The following contains significant plot-spoilers for the film Avatar.
The final year-and-change of the decade was a pretty lousy period for Americans who describe their politics as "conservative," (or, if you prefer, "right-wing") particularly those who live their lives in connection to the overwhelmingly "left-wing" entertainment industry. After they bet the farm on framing then-candidate Barack Obama as a Hollywood-style celebrity rather than a serious politician, he won the Presidency rather decisively. TV comedienne Tina Fey turned their would-be doyenne, Sarah Palin, into an international laughingstock with a few well-placed winks and a deft ear for regional affectation. An American Carol - a much-publicized attempt to stake out alternative ground in the mostly-liberal world of cinematic political comedy - was a box office disaster.
And then there was Avatar. James Cameron's gargantuan decade-capping sci-fi/action epic reads like a checklist of every socio-political element that the American right has consistently complained to have too much presence in Hollywood filmmaking. The story of an ex-Marine who switches teams to help a race of tribal aliens repel human invaders, it's all at once pro-environment, anti-military, pro-indigenous, anti-corporate and even seems to take sides in the modern debate over the "feminization" of the culture - with brutal, aggression-oriented, "meathead" military types on the "bad guy" team versus a female-led team of intellectually-oriented scientists allied with Goddess-worshipping aliens. It doesn't get much more explicit, in culture clash terms, than the sight of army gunships being blown out of the sky by bows and arrows.
Given all that, combined with the lukewarm-to-hostile buzz the film had been building since the debut of its trailers over a year ago and the widely joked-about similarity its story had to the poorly-aged 1990s white-guilt epic Dances With Wolves, conservative cultural-commentators in the U.S. and abroad were primed and ready to hold up Avatar as the latest and greatest example of "Liberal Hollywood" injecting its politics into movies and thus alienating half its audience.
Except that now Avatar is a hit.
And not just a hit, but a big hit. A monster hit. A hit that now - with more than $1 billion dollars in worldwide ticket sales - has surpassed Dark Knight financially and even seems poised to challenge Cameron's last film, a little number you may recall named Titanic.
What's more, this success doesn't seem to be happening in spite of, or even in ignorance of, its rather unsubtle liberal political outlook. Lots of people are talking about this, from The Huffington Post to Jeffrey Wells - a usually reliable enemy of all things geeky who's become the web's most surprising proponent of Avatar as a Best Picture nominee, after dubbing it "the most flamboyant, costliest, grandest left-liberal super-movie anyone's ever seen."