Two Thoughts on Wall*E

Short Answer: A-. Great movie, some obesity issues that may make things unpleasant, depending on your take.

Mild to moderate spoilerage ahead about Wall*E, so You Have Been Warned.

First, obesity. While it’s mentioned here and there, the short of it is: There’s fat jokes in it. This isn’t widely enough noted for me to have been forewarned – or I’ve just had my head in the sand lately.

My wife and I had very different reactions to this. She saw it as primarily ridiculing obese people, and laughing at them. She found the depiction of obesity to be extremely offensive, nearly ruining the whole experience for her.

While there were fat jokes, I thought that the obesity it was used as a symbol of the societal effects from WalMart Buy N Large. The difference for me was the reactions of the humans when their societal reinforcing was stripped away. Unlike Idiocracy – where the humans immediately go back to their mindless diversions – Wall*E’s humans are surprised and indignant at the cultural wool pulled over their eyes. They’ve been manipulated, but they aren’t either fools or stupid. (edit after talking to wife: Yes, I would consider the “talking to each other by vidscreen while side by side” bit to be societal norms and pressure rather than individual choice, for example.)

That is, the take on obesity in this movie can provide a chance to examine the societal forces that encourage obesity: The poor quality foods available to underemployed persons, the mass consumption ethos that leads to… well, mass consumption, and the advertising corporate ethic of pushing more and more high-fructose corn syrup down our throats. Or in other words – it’s not a personal moral failing, it’s a societal failing.

Okay, note two: (small spoiler unless you’ve not seen every Disney movie, evah, in which case it’s a big one.)

Pixar threw away the best picture Oscar in the last two minutes of the movie, because Wall*E survives. The Best Picture ending, the one that would have taken this movie beyond “really good” to epic would be this: “Wall*E”, that accidental sentience, doesn’t come back. The humans begin to rebuild and heal themselves and the planet, EVE alongside them, as we occasionally see the small trash robot mindlessly pick up trash alongside the monument they’ve erected to the being that once inhabited his shell.

Oh, I’d still be crying at that one.

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  1. July 13, 2008

    I’m getting laughed at for calling this movie depressing.
    It’s where we’re headed- and no one seems to be pissed off.
    Your idea of Wall-E losing his personality would have made a better ending for me too.
    I’m frankly surprised that it’s selling tickets like it is.

  2. Maura
    July 14, 2008

    Meh Disney. And it seems like a weak criticism of the world by producing caricatures, but it’s a kid’s film. I hope fat kids don’t feel bad about themselves for it, but it would prepare them for the world beyond the theater, wouldn’t- more damage is done by the Enron class but hey, let’s scapegoat the pudgey.

    I do look forward to watching the tons of plastic crap promotional material for this oh-so- enlightened film sit in landfills or grace happy meals.

    (heh- my kid’s going to be as alienated and smug as i am :))

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