Manifest Destiny Portrayed in Popular Culture


The frontier, the idea of new lands needing to be explored and Manifest Destiny. In the text “The Adventures of the Frontier in the Twentieth Century”, Limerick discusses this old thought of the frontier and pioneers and and of the white man journeying into lands unknown to defeat uncivilized savages.  This classic vision of the frontier has now been portrayed in movies in pop culture such as James Cameron’s Avatar.

Avatar tells the story of the white man coming to an already inhabited place and taking it for their own.  In the movie the people of Earth journey to a planet called Pandora inhabited by the natives called the Na’vi.  Their mission for being their is to obtain a rare mineral called unobtanium and they will do anything to get it.  They refer to the Na’vi people as “tall blue things” and “savages” and eventually displace them from their home, when it was never theirs to take.

Native Americans have been displaced from their land ever since the settlers first arrived in America.  Driven by American exceptionalism, we have always had this idea that is our duty to conquer new lands and to civilize them, but has it ever really been ours to take?


4 thoughts on “Manifest Destiny Portrayed in Popular Culture

  1. Land has and always will be a precious commodity, and it has driven the United States and many other countries to do terrible acts in order to get this land. Avatar is a great example of how even in today’s media, the idea of the frontier is still prevalent and intriguing to many Americans.

    The question posed in this blog is “has the land that we’ve conquered ever really been ours to take”. I think that question is very complicated and can result in many different answers. We have been taught since we were little that we should not take others’ things and that we should share. This very simple preschool concept applies to this question—if the land is not ours, we should not take it, and if the inhabitants are willing to share, then we have to be respectful of them. However, this sort of thinking was not on the minds of countless Americans who ventured into the west and killed a whole population of Native Americans. While this extra land was seen as a great economic investment and an opportunity for the expansion of America, we completely demolished a population of people in the process.


  2. I think the connection that you have made between Manifest Destiny and “Avatar” is a very interesting one, and I cannot say that I have ever linked the two like that. It is interesting how the ones taking the land seem to create reasons for why what they are doing are right, despite the hardships that they are causing others. In response to your question, there is no reason to think that land belonging to someone else is ours to freely take, but this is commonly ignored when driven by something as powerful as American exceptionalism. We are so blinded by this idea that we are right and doing the right thing that we forget about those we are causing problems for.


  3. When I first saw movie, I did not see what you did, so I found this comparison very interesting. I agree in the similarities the America and the plot of Avatar had symbols and objects that are a lot like each other. To answer your question, I think that Manifest Destiny and American expansion are important concepts and yes, I believe that expansion and control of new land was our country’s right to take. Just like every other country, America is looking to be the best in every aspect possible. On map, having the most land or most advantageous land is what is going to make a country not necessarily feared, but respected. Our country is where it is today because of the difficult decision like this one that it has to made, and I think the people that are representing our country will continue to make smart decisions when it comes to situations like this.


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