“The Pandora Effect:” James Cameron’s Avatar and a Trauma Studies Perspective

  • Silvia Martínez Falquina
Keywords: Avatar, trauma studies, Indian stereotypes, Native Americans, historical unresolved grief, postcolonial trauma


The controverted responses to James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), as well as its use to support a variety of political and ideological agendas, seem to imply that there is something in this film for almost everyone. An analysis from the perspective of trauma studies suggests that the key to its impact may lie in the way the movie reflects the fundamental fear of human alienation from nature, which is part of the wounded condition of our contemporary culture. This article embarks on a study of the representation of and working through of trauma in the movie, both based on the reiteration of stereotypes and the recreation of ecotopia. It also reflects on the implications of the phenomenon known as the Pandora Effect, or the reported feelings of depression at discovering the impossibility of real immersion after watching the movie. It ends with a problematizing of the uncritical application of the trauma paradigm and a revision of the model into a culturally sensitive trauma theory that avoids neo-colonial appropriation and takes into account the historical unresolved grief of colonized peoples.

Author Biography

Silvia Martínez Falquina
Universidad de Zaragoza