PARIS: A mysterious malaise has been gnawing at some viewers after seeing James Cameron’s latest film – and not necessarily because of the plot or the quality of the movie in and of itself.
This feeling of being wistful or in despair was initially observed in some viewers when the first instalment was released in 2009. As the newly released sequel draws in huge audiences, this syndrome is making headlines again.
“Avatar” has been back on the big screen with its second part, “The Way of the Water”, for almost two weeks now. Just four days after its official release, Cameron’s blockbuster was estimated to have already scored half a billion US dollars at the worldwide box office.
And the saga is evoking a huge range of emotions from viewers. For more than three hours, they are immersed in an imaginary world called Pandora, where the Na’vi, an indigenous population, live in harmony with nature.
The discrepancy between the current situation of planet Earth, namely the climatic crisis and resultant issues, and the blue humanoids’ healthy, holistic relationship with nature can provoke a feeling of despair in viewers.
Back in 2009, a slew of testimonies describing this experience was already being published on various forums dedicated to “Avatar” fans.
“Ever since I went to see ‘Avatar’, I have been depressed. Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na’vi made me want to be one of them,” wrote a user in a message cited by “The Guardian”.
“I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it, I’ll be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and the everything is the same as in ‘Avatar’.”
Very quickly, this feeling felt by viewers around the world was labelled “post-‘Avatar’ depression syndrome”, or PADS for short.
To provide some context, American psychiatrist Dr Stephan Quentzel explained to CNN at the time of the release of the first film: “Virtual life is not real life and it will never be, but this is the pinnacle of what we can build in a virtual presentation so far.
“It has taken the best of our technology to create this virtual world, and real life will never be as utopian as it seems onscreen. It makes real life seem more imperfect.”
To work through their experience of PADS, many viewers have turned to forums to share their sadness and depression with other sufferers. According to Nick Paavo, a 30-year-old member of one of these forums (who doesn’t feel this way) told “Variety” that “roughly 10 to 20%” of the members of this community were affected by the film in this manner.
To deal with the “Avatar” blues, Ken Wu – co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance, a Canadian organisation dedicated to protecting ancient forests – advises: “Get out and experience nature, take action to defend nature, and get others to do the same. You have to learn to appreciate this beautiful planet.”
This, of course, refers to Earth, not Pandora.