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James Cameron: Fox didn't want Avatar's 'treehugging crap'

USA Today, February 19, 2010

Filmmaker James Cameron has spoken before about how his Avatar is a cautionary environmental tale. In a MTV interview this week, he says Fox wanted to remove its "treehugging crap," but environmentalists now want to create a curriculum based on it.

Cameron says he didn't initally pitch Avatar, which depicts a world of stunning beauty that's threatened with destruction, as an ecological warning. So Fox Studio executives were taken aback:

When they read it, they sort of said, 'Can we take some of this tree-hugging, FernGully crap out of this movie?' And I said, 'No, because that's why I'm making the film.'

Cameron says Avatar doesn't provide facts about the planet's future, but its "eye candy" aims to jostle viewers out of their environmental "denial" and motivate them to work for change.

Denial is a metal response based on fear... You have to fight an emotional response with an emotional response....

If you're tuned in to what's happening in Avatar, you start to feel a sense of moral outrage when you see the tree fall [destroying the Na'vi's home], and it's a compassionate response for these people

Then you feel a sense of uplift at the end as good vanquishes evil. If you put those two things together, it actually creates a ripe emotional matrix for people to want to do something about it.

Cameron says the film's had quite an impact so far:

We're getting a tremendous amount of feedback from environmental groups, from people with specific causes," Cameron said, "whether it's indigenous people being displaced by companies to do mining or to do oil drilling, or if it's environmental groups saying, 'Let's do some curriculum around Avatar.'"

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