Far into the future, humans have traveled across the universe to the distant planet of Pandora. Having exhausted Earth's resources, they have begun mining Pandora for unobtainium, a mineral of extreme value on earth. However this is not without resistance from the natives - a race of blue-skinned, yellow-eyed, 10-foot tall beings known as the Na'vi. It is here that crippled former marine Jake Sully gets a new lease on life, fulfilling his deceased brother's role as the driver of an avatar, a hybrid of human-Na'vi DNA to be remotely controlled by their human counterparts. By using these high tech body doubles researchers are able to get close to the Na'vi and learn from them. .
During an excursion into the wilderness in his avatar body, Jake gets separated from the group and ends up being rescued by Neytiri, daughter of the clan's leader. Jake is initiated into the clan as one of its own and taught its ways by Neytiri. When word of this starts spreading, Sully is commanded by the head of security Colonel Quaritch to report back any intelligence about the Na'vi that could give them an edge in battle. As the largest deposit of unobtainium in the area is located under the sacred Hometree, war is soon upon them, as the Na'vi do not wish to leave their home by choice. Sully is split between his own race of savages tearing up the land and the Na'vi, who want nothing more than to live harmoniously with nature (Landau and Cameron 2009). Such is the story of James Cameron's Avatar, a film that not only is a breathtaking cinematic experience, but also touches on some anthropological issues. This paper will examine the ethics of anthropology and exploitation of resources by evaluating the accuracies of the film.
The ethical issues which anthropologists face is a topic that appears in Avatar. According to the American Anthropological Association, "Anthropological researchers must do everything in their power to ensure that their research does not harm the safety, dignity, or privacy of the people with whom they work, conduct research, or perform other professional activities"" (AAA 1998).