We get it, the world isn’t a happy place. Some people seem to realise it a bit too harshly after seeing the newest Avatar film. So what’s up with ‘Avatar Syndrome’?

A mysterious malaise gnaws at some viewers after seeing James Cameron’s latest film, largely referred to as “post-Avatar depression syndrome.” This feeling of despair or being down in the dumps was first observed in some viewers when the first part of the blockbuster saga was released in 2009. As the newly released sequel Avatar: The Way of the Water draws in huge audiences, this syndrome is making headlines again.

After a sense of wonder, a dive into depression? Avatar has been back on the big screen with its second part Avatar: The Way of the Water for a week now. Just four days after its official release, James Cameron’s blockbuster was estimated to have already scored half a billion dollars at the worldwide box office.

And the saga is evoking a huge range of emotions from viewers. For more than three hours, they are immersed in an imaginary world called Pandora, where the Na’vis, an indigenous population, live in harmony with nature. The discrepancy between the current situation of our planet, namely the climatic crisis and resulting issues, and the blue humanoids’ healthy, holistic relationship with nature, can provoke a feeling of despair in viewers.

What is Avatar Syndrome?

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Image credit: Avatar/Facebook

Back when the first opus hit screens in 2009, a slew of testimonies describing this experience were already being published on various forums dedicated to Avatar fans. “Ever since I went to see Avatar I have been depressed. Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na’vi made me want to be one of them,” wrote a user in a message cited by The Guardian. “I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it, I’ll be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and everything is the same as in Avatar.” Very quickly, this feeling felt by viewers around the world was labelled “Post Avatar Depression Syndrome,” or “PADS” for short.

In order to provide some context about the phenomenon, American psychiatrist Dr. Stephan Quentzel, explained to CNN at the time of the release of the first film: “virtual life is not real life and it will never be, but this is the pinnacle of what we can build in a virtual presentation so far. It has taken the best of our technology to create this virtual world and real life will never be as utopian as it seems onscreen. It makes real life seem more imperfect.”

To work through their experience of PADS, many viewers have turned to forums to share their sadness and depression with other sufferers. According to Nick Paavo, a 30-year-old member of one of these forums (although he doesn’t feel this way) who spoke to Variety, “roughly 10 to 20%” of the members of this community were affected by the film in this way.

To deal with the “Avatar blues,” Ken Wu, co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance, a Canadian organization dedicated to protecting ancient forests, advises, “Get out and experience nature, take action to defend nature and get others to do the same. You have to learn to appreciate this beautiful planet.” That refers to Earth, not Pandora.

(Main and feature image credits: Courtesy IMDb)

This story is published via AFP Relaxnews.