Writing in the columns of Futuribles in 1996, Chantal Lebrun analysed the growing confusion between the real and the virtual. She noted then that the virtual was gradually entering our everyday “worlds” and that the frontier with reality was already coming to be blurred.
Almost 15 years on, this question is, she writes, more topical than ever, as is revealed by the latest film from American director James Cameron, “Avatar”. This 3-D animation takes place in the year 2154 on the planet Pandora, which is overflowing with natural resources. The native population, the Na’vis, live in symbiosis with the environment, but are threatened by the humans who are trying to mine a mineral deposit situated beneath their ‘tree home’. In order to make contact with the Na’vis and convince them to leave, the Earthlings develop half-human, half-Na’vis creatures remote-controlled by humans. The film’s hero, Jake Sully, a paraplegic marine, takes over one of these bodies and ends up identifying with the Na’vis.
In the adventures this character goes through and the choices he has to make, the question that is raised, says Lebrun, is that of change of identity. And, she asks, doesn’t the struggle described in Avatar between an expiring “old” world and an unreal, idealized one symbolize the identity choice that humanity will have to make sooner or later?