"You can actually be different."

AEA + Avatar + Daniel Hale


In a sick blow to one of theatre’s most toxic and arbitrary hierarchies, Actors Equity expands its membership to any actor or stage manager who’s worked professionally. Don’t let colleagues pay to play or work for ghouls! Application info on AEA’s website.

The old system had a significant flaw: It made employers the gatekeepers of Equity membership, with almost no other pathways to joining… We hope artists from all backgrounds will join us in building a union that uplifts the entire theatre community.

—Kate Shindle, AEA President, in Deadline


I remember seeing trailers for James Cameron’s Avatar in 2009 and thinking it looked like the tackiest most overproduced piece of shit in modern cinema. Giant budget, glaring CGI in Lisa Frank neons, nubile space aliens, tropes straight out of Pocahontas—all of it seemed to bode poorly for the future of movies.

Avatar made bank, but its reputation in the long term mostly validated my skepticism. As often happens with art that makes a bald moral appeal, for most people it was easier to write off the film as cliché—almost obscenely uncool—than to sit with the whole intense thing and process its details. I couldn’t even sit with the ads.

So I was shocked, a decade later, when Marianne Williamson, whose face is on a t-shirt I rarely take off, praised Avatar on Twitter in ecstatic terms.

Then I came across this podcast ep, in which some dirtbag marxists reconsider Avatar as a detailed call to arms against the U.S. military industrial complex.

I loved the analysis, so I rented the movie. That critical lens is spot-on and made all 2+ hours fun to watch. But you don’t need to see Avatar to get a ton out of the episode. Even haters will appreciate its sharp takes on everything from healthcare to Chelsea Manning to Amazon vs. the Amazon to corporate censorship, both varieties of PMC, dystopian fiction and more.

The reason there wasn’t a cultural footprint for Avatar was that it couldn’t be absorbed yet… Cameron’s real sin with this movie, ideologically, was saying ‘You actually can be different,’ instead of being a foot soldier for empire… You will never again see a fuckin director do this. Ever. Ever.

Prove that bold part wrong!

indie media.

Formerly a soldier and restaurant worker, Daniel Hale risked his life to leak a trove of details about the U.S. drone program that now account for much of what we know about it.

Hale’s story is even less widely familiar than the underreported sagas of Snowden, Assange, Manning and Winner. Most of these people have been brutalized—every one of them silenced and seriously maligned—thanks to concerted efforts by government, intelligence and mass media over the years.

Whistleblowers depend on popular support, which starts with basic research and understanding. There’s been some good mainstream coverage of Hale’s life, and The Intercept published a strong, short statement that’s worth reading, especially if your job involves truth-telling in public.

But if you read anything this week, read Hale’s pre-sentencing letter to judge Liam O’Grady, and consider sharing it.

Images from Schitt’s Creek (season 5, ep 14), Avatar and The Intercept (document handwritten by Hale)