien ecosystem.

This business of "tangible products" is misguided. The Manhattan Project yielded only two tangible products: Fat Man and Little Boy, and maybe a test bomb. That's it. Nearly all the benefits of the Manhattan Project were "intangible" science and engineering concepts: civilian nuclear energy, nuclear submarine engines, ICBMs, etc. It took decades of slow production for the US to eventually develop a large nuclear arsenal, of which The Manhattan Project was merely a genesis. Similarly, tons of films developed since Avatar have been using derivative innovations like purposeful 3D filming and facial mapping digital imagery (such as the Red Skull in Captain America, which I saw today).

I liked District 9. That doesn't detract from Avatar's greatness.

I really dig my opponent's thematic analysis of Avatar, and his investigation into the perversion of the Na'vi is not something I've heard elsewhere. Kudos to my opponent, and likewise kudos to Avatar for containing substantive themes that even fascinate its detractors.

To conclude, I urge the audience to medidate on the thematic depht of Avatar as described in the above posts and to give due credit to its mega-mega blockbuster status and the gargantuan amount of human effort that made it possible. Do not judge Avatar for eschewing quirks and gimmicks like eccentric characters or surprise plot twists. Avatar is an elegantly simple story with deep and fascinating themes, and it is an epic, awesome work of art.

Thank You,




I would like to thank my opponent for this genuinely fun and interesting debate.

Any person who watches this movie will immediately be drawn to it because of the great special effects and atmosphere. These are two things that Avatar does especially well, and in many ways, is awesome because of it.
There is no doubt to the quality and effort that makes up the technical aspects of this movie. There is no doubt to the entertainment value of this movie. Neither should there be any doubt whether the creative collaboration of this film created something genuinely effecting and unique.

This was an excellent movie in many ways, and in many ways a revolutionary film. It had memorable moments, riveting drama, and incidences of suspense. Perhaps it was a graphical masterpiece of computerized film technology, and an excellent example of a realized vision.

But it isn't "An awesome work of art". My opponent would like you to believe it's many elements create an opportunity for a greater discussion at the philosophies of the universe. But any movie can create those discussions if you want them to.

My opponent argues that its special effects are revolutionary. They may be right now, but in enough time, special effects of the past, will no longer lead us to consider something an awesome work of art.

My opponent argues that this film's collaborative effort should count towards the criteria, and should the cost of art ultimately determine arts value, he might be right.

I have based much of my argument attempting to marginalize the plot and characters of Avatar. Until now, I have mostly relied upon the readers thinking my arguments were funny, or actually correct.

To avoid any further confusion between the two, I shall submit the viewpoints of some movie reviewers. So, here's some credible anti-avatar propaganda:

"As the film's technical marvels grow commonplace, it will look like a clunky old theme-park attraction, a Captain EO for our time."

"On a story level, Cameron has invested the bare minimum necessary to call Avatar into existence, and while there's no doubting his meticulousness, the film is more demo than drama."

- Scott Tobias (The A.V. Club)[1]

"…Would be great fun, if only Cameron -- the picture's writer, director, producer and editor -- had a sense of humor about himself, which he clearly doesn't."

"…This isn't a picture fleshed out with deep, multifaceted ideas"

- Stephanie Zacharek ([2]

"…There's also a lot of eye-rollingly silly stuff."

"…Clears the hurdle in terms of being optical candy. Its story, though, is pure cheese."

"This could be called a classical structure; it could also be called lazy"

"The CGI world of "Avatar" is indeed like nothing you've ever seen. Too bad its corniness is so familiar.

- Joe Neumaier (New York Daily News)

Avatar gained 83 on Metacritic, though that isn't a definite source for what is awesome art, you have to ask yourself, would "an awesome work of art" get an 83 on Metacritic? [4]

The following illustrates my opponent's criteria, regarding what makes Avatar an "awesome work of art:
A) "The Manhattan Project"-like collaborative effort.
B) Revolutionary special effects
C) Epic, Thematic Depth

The burden of proof is upon my opponent to prove that Avatar is "An Awesome work of art". I believe I have dismissed all of his criteria, as well as made the case that Avatar, while being a quality movie, is significantly lacking in certain aspects.

Therefore, my opponent has failed to prove that Avatar is "an AWESOME work of art"

This has been an interesting experience. I wish my opponent well and thank him for a fun debate.

Vote Con




[4] http://www.metacritic...
Debate Round No. 4
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by blamonkey 4 months ago
This was an interesting read.
Posted by bossyburrito 4 years ago
The Battle For Terra.
Posted by unlockable 5 years ago
I'm glad you liked it!
Posted by 000ike 5 years ago
Wow, that was a very good debate, but I feel that con wins because he attacked and made clear the criteria for a work of art to be "awesome." Essentially, whoever attacked and defined this very semantic word lead the debate. Pro was left defending against Con's definition, and in his focus on refuting Con's claims, he was left without sufficient proof of his own. Be that as it may, pro made a very otherwise convincing argument, but con was clever in his approach. His use of debate tactics, humorous sarcasm and subtle mockery of the film throughout made me see Avatar in a far less impressive light.
Posted by airmax1227 5 years ago

It is entirely subjective. The quality of 'art' always is. Pro will likely need to invest some time in explaining why Avatar is awesome (which I believe he has done diligently), while also explaining what awesome is. I've generally conceded to avoiding the semantics of all this, and am thinking of awesome as just a way to scale greatness, and not in its literal sense (full of awe). So my opponent ultimately needs to make the case that Avatar is not just good or excellent, but at the highest level, awesome. Once again I'm conceding that it is art already, as to not make this a 'what is art' debate.

The voters will make their own subjective view known when they vote on whether or not Pro has been able to prove that Avatar is 'an awesome work of art'.
Posted by rtlkfrevr 5 years ago
Well, I like this movie a lot. However, I thought of something while reading the purpose of this debate. How can someone debate whether a movie is awesome or not when the term "awesome" has not been defined at all? If it is not defined, then it seems to me that the term "awesome" is quite subjective. What if, for me, an "awesome piece of work" means an "original piece of work"?
Posted by unlockable 5 years ago
That's a good question.

Personally, I believe that, regardless of the content of the political message, if the political message is interestingly communicated then it adds to the quality of the artwork even though someone may disagree with the message. At the same time, if my opponent believed otherwise--that the message itself makes the film not-awesome--then that's a legitimate argument, too. I can imagine that something that would otherwise be awesome could be corrupted by its political message (such as socialist propaganda artworks).

One of the themes in Avatar is environmentalist, anti-technology primitivism, and for hat it's worth, that's a disgusting, even evil worldview in my opinion. Nonetheless, I still think Avatar is awesome, in part because James Cameron executed his message well. So I respect the film even though I resent part of its message.
Posted by jimtimmy 5 years ago
Is this about the Political Messages behind the movie?

What if, for example, I thought the movie had great effects and was well made, but stronly dissagreed with the political messages behind it?
Posted by jimtimmy 5 years ago
Is this about the Political Messages behind the movie?

What if, for example, I thought the movie had great effects and was well made, but stronly dissagreed with the political messages behind it?
Posted by jimtimmy 5 years ago
Is this about the Political Messages behind the movie?

What if, for example, I thought the movie had great effects and was well made, but stronly dissagreed with the political messages behind it?
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by ApostateAbe 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:43 
Reasons for voting decision: Dragon rape?
Vote Placed by Double_R 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Both participents argued their sides well but Pros biggest issue is that he never clearly established what an "awesome work of art" is and therefore failed to satisfy the BoP. He gave it a good try in round 3 but only supported his argument with very general subjective statements and did not continue with it.
Vote Placed by SuperRobotWars 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con thoroughly convinced me. Pro had more sources.
Vote Placed by Man-is-good 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Although this was an overlong debate, I must state that Con did refute some of Pro's arguments (though he did also concede to many of Pro's points). However, Pro did not adequately refute Con's own arguments [such as continuing to discuss Avatar's "revolutionary special effects", which Con pointed out was only marginal, and perfunctory, to a film's awesomeness]. Spelling and grammar, and conduct, were on even, so therefore I give the two opposing members a tie in these areas.
Vote Placed by DetectableNinja 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Conduct and S/G were too close to call for me. I found Pro using more sources to support his argument. However, Con argued more effectively against Pro. The resolution is negated.