Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid | AspenTimes.com
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Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid

Todd Hartley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Once, back when I was in high school, circa 1987 or so, I went over to a friend’s house and happened to see a pile of mail on the kitchen counter. On top of the pile was an invitation, addressed to his dad, to the Klingon Language Institute’s annual convention. That’s right: the Klingon Language Institute, as in Klingons from the TV show “Star Trek.” I’ll let that sink in for a bit before going on.

Now, I was never much of a Trekkie. In fact, I found the original “Star Trek” pretty boring and never bothered to watch any of the five other Star Trek series that followed it. So, as you can imagine, I found it rather surprising that Klingons, a fictional race from a television show that lasted just three seasons, would have a language so developed that it warranted an entire institute devoted to its study.

One thing that didn’t surprise me, though, was that there were people so into Star Trek that they would form something like the Klingon Language Institute. I can totally empathize with that desire to escape the mundane trappings of our Earth-bound existence. I myself searched high and low for Narnia after reading “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Of course, I was about 8 years old at the time and not the father of a high-school student.

Anyway, I bring up this anecdote in light of a headline I read on CNN.com earlier this week: “Audiences experience ‘Avatar’ blues.” The story was about people who were so taken with the movie “Avatar” that they’ve suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing it because they have to live in this world instead of Pandora, the alien world depicted in the film.

I don’t want to belittle anyone’s feelings by saying that I found the story pathetic, but I think you can probably guess what I thought of it. I also found it somewhat puzzling, so I did what I assume a responsible journalist would do and went to see the movie. It’s good. Definitely worth seeing. And I must admit Pandora is a beautiful place, a beautiful made-up place that doesn’t exist, just like Narnia.

The main difference between Narnia and Pandora, however, is that when a human first arrives in Narnia, she has tea with a goat-man who happens to speak English. When Avatar’s main character first arrives on Pandora, he is given a gas mask so he can breathe Pandora’s poison air, and then he’s nearly killed by just about everything he encounters on his first trip into the jungle. Sounds like a wonderful place, doesn’t it?

Given that everything on Pandora is potentially deadly (it’s a lot like Australia in that regard), I found people’s depression even more bizarre. Yeah, it’s pretty, but why would anyone want to live there? To find an answer I knew I had to visit one of the online forums mentioned in the story, and I was shocked at what I found there.

On the website avatar-forums.com there is a thread entitled “Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible” that goes on for 52 pages. Far from finding it all pathetic, though, I found the whole thing quite hopeful. Sure, the people posting on the forum are just as geeky as any Trekkie or Star Wars fan could hope to be, but their depression is completely understandable. Well, not completely understandable – it is just a movie after all – but at least it makes more sense to me now.

It turns out they aren’t depressed because Pandora is beautiful and Earth is ugly. They’re actually bummed out because the natives on Pandora, the Na’vi, live in such harmony with nature while we humans do not. And the overall tone of the posters, most of whom are coping with their depression by seeing the movie five or six times, is that they have a desire to rectify that situation and get more in touch with nature. I can appreciate that.

Look, when I saw “Return of the Jedi” for the first time, I wanted to go live on Endor with the Ewoks. I really did. I thought their tree village was the coolest thing I’d ever seen, but I accepted that it wasn’t real, and I moved on with my life, just like my friend’s dad, who ultimately decided he could live without attending the Klingon Language Institute convention.

Trust me, “Avatar” fans, you can do it too.


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