Avatars of Otherness


The author examines some recent sci-fi films – J. Cameron’s Avatar, N. Blomkamp’s District 9, the animated film Wall-E – insofar as they evoke how the dominant (American) mass culture of today thematizes our relation with the Other. Here, while the Other takes the form of “good” extra-terrestrials, it also picks up on the Western movies’ tradition, where the Other was usually the Red Indians. In Wall-E otherness is thematized as robotic, thus illustrating a new type of relationship between humans and machines, according to the leading conceptions of today. Through these movies, American mass culture sends the world the universalistic message by which every otherness is repossessed. The idea is that, basically, the Other is never really alien, but always someone I could or will be. But this repossessing colonization of the Other misses the real otherness of the Other. The whole Rousseauian and liberal elegy of the repossession of the Other through the cinema is an effort to free us from the horror of this alien “who or which is coming”, what Derrida called “l’arrivance”.

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European Journal of Psychoanalysis