Definitions of reality, part 2

When I think of discussions about which elements are reality are more important, I think of Coppélia and Avatar. Coppélia was the life-like doll created by the nefarious Doctor Coppélius in a comic ballet based on several stories by E.T.A Hoffmann.

Young Franz, a foolish romantic, falls in love with her. Infatuated by her physical presence, he eventually discovers that she is nothing but a puppet. In the end, he realizes he has been loving an illusion. It is a compelling tale, and I suspect Alex Garland was taking careful notes.

James Cameron’s film contains a nearly perfectly complementary concept: The mind and personality of the crippled human Jake Sully is transferred into the powerful body of a ten foot tall Na’vi. In this new form he becomes the mate of Neytiri, a female Na’vi.

In perhaps the film’s most poignant scene, toward the end of the film Neytiri cradles the tiny crippled body of her human lover, understanding that the soul of the great Na’vi warrior she has come to love resides in this odd and broken little alien creature. Like every other version of the Frog Prince, Avatar raises some very interesting questions about the nature of identity.

The puppet Coppélia and the Na’vi Jake Sully represent two quite different aspects of “reality”. Which one seems more real to you?

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