2 comments for “Wall-E

  1. The Anthropologist
    October 6, 2008 at 2:42 am

    A post-apocalyptic disney children’s film… wow! This film really had some potential. Not to mention the hype. But sometimes I forget how its going to end… that our mythology will disappoint once again. And that is the way with Wall-E.

    Ostensibly the film has potential to challenge this mythology. Wall-E exists in the rubbish-dump world left behind by the our consumeristic economy, whilst the only remaining humans continue their consumeristic folly aboard a cruise-ship space-liner, far away in the universe. The vision of civilisation crumbling… the satirical humour poked at those overweight consumers aboard the ship… all gave me hope. Hope that something bigger might be challenged.

    But I always get that way. I see someone challenging/critiquing one (small) part of our present-day lunatic existance, and I think “Yay! Someone is starting to get it!” And then they follow it up with the same-old tired, boring mythological trash.

    In the case of Wall-E, it’s this: “The Earth needs humans in order to make life sustainable”. Or put another (more common) way: “Humans have a resposibility to look after the Earth (now that we’ve trashed it)”.

    “What’s so bad about that?” I can hear you cry. “People need to look after the earth. At the moment they’re trashing it!” Yes… yes that’s true. I agree… at least about it “trashing it” part. But I do not agree that humans then have to do something to “fix” it.

    The best thing humans could do for the Earth right now is to disappear completely and never come back. If this were to happen, the Earth would completely recover from our present-day actions within a few million years.

    What the “look after for the Earth” argument misses is this: The Earth didn’t have (or need) anyone to look after it for 4 billion years prior to the arrival of humans. And for the first 3 million years of human history, humans weren’t “looking after” the earth any more that dolphins or leopards or turtles look after the earth. Its only in the last few thousand years (and particularly in the last few hundred) that humans have really started to trash the place… but this wasn’t because humans “stopped looking after the place”… its was because we… well… started trashing the place!

    What we need to do is figure out why we started trashing the place, in the first place. Only then can be begin making meaningful progess toward living sustainably. What we need are films (especially for kids) that paint a different picture… one that decentres humankind from the web-of-life and places human life exactly where humans actually are: hanging in the web by a thread (just like any other form of life).

    We need to teach our kids: Humans have no “special place” on Earth, other than the Earth itself… which is daily becoming less special with every species we drive to extinction in order to increase our own consumption, and fuel our own population explosion.

    And that’s all I have to say about that!

  2. October 6, 2008 at 8:43 am

    Hah, look at you doing the pop culture critique now! Glad to hear your thoughts on this.

    You made me realize an oversight with this post, a link I provided in comments on two essays here about other Pixar films. Obviously even more relevant here.

    http://chud.com/articles/articles/15280/1/THE-DEVIN039S-ADVOCATE-IS-WALL-E-ENVIRONMENTAL-OR-HYPOCRITICAL/Page1.html

    As you can imagine, I share many of your concerns here. Only a couple of things to add.

    Certainly, the very fact that the plant appears on Earth on its own, countless miles away from the last remaining people, is a pretty clear indication that life takes care of itself — and that the people’s return to Earth is for their own sake, definitely not the sake of the planet, and that the only way they know how to return is by doing the things they used to do, i.e., submitting plants to agriculture, and rebuilding the things they think they need to rebuild. Which, in the absence of real ecological understanding, is just the start of everything happening all over again, leading right back to the big piles of rubble.

    Interesting, this all brings to mind another point, from another comments-conversation here: http://potluck.com/2003/10/to-natural-history-re-population-ecology/ — how strange it is that the knowledge required to keep that insane, obese-person-filled spaceship going is the very knowledge that could have allowed people to live in harmony with the rest of the Earth in the first place. Maybe we can only hope that they figured that out and things will be different upon their return.

    Worth noting, though, and you know this better than most and even say as much here in your comment, it isn’t the disappearance of people that would be good for the planet but of civilized culture. People, living a different way, could be just fine for the rest of the community of life.

    One last thing I want to say: I totally share your combination of excitement and dismay whenever I see something that seems to “get it” but then flubs some important points. However, we have to remember how change happens — incrementally. We have to see these very things as successes. Incremental ones. Because that’s the only way we’ll get to a larger amount of “getting it” — by starting with smaller ones. A lot like what I talk about here: http://anthropik.com/2006/12/the-subversive-spirit-of-christmas/#comment-37920

    Thanks for your thoughts!

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