Duel Identity

I really hate the movie “Avatar” for several reasons. I recognize that it was a landmark in computer generated (CG) movies and that it looked pretty. But I also know that it was a boring story that manipulated emotions to make people root for one side using a combination of white guilt, forced romance, and the seemingly perfect Na’Vis. But, the story-line is something we see in fiction a lot. If you are part of two cultures, where you do you side with?

In “Avatar,” the humans are clearly seen as the immoral corporate, anti-environment, technology obsessed antagonists who take over native land because of “Unobtanium.” But as I was watching the main character bond with the Natives and ultimately siding with the Na’Vi, it struck something in me. Maybe it’s because I am also someone with dual identities; I was born in South Korea but moved to USA when I was 6. Now, I mostly speak English; I speak Korean barely, but can understand most of it.

The reason why I’m telling you this is because sometimes I wonder whether I am really Korean. I don’t speak Korean, nor do I participate in Korean culture, but I do appreciate Korean food and values. However, I main identify myself as an American. My question is: Is there something wrong with changing yourself to the other side?

I still identify myself as a Korean, but it’s not because I hate Korea. I just lived in America longer. However, does that make me less of a Korean because I don’t participate in Korean culture or speak Korean? And is that a bad thing if I didn’t? Honestly, I just prefer speaking English, but sometimes I wonder if I should make an active effort to accommodate both sides.

I brought in “Avatar” as the example because it was clear that the humans in the story (frustratingly) were the bad guys and the main protagonists should side with the Natives. But I was wondering: is he doing this because this is right, or because it seems right? For example, what if the Na’vi in the story were savage cannibals who ate human beings, yet still maintained a culture? Or what if they weren’t a culture at all, but lived around a tree and killed each other? Would that make it any less wrong to invade the tree as humans? You would probably root for humans more, but as you can clearly see, the identity that one sides with is primarily because of how much one side is seen as good compared to the one on theĀ other side.

So if changing your identity to another side based on whether side is good or bad is that arbitrary, what if both sides are just as good, or just as evil? Who do you side with, and is it just solely based on what you identify with more? There would be a moral conflict for sure, but then what would you do? Is there anything that can be defined as the right side if a person has allegiance to two sides that are not clearly good or bad?

2 responses to “Duel Identity

  1. I think you make an interesting point about how people automatically generate sides in a given argument, a point at least tangentially related to your post last week on people immediately establishing an opinion on certain topics. I can’t help but relate your discussion of choosing sides to this week’s Dewey reading. Several times throughout the piece, Dewey attacks the way society constructs everything into a system of “either-ors” as he calls them, because no matter which side someone thinks is better, both sides offer valuable information and therefore no sides need to be formed (17). Although he is talking in context of past and progressive teaching styles, and think the same principles apply in the two examples you provided. While I have no say in your personal identity, I don’t think you should burden yourself with trying to select between identifying as South Korean or as American, because you can learn from both of your cultures. I think you should try to adopt the qualities you think are best from both cultures. I think the Avatar example is quite different in the sense that the movie was skewed in the direction of the Na’vi from the get-go, as are most good guy/bad guy style movies, and in a situation like, you are forced into a certain opinion. I think a better example would be, if two presidential candidates were running for office, and one of them had some moral struggles (an affair for example), while the other had some policies that you don’t like, how would you choose between those two choices? That is the type of example where you need to establish your priorities and then choose. I think your personal example allows for not having to take a side, and I think the Avatar example is too skewed in one direction to truly debate.

  2. The reason why I used Avatar as an argument was to just exemplify how in some situations, the choice should just to go with the moral side when you’re trapped between two cultures. The main protagonist clearly chose the blue aliens because the military humans were portrayed as terrible people. This example was used to contrast with other decisions where the answer isn’t so obvious, like when both sides are good or bad, or like your example of the two presidential candidates. It was to show how there are no real good side in these kinds of situations; my Avatar example was the opposite to show a point.

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