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1. Being too lazy or full of Christmas reverie to think up my own post, I’ll just say something about the interesting recent comments of our own James Poulos.

2. It’s now clear that I’ll have to see AVATAR, just to be against it in an informed way. My original strategy was to skip it. There are two movies out this Christmas season that are destined to make $200 million or more. AVATAR, of course, has to take that in to break even. THE BLIND SIDE, meanwhile, is really making the huge bucks. I wanted to display my virtue by only seeing movies about real people with real problems and displaying real virtues and not ones that techno-collapse the distinction between flesh and blood persons and video game characters.

3. But now I know that AVATAR deals with the big themes of posthumanity, biotechnology, the rule of scientific experts, the nature of the divine, the oneness of nature, and all that. It does so in what seems to be a boring and unrealistic way, or as yet another pantheistic lullaby designed to divert our sophisticates from who they really are and what they are really supposed to be doing. The whole psychology and “spirituality” of the movie is so obviously dumber than anything preached at the Grace Evangelical Church of the family we see in THE BLIND SIDE. But I’m still stuck with taking it seriously for a moment to show I’m genuinely interested in science, bioethics, the techno-future, and all that (which I am). So I pledge to sit through three hours of animated characters who don’t correspond to beings we can really know and love (unlike those, say, KING OF THE HILL). (Believe me, I’ll be getting to this only after seeing every holiday movie that might actually be good—including the funny, nihilistic (again!) one by the Coen brothers and the one that has Jeff Bridges being grizzly yet lovable.)

4. I’ve actually increased my THE BLIND SIDE knowledge by reading the book. The film is pretty much as faithful as a film can be, and the book is unexpectedly deep pop sociology. (I can’t remember the name of the author, who deserves to be remembered.) First off, the corny scene in the movie of the lonely Mike sitting at the dinner table on Thanksgiving and drawing the rest of the family away from eating their turkey while watching football isn’t in the book (and most of the scenes are). And so the main weakness of the film is to sentimentalize this tough, cagey guy and his family life a bit. The book is more striking in portraying the reality of family life and doing what’s required to have every member of the family flourish. It’s also about the fact that major cause of success and failure in our free country is the quality of your parents. The mom in the book works hard to re-socialize their adopted black son from the projects as a rich, preppy evangelical, and with uneven but real success. With money comes responsibility, and the point of money is to live a virtuous life that isn’t reducible to a lifestyle (but still includes style). Charitable responsibility is about a lot more than giving money to charities.

The dad in the book also displays quite singular forms of virtue. His huge wealth is pretty unstable, and he works hard to hide that fact from families and friends. (It’s dependent in part of the ability of TACO BELL to keep its menu up to date with the increasingly tasteful sophistication of even quite ordinary Americans—He says in both the book and the movie that the quesadilla saved his ass.) He manages not to be consumed by entrepreneurial, workaholic anxiety, but to find plenty of time for family, friends, the unfortunate, God, and just fun. Our Whole Foods, increasingly organic bourgeois bohemians can learn a lot from him. We certainly learn from the movie that the only real God is a personal, loving God, and that sports are the closest thing we have in our country to a genuine meritocracy (from which something like 80% of the poor blacks who could dominate are still excluded by what seem like forces beyond their comprehension and control).

5. The virtue described in James’ lifestyle post is mighty lame by comparison. Imagine taking pride in sacrificing that big screen TV to have enough money to eat organic meat! Organic meat, no doubt, is getting cheaper all the time (I haven’t checked this out myself), but I also hear they’re almost giving those big screens away this year. And so many a lucky “cosmopolitan” family might not have to make that hard choice (unless having a small screen is a perverse sign of status). (I myself don’t have a big screen and don’t plan on buying one. Still, I’m not averse to having one— so, if you haven’t already gotten me the KINDLE . . . ) (My main objection to really top quality huge screens is that movie theaters might wither away as a result. For me, seeing a movie in a theater is much more satisfying—both more social and more private . . . )

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