Painting myself blue and learning Na’vi: how Avatar taught me to love being a fan
My love of Avatar – and the support I found in other fans – helped me to embrace qualities in myself I had long hidden away
When my alarm went off just after midnight on Thursday, readying me for the drive to the 1:45am screening of Avatar: The Way of Water after three hours of fitful sleep, I experienced a brief moment of existential reckoning. The bargaining began: it’s been a long year, I’m 40, at the pointy end of my PhD, there’s Covid around … all I needed to do was turn the alarm off, and go back to sleep. To do so, however, would mean ignoring that before I went to bed, I had laid out my Kryolan greasepaint, ready to swipe across my face like Trudy Chacon when she went to war for the Omaticaya. It was time to return to Pandora.
In the long lead-up to the release of Cameron’s sequel to Avatar, it became de rigueur to claim that nobody remembered it. I’m not sure who kickstarted that particular myth about the highest-grossing movie of all time, but it certainly took hold; in 2014, Forbes ran a piece headlined “Five Years Ago, ‘Avatar’ Grossed $2.7 Billion but Left No Pop Culture Footprint”, while the New York Times recently suggested that Avatar’s “most oft-cited claim to fame is its surprising lack of cultural impact”. Social media simmered with chatter that this cinematic white elephant was sure to bomb. I was not one of these people.