Avatar vs Mononoke

Alejandra Mancilla compares two films’ views on ecology.

Blockbusters in their respective countries, the American Avatar (2009) and the Japanese Princess Mononoke (1997) are arguably both better sources than many text books for anyone who wants a quick introduction to environmental ethics. However, Avatar and Princess Mononoke offer radically different views about the relationship between human beings and the environment. Avatar, directed by James Cameron, forces the spectator to choose between two extremes, as if no intermediate path were available: on one hand, there’s way-too-deep ecology; on the other, pathologically anthropocentric environmentally-destructive utilitarianism. By contrast, Princess Mononoke, from animé director Hayao Miyazaki, offers a much more balanced and less idealized way forward, where compromise is acknowledged as the only realistic possible arrangement between human beings and non-human nature. Avatar is literally in 3D and in colour, but figuratively, it’s in black and white; while Princess Mononoke is about the shades and nuances that occur between extreme possibilities.

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