WALL•E redux (Mudede philosophizes)


Just a note related to my recent post considering the accusations of fatism in Pixar’s WALL•E. Over at Slog, Charles Mudede offers a philosophical analysis of the film:

Point One:
In WALL•E, human evolution from normal weight to overweight is concomitant with their evolution from animal …

… to animation.

The transformation, which is pictured on the commander’s wall, has this as its meaning: the infantilization of humanity is the final result of the capitalist mode of economic production and parliamentary politics. It is not without meaning that the last organic things are infantile humans (Neitzche’s last man, the absolute couch potato) and cockroaches. The superman—that rare and wonderful thing—has been reduced to a weed in a boot.

And so on, and so forth ….

• • •

And because I hate loose ends—you wouldn’t know it from the tattered remnants around here—I felt I should probably revisit Lou Lumenick’s commentary for the New York Post about advance press for WALL•E:

The Mouse House certainly isn’t going out of its way to reveal this snarky little surprise. There are no stills of the fat characters in the movie’s press kit, which foregoes Disney’s longstanding custom of providing art of the voice talent next to the characters they portray. The only enormous character in the trailer — the spaceship’s captain, portrayed by Hollywood’s favorite plus-size actor, Jeff Garlin — flashes by in less than a second ….

Perhaps if we believe, as many apparently do, that Pixar set out specifically to denigrate the obese with their film, Lumenick’s conspiratorial suggestions would bear more weight. But for reasons I consider obvious—as well as Mudede’s more subtle explanations—the accusations of blatant fatism just don’t work.

In a time when people can be heard to complain that too many movies reveal all their good parts in trailers—admittedly, more a reflection on the writing than anything else; one would think that in ninety minutes, movie makers could manage more than ninety seconds of quality, or something complex enough that a basic advertisement will not deflate the elements of surprise—why not pull back one of the story’s major points of commentary? It does not seem too much to ask that a studio deliver at least one punch that people aren’t expecting. (Honestly, I had only the slightest of clues, and none of it, as far as I know, derived from the controversy that has apparently been brewing since late last year.)

Questions, then:

  • If we could build an interstellar cruise ship to pamper travelers and cater to their every need, want, and desire, would we?
  • If generations of people were born on such a magnificently-appointed ship and fed to desperate luxury, what would happen to them?

It seems almost obvious, especially in reflection of contemporary Americana, that yes, we would build the spaceship, and yes, we would go soft in various ways if given enough time to do so. Indeed, there is a line in the film, something like, “We have a swimming pool?” that suggests the wearying effect of such a life. And in a time when artificial foodstuffs, cable television, and now the internet are frequent scapegoats for rising obesity, diminishing attention spans, and increasing isolation between people, is it really so far-fetched to imagine that the people aboard the fateful Axiom should suffer such a decline—over the course of generations—that fitness itself is forgotten? Or at least redefined? I don’t recall seeing a 24-hour gym aboard the Axiom. This could be either because there wasn’t one, or that there were plenty, which had been forgotten in the misty long-ago that is, still, our future.

Given what disbelief we must suspend in order to accommodate so fanciful a story, it really does seem like we’re picking nits at this point.

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