Forget the alleged, upbeat, character-building "message" of "Avatar" for a moment. Let's focus on what really matters here.
"Avatar" has reaped a mind-bending $2.5 billion at the box office — trampling the once-titanic "Titanic" and setting a record.
As a commercial venture, the film has no peer. This is an astounding accomplishment by any measure. And you know what? That's precisely why the Goliath "Avatar" lost to the upstart, David-like "The Hurt Locker" on Oscar night.
"The Hurt Locker," it has been said, is the lowest-grossing Oscar winner ever. But the true meaning of its astonishing — yes, character-building — victory shouldn't be overlooked in the current cultural and political climate in the United States.
Ordinary folks like to sneer about the elitist attitude of show-biz types and the rest of us. This time, however, there is a linear connection between Hollywood and Main Street.
Today, America hates the concept of conspicuous consumption. Thorstein Veblen would be beaming if he could see how the country's citizens have so thoroughly rejected grotesque wealth.
Part of it is the realization that so many people are now out of work and struggling to make ends meet for their families. Another factor is the nation's anti-Wall Street backlash.
The grass-roots uprisings of the tea parties has "I hate Wall Street" written all over it. Sure, politicians everywhere will practically strip naked on Main Street to get some of the big Wall Street-contribution bonanza. But they had better do it in the dark of night, where nobody can see them.
The voters will automatically lump in any politician with the sordid Street crowd from now on. Call it the "Avatar" syndrome.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column.
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