‘M?lama the '?ina, M?lama the people on the '?ina’

The reaction to Avatar in Hawai`i


  • Rachelle K Gould Stanford University
  • Nicole M Ardoin Stanford University
  • Jennifer Kamakanipakolonahe`okekai Hashimoto University of Hawai`i at Hilo




Cultural ecosystem services, Hawai`i, forest, values, perceptions, Avatar, survey, interview


We explore perceptions of the film Avatar in Kona, Hawai`i using a mixed-methods study that included surveys (n = 146) and semi-structured interviews (n = 15). Quantitative analyses indicated that Native Hawaiians were more likely than Caucasians to express a sense of cultural pride related to messages in the film. Analyses of the qualitative data revealed four central concepts addressed in surveys and interviews: (1) the need for preservation of land and culture; (2) the Native Hawaiian link to land, and its similarity with the Na`vi link; (3) the diversity of perspectives on the land, but the underlying human tendency to be greedy; and (4) the plight of native peoples in the world, and particularly in Hawai`i. We briefly discuss how these perceptions relate to the emerging field of Cultural Ecosystem Services, and potential implications of these findings for understanding how popular media can impact societal beliefs and practices.

Author Biographies

Rachelle K Gould, Stanford University

PhD Candidate, Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources

Nicole M Ardoin, Stanford University

Assistant Professor, School of Education and Woods Institute for the Environment

Jennifer Kamakanipakolonahe`okekai Hashimoto, University of Hawai`i at Hilo

Undergraduate, Department of Cell and Molecular Biology


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How to Cite

Gould, R. K., Ardoin, N. M., & Hashimoto, J. K. (2011). ‘M?lama the ’?ina, M?lama the people on the ’?ina’: The reaction to Avatar in Hawai`i. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 4(4), 425–456. https://doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.v4i4.425