2008-09-21

Since When is the Apocalypse Cute?

I have seen the future my fiends, and it is bleak. The world will be overcome by our wasteful ways; garbage piled higher than Kilimanjaro, clear cerulean skies replaced with a dense brown haze. The human race will have no choice but to jettison into space to survive, leaving cyborgs to slowly clean the uninhabitable terrain in the hopes that one day we will be able to return home. Did I mention that the cyborgs are ADORABLE!

Yes, this is a recap of "WALL-E" which, unless you've been holed up in a fall-out shelter since '58, you have surely been exposed to through the ubiquitous Pixar marketing machine. A light piece of fun, frolicky entertainment, the film follows Wall-E, the last (artificial) life on Earth, (save the garbage-thriving cockroaches, natch) as he explores an unapologetically bleak World of Tomorrow. Unless you are raising the seed of Stephen Hawking, better bring some extra Ritalin for this one. Don't get me wrong, I understand that marketing any animated feature as a "family" film is, unfortunately, necessary for box office. And if your "family" consists of a bunch of Kubrick-obsessed nerds and dystopian fiction junkies, you won't be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you have a couple of ankle biters who like "Bob the Builder" and princess movies, take heed. Although marketed as such, this is not a kids movie.

Now, as a Kubrick-obsessed nerd myself, I was really excited to see this film. It is a magnificently executed film and the Wall-E character is extremely appealing. By the second half of the film, however, Wall-E's undeniable charm is drowned out by political subtext(much like this blog entry). Pixar's depiction of the human race is unflattering and harsh. First we destroy the ecosystem in what appears to be a Medieval return to tossing one's garbage out the window, then run from the problem in a giant rocket-powered cruise ship where we all become complacent, morbidly obese and dependent on amoral super corporation "Buy n Large." That's right, Fatty-Fat-Fat-Fat, Pixar is talking about YOU! We know you downed three pints of Hagen Daas that you bought at Wal-Mart last night and then stuffed the cartons in the McDonald's drive thru trash can because that way you wouldn't have to get out of your car. For shame!

The only thing that provokes (my) eye rolls and grumbling faster than pop culture fat-bashing is the new environmentalist chic. The ideology of environmentalism, much like the proverbial goal of world peace or saving of baby harp seals, is vanilla scented enough to appeal to the masses with little argument. But alas, Bealzebub is lurking in the details. Environmentalism is the new vehicle du jour for irresponsible politics reeking of scam, and fearmongering is a big source of the stench. When someone feels that they need to instill fear in others to motivate them to action, it's a clear indicator that something is amiss. Think about it; there is an inherent risk in preaching a fanatical message. The risk is that no one will take it seriously, but the big payoff is that if people follow along, they will do so in a way that makes them susceptible to exploitation. Any action that is so necessary that it must be carried out for the greater good can't be gambled on. This begs the question, what's really behind a political leader telling us that if we don't stop using fossil fuels immediately the Earth will be uninhabitable in 20 years? What about all the "green" celebrities who fly on private jets? If a "necessary" change in lifestyle requires so much cash that only the rich can afford it and the rest of us will just wind up doing without, the bells and whistles should be going off. This is Common Sense 101.

The other danger I see with the political environmentalist movement is that it's essentially just another example of people denying that some things are just beyond our control, period. Take an idea like "vehicle emissions are causing climate change, if we eliminate emissions, climate change will stop." Conveniently, there is no X-factor in this equation; we caused the change, therefore we have the ability to stop it. The idea that climate change may also be part of a natural pattern of fluctuation is not allowed to be a part of the equation by hard-core environmentalists, it is too threatening to the belief that this is a man-made anomaly. Once again, bells and whistles, people. The fear of the sun and the fear of weather has led to the fall of entire civilizations, as well as unforgivable acts like burning people at the steak and human sacrifice. Leaders who are motivated by irrational fear are destined to follow a trail of destruction. Leaders who use fear to bolster their own power and authority are pigs.

When the barnyard starts listening to Chicken Little, can Napoleon be too far behind? If Pixar wants to school our kids on some political issues, what about a quirkily animated version of "Animal Farm?" Just don't rewrite the pigs as fat, capitalist dimwits.

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