Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, Vol 4. No 4 (2010): Avatar and Nature Spirituality

‘Mālama the 'āina, Mālama the people on the 'āina:’ The reaction to Avatar in Hawai`i

Rachelle K Gould, Nicole M Ardoin, Jennifer Kamakanipakolonahe`okekai Hashimoto

Abstract


We explore perceptions of the film Avatar in Kona, Hawai`i using a mixed-methods study that included surveys (n = 146) and semi-structured interviews (n = 15). Quantitative analyses indicated that Native Hawaiians were more likely than Caucasians to express a sense of cultural pride related to messages in the film. Analyses of the qualitative data revealed four central concepts addressed in surveys and interviews: (1) the need for preservation of land and culture; (2) the Native Hawaiian link to land, and its similarity with the Na`vi link; (3) the diversity of perspectives on the land, but the underlying human tendency to be greedy; and (4) the plight of native peoples in the world, and particularly in Hawai`i. We briefly discuss how these perceptions relate to the emerging field of Cultural Ecosystem Services, and potential implications of these findings for understanding how popular media can impact societal beliefs and practices.

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