James Cameron’s Avatar may possibly become one of the highest grossing movies of all time. The immense spectacle portrays a stunning blue wonderland on Pandora, a world depicted by lush, glowing fauna and natives literally plugged into their majestic environment. But CNN reports that some fans are experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film. Why? They long to be a part of the beauty of Pandora.
The fan forum site "Avatar Forums” notes a topic thread entitled "Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible," has received more than 1,000 posts from people experiencing depression and fans trying to help them cope with the reality of Earth.
Cameron’s story has struck a chord with people. Humans attempt to mine the moon of Pandora and therefore clash with the majestic eco-clued-in natives. Pandora is what CNN calls a “prehistoric fantasyland, filled with dinosaur-like creatures mixed with the kinds of fauna you may find in the deep reaches of the ocean.” Life on Earth seems drab in comparison to this natural utopia.
Philippe Baghdassarian is the administrator for Avatar Forums. Recently, he created a second thread so people could continue to post their confused feelings about the movie. As Baghdassarian told CNN, “The movie was so beautiful and it showed something we don't have here on Earth. I think people saw we could be living in a completely different world and that caused them to be depressed.”
Feelings expressed on the Web have ranged from an extreme desire to escape reality to thoughts of suicide. Ivar Hill is a 17-year-old from Sweden who is studying game design. As he described his post-Avatar experience, "When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed ... gray. It was like my whole life, everything I've done and worked for, lost its meaning." Further, his thoughts took a grim turn. “I still don't really see any reason to keep ... doing things at all. I live in a dying world.”
A user named Mike takes it a dark step further. As Mike wrote on the forum, "I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and the everything is the same as in Avatar. "
Dr. Stephan Quentzel is a psychiatrist and medical director for the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. He notes that “Virtual life is not real life and it never will be, but this is the pinnacle of what we can build in a virtual presentation so far.” Cameron's special effects are some of the best the movie world has ever seen, and this can lend to the separation anxiety some individuals experience when they leave the movie theater.
There is some good news out of Pandora. The fan community of Avatar is reaching out to its depressed members. They are encouraging people to seek positive and constructive activities outside the virtual realm. As CNN reports, “becoming a part of a community of like-minded people on an online forum has helped them emerge from the darkness.”
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