Chris Quigley fondly remembers one of the jewels in America's roadside attraction crown: Gatorland of Orlando, Florida.
The 100-acre park was established in 1949 and houses thousands of alligators and crocodiles, including some albinos. The animals can be seen from boardwalks and an observation tower, and high-jumping for chickens and being wrestled in live shows. The preserve also offers a petting zoo (not for the gators!) and an aviary.
I've got no dog in the Avatar fight. I haven't seen it and most likely never will. Why? There's one blog reviewer who I've found has just about the opposite tastes I have. He's my fandom opposite. I can reliably trust him to develop carpal tunnel syndrome strokin' it over the largest steaming piles he can find. And this anti-me loved Avatar. In fact, he dusted off that classic bit of critical lameness "if you don't like Film X, you don't like movies." So that pretty much put paid to the whole thing. Then, lest I weaken, another blogger used the following analogy to defend the flick: "You don't ride the Coney Island Cyclone for plot." Which is true - but that's just one of several reasons I don't ride the Coney Island Cyclone when I want to see a movie. (Nor, to be fair, do I see a movie when I want to ride the Coney Island Cyclone. ) Anyway, that handily extinguished any interest I had in the film. That said, here's an Avatar bit.
Caleb Crain really hated Avatar. That's not particularly notable, but his odd nearly stream-of-consciousness essay ending comparing the movie's Na'vi to vampires is striking:
Why does the digital nativity bother me so much? I think the answer has something to do with the smug anti-corporate plot. In reality—in the reality outside the movie—the Na'vi, too, are a product of corporate America and are creatures of technology, not nature. Now there's nothing wrong with technology per se, and there's nothing wrong with fantasy, either. But Avatar claims that there is something wrong with technology, and that the Na'vi of Pandora somehow represent opposition to it. That's rank mystification, and one has to wonder about motive. I think there are aspects of being human that a movie like Avatar wants to collude with its viewers in denying—aspects of need and of unfixable brokenness. There are traces of this denial in the movie. We never see the Na'vi eating, for instance, except when the transcarnated Sully briefly samples a significantly pomegranate-like fruit. Yet they have high, sharp canines. Vampire-like canines. Indeed, Sully turns into a Na'vi after he lies down in his coffin-pod. Once he takes to his avatar, even his human body has to be coaxed to eat. Like a vampire's, Sully's cycles of waking and sleeping become deeply confused. In the unconscious of the movie, I would submit, all the Na'vi are avatars. That is, they are all digital representations of humans, lying elsewhere in coffin pods. And they are all vampires. They have preternatural force and speed, wake when others sleep, and feed on the life-force of mere humans—the humans lying in the pods, as a matter of fact. This, I think, is the strange lure of the movie: Wouldn't you like to be the vampire of yourself? Wouldn't you like to live in an alternate reality, at the cost of consuming yourself? Vampires have a culture, a community, feelings. They don't have bodies, but they have superbodies. The only glitch is this residue offstage, rotting and half-buried, that you won't ever be able separate from altogether—until, at last, you can.
It Seems So Obvious Once Somebody Points It Out
The only t-shirt more truthful than this is the one I have that says I'll never reveal the Wu-Tang secret. Seriously. Never. Don't ask me.