I am the first to admit that my movie geekiness levels go off the charts, but I'm not an extremist. I might have owned a "Star Wars" lunchbox, but I didn't learn to speak Wookiee.
So it comes as no surprise that James Cameron's 3-D space epic "Avatar" has spawned hardcore fans who have started blogs, forums and other fansites. But the extent of some of their devotion is downright alarming, to the point that many "Avys" (as they've named themselves) are having trouble discerning what's real and what isn't.
Perhaps it's the film's groundbreaking 3-D technology that has people elated. It is an absolutely thrilling, jaw-dropping experience, and is like nothing I've ever seen before. But the movie seems to have created such a euphoric feeling in some fans that they don't ever want to leave the theater. And some are finding it hard to function in real life when they're not "living" in the 3-D world of the Na'vi beings on the planet Pandora, as depicted in the film.
Fan Web sites such as www.avatar-forums.com are jammed with posts discussing every facet of the film. Fans have even created special terms to describe their devotion.
For example, the Web site defines the "Avatar Effect" as when "you love 'Avatar' and Pandora so much that your life has become dull."
Then there's the "Jake Sully Effect," where "you've been trying to go to Pandora via any means... you keep trying to go to sleep and you keep locking yourself away from the real world that the line between becomes blurred."
Some fans even describe being depressed, and the Web site has become a sort of support group for them. Some recent posts from the forum:
* "I'm depressed and thinking of Pandora and the Na'vi day and night! ... Are the spiritually awaken the ones affected? Are we chosen by Cameron?"
* "At this point I would rip my son to shreds for an hour on Pandora. I would too. And that thought frightens me."
And on the Web site www.naviblue.com:
* "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. I cant stop thinking about all the things that happened in the film and all of the tears and shivers I got from it. I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be re-birthed in a world similar to Pandora and (that) everything is the same as in 'Avatar.' "
* "My urge to be a Na'vi is probably the strongest thing I have ever felt, and also the reality that it will likely never happen."
Undoubtedly, the film is a hit. It reached the $1 billion mark in combined domestic and overseas revenue in just 17 days. But such extreme devotion to "Avatar" is frightening. Apparently, Cameron agrees.
A post on avatar-forums.com signed "James" (whether or not it's Cameron is up in the air) states:
"I am humbled by the effect the film has had on some of you, I truly am. However, I am worried about how some of you are reacting to the film.
"The virtual worlds I create are perfect for a vacation, but you cannot live there. You live here. Now."
Hopefully, fans will get the message, and keep their feet firmly planted on this planet.
And perhaps abide by one rule of the fictitious Na'vi beings: Appreciate the world around you.