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July 14, 2008


Wall-E: The wicked scare tactics of a cute robot
Wall-E is an ugly movie on multiple levels. It is literally ugly to look at. It is ugly in it's philosophical vision, and it's worse than ugly in the heavy handed way that it seeks to propagandize young children through fear.

Wall-E and EveBut first things first. Wall-E is a cute but very lonesome animated robot, an intergalactic trash compactor all alone on Earth on a centuries long cleanup project with only a cockroach for company. Who wouldn't root for poor rusty, plucky Wall-E? There's a very nice love story with new arrival Eve.

The animators are obviously good students of ol' Walt Disney and the way he could anthropomorphize anything. There's a great deal of skill in the very human and highly emotionally communicative expressions of the robot couple. This jumped out particularly at the point where an injured and repaired Wall-E temporarily lost his human soul, and acted momentarily as only a robot.

But the cute robots are just there to suck little children in to be manipulated and frightened by this increasingly ugly apocalyptic environmental religion. The evil Buy n Large corporation has utterly destroyed and abandoned Earth, covered in an endless thick nasty sea of trash. (To which piles we can add the marketing detritus from this movie, such as the cheap rubber watches handed out to young movie goers at the theater - or literally billions of other pieces of similar Disney junk. Not to worry: Wall-E will be around to clean them up in a few hundred years.)

Wall-E and the trash which is EarthFor starters, this premise makes the movie largely visually ugly to look at on a basic aesthetic level. The Earth half of the movie is set in a trash dump, carefully engineered to be particularly unappealing - even for a trash heap. You're not scaring the kids properly with the threat of ruin if you make their trash dump Earth look like a fun place to play. Plus, rather than cute bunnies and squirrels, Wall-E's only companion is a cockroach. Yuck.

But the huge floating permanent vacation cruise spaceship on which all the humans have been living for 700 years is truly a far uglier vision of hell. They have little robot cleaning agents keeping things antiseptically clean, but any normal person would rather die than live in the kind of ugly sterility portrayed here.

Then you get to the really ugly part - the actual "humans" in the ship. They're all tooling around on floating motorized Barcoloungers. It wouldn't even occur to any of these grotesquely fat sacks of mindless consumer appetite to walk even a few steps. Besides being a grotesquely misanthropic slander of our species, the trash-Earth, sterile spaceship and most especially the hideous excuses for humans are highly unpleasant. Is this really a vision fit for impressionable young children?

One might reasonably be offended by the ridiculous slander against, basically, American capitalism. In this version, it's nothing but a stupid and shortsighted corporation. They are the only government around. Without some Al Gore running things, naturally the people have no more sight or gumption than to destroy the Earth and their own bodies through sloth and mindless consumption. This is truly one of the ugliest and most contemptible images of humanity that you could conjure up. I would certainly rather be represented by the regular cheesy leftwing images of evil, bloody imperialism.

Just in passing, note what a complete disconnect there is between Wall-E versus any kind of real capitalist American behavior. For one thing, it's not Americans doing the prime trashing of the planet. Rich Americans and Europeans have been at some pains to clean things up and preserve their homes and property - partly because being wealthy means they can afford to. It's not rich Americans and Europeans doing most of the trashing. To the extent that the planet is getting abused, it's mostly third world dictators and their desperate, starving subjects.

Also, why would the greedy Buy n Large corporation rescue and maintain these useless consumer pods? These "humans" do nothing but consume. They're leeches on the corporation as presented here. Capitalism is about producing and creating so that you will be able to consume. There's nothing like that in the world of Wall-E. The ship seems to be nothing but a giant floating welfare state.

But enough about their cheesy ideology. I don't much care about cheap messages in art. Overlook that. A pretty good percentage of children's programming in particular is loaded up with cheap feel-good multicultural it's-a-small-world-after-all crapola. Yeah, yeah.

I suppose I risk looking like a narrow-minded fuddy-duddy, unable to appreciate art because of some reactionary anti-environmental ideology or such like. Fine, take these comments as you will. But my objection is NOT primarily about having a "liberal" message. I'm mostly content to appreciate the good in a piece of art, and trust people to think through things for themselves.

But I do object to manipulating children through fright for any stupid ideology, purposely rooting unnecessary fear to fester down in their young souls. I don't much appreciate when evangelical yahoos go scaring six year old children with stories about hellfire and brimstone. It's bogus and wicked when some Pentecostal schmuck scares little kids out of their wits with threats of hellfire - and it's no nicer when the Disney Corp puts out apocalyptic nonsense like this.

posted by Al at 7/14/2008 02:47:00 PM

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