Well, I decided to go with another family-fun kind of movie this month and what better than Disney-Pixar’s “WALL-E.” Unfortunately it seems that despite the glowing reviews “WALL-E” has received so far, the audience I watched it with didn’t appreciate its underlying message.
See, WALL-E (short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class) is a small, boxy robot who’s been left on Earth with more of his kind to clean up the mountains of trash we humans – with the help of mega-store Buy ‘N Large – will have amassed before the year 3000. In the 700 years since the humans have left, however, all robots but WALL-E have ceased operation and WALL-E alone spends his days compacting trash into neat little blocks and using them to build skyscrapers of refuse that stand alongside our buildings in a landscape of dust and desolation.
With only a cockroach that’s been surviving on “Kremies” (think “Twinkies”) to keep him company, WALL-E spends his days cleaning up and collecting interesting artifacts of the human world in the out-of-use truck he calls home. Rubber duckies, clocks and silverware are all taken home and categorized with similar objects (except the spork, which WALL-E decides goes between the cup of spoons and the cup of forks). And after a long day at work WALL-E likes to unwind by watching his VHS copy of “Hello, Dolly!” from which he learns of the ever-important human emotion, love.
So when the slick and shiny Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator, EVE, shows up, WALL-E is quick to fall for her, a feeling she doesn’t quite return. After taking her back to his place and showing off his collectibles, however, she’s beginning to come around until he shows her a tiny, green plant he’s found. This being, apparently, EVE’s “directive” in coming to Earth, she promptly stores it away in a hidden compartment and shuts down.
WALL-E tries everything he’s ever learned from his movie to get her to snap out of it: long walks together, paddling around in a boat made out of a tire and a shopping cart, and watching the sunset, all to no avail. This is, of course, when EVE is beamed up by her spaceship. WALL-E grabs hold of the side of the ship and embarks on a journey to save the robot he loves.
So, what’s the problem? Why were the people of my small, largely conservative Pennsylvania town so offended? Well, I’m sure part of it was the film’s Save-the-Earth sentimentality. What I thought was subtle and secondary to the love story, they found “preachy,” but more than this I think they were offended by what had become of humans in the future Pixar so eloquently imagines for us.
Apparently, in the 700 years since people left Earth, they’ve all become fat, lazy, and immobile, piloting around in hover chairs initially intended for the elderly, and glued to the television screens projected in front of their chubby faces. This is the result of the powerful combination of technological convenience and consumerism.
So, why is this so offensive? I’m assuming it’s because it hits home. The two people who actually got up and left the theatre were overweight and sucking on two giant sodas … just like the characters in the film. I can understand how the message might seem insensitive, but if they’d stuck around they might have seen that this film is more about hope and less about stigmatizing the obese. WALL-E, in all his robotic glory, is the only one capable of teaching our future selves humanity. In this world bereft of human interaction, WALL-E is the catalyst for change, getting people to see the importance of love and hope with his simplistic charm.
And that’s the beauty of Pixar’s latest film. The entire first half has little dialogue and features an almost colorless landscape, but with only the eye movement and “body” language of a couple of animated robots, the makers of “WALL-E” are able to express a multitude of emotions that reach out and pull at your heart-strings.