Robot dissension

Posted by · 2:02 pm · December 21st, 2008


[T]he film actually makes some pretty problematic political arguments…the point of discussion and debate is not all adulation and praise: there are real ethical talks worth having over this film, and if there wasn’t room for any dissenting opinions, I would say it failed. So, no kids gloves: it can play with the big kids, so let it.

The whole conceit of Wall-E’s second half is fat-bashing at its most pernicious and damaging. The robots are terrific, the Axiom is despicable. This is not a film I would want to see nominated for Best Picture. Just compare it to Milk, which unmasks prejudice rather than encouraging it.

Apathy is constructed here as a refusal to cultivate the body properly. And there is an ethical imperative in any suggestion of what is and is not a proper use of the body. My concern is: what does this insistence that the body can and thus ought to be beaten into shape, and that everyone really ought to do real physical work rather than just floating around, say to people who cannot beat their bodies into shape and cannot do normal work?

A trio of smart, against-the-grain “WALL-E” reactions from Awards Daily posters in the face of blind and offensive support for the film from commenters who have little to offer beyond quips like “you are too stupid to live” and “[I]t seriously pisses me off when I’m walking through a hallway, or down an escalator and I can’t get through because of a fat piece of shit.”  (To be fair, there are some level-headed counter assessments, but they get drowned out, sadly, by this vitriol.)

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69 responses so far

  • 1 12-21-2008 at 8:53 pm

    Raw Shark said...

    Apparently everyone who agrees with you is “smart”. It’s patently ridiculous that you rant about how overrated WALL-E is, and then pour adulation on The Dark Knight, which has plot holes you could fly a Cessna through, and a poor script. But, I’m not going to go and find people who trash TDK and quote their posts. This is probably the most mean-spirited and childish post of yours I’ve ever read.

  • 2 12-21-2008 at 9:00 pm

    Bing147 said...

    I didn’t see the film doing that but even if it was, I’m all for it. Sorry but laziness is an epidemic in this country. Why do you think America has become the fattest country on earth? Its because so many of us are lazy. Some people can’t get in shape. Sure, if you have a glandular problem. That maybe makes up 1% of the population of fat people. The rest, maybe they can’t be super model skinny, I’m not, but they can do more, most can do more, period. I used to weigh about 325 pounds. I wore size 48 pants. I now weigh 215 and wear 34s. Why? Because I stopped saying I can’t do it and I did it.

  • 3 12-21-2008 at 9:02 pm

    McGuff said...

    I leave for a couple of hours, to root for the Panthers in Monday Night Football (as a Bears fan, I figured the Giants playing for something against the Vikings in Week 17 might help), and I come back to a rather ugly flame war … where I made one of the first posts in. I am in agreement with Hans above — I fear that populism in a niche market like Oscar blogging might be a bad mix. And I say this as someone that loved WALL-E, and didn’t love this post.

    Still, my problem with this post has not exactly been aided by the comments in this thread. Writing Kris off because he preferred Bolt to Wall-e is ridiculous — I was just reading Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune writing that he preferred “Death Race” to “Gran Torino.” I took heat on this site a few weeks ago for saying I preferred “SherryBaby” to “Rachel Getting Married.” If we can’t accept the subjectivity in film watching — and film criticism — there’s no reason to engage in cinematic-driven forums.

    And in the end, the thing I like about Wall-E is that it’s an animation that really leaves us things to talk about. Let’s have a real discussion about the second half of the movie that so many have problems with — what didn’t work for some, and what worked for others. Let’s see how Wall-E works if we classify it as science fiction, and better yet, compare it to other works in that genre this decade. Let’s talk about the success of the obvious tip of the hat to silent films of the 1930s.

    Let’s NOT merely throw the movie away because it bashes fat people, or because people are overrating it (which I can promise Kris was not attempting to do with this post). And let’s NOT discount this site’s editor merely because he preferred a different animation movie this year. There’s better things to talk about, D/N. Let’s try that.

  • 4 12-21-2008 at 9:04 pm

    McGuff said...

    Raw Shark, you haven’t been here long enough. Kris has been up front from the beginning about the number of holes in The Dark Knight. I feel confident that’s a movie that Kris and I are on the same page about — I gave it an “A-“, as it pushed forward the genre but occasionally fell short of its own ambitions. Because Kris doesn’t love WALL-E doesn’t mean he’s a Dark Knight fanboy. I can’t really believe that those are related, but Jesus, it sure seems like they have been crossing paths a lot lately.

  • 5 12-21-2008 at 9:14 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Raw: I wasn’t calling them smart because they agree with me, I was calling them smart for their arguments. It’s obviously not to say that arguments against my opinion of the film aren’t or haven’t been “smart.” Come on.

    Also, I have hardly poured adulation onto “The Dark Knight.” As I’ve said over and over again (and as McGuff clearly points out), I think the media and the fans got carried away on that film. If you’d actually read my work, you’d know that.

  • 6 12-21-2008 at 10:25 pm

    JAB said...

    “Toy Story 2 was okay”
    -Demitri Martin

  • 7 12-21-2008 at 11:17 pm

    Thomas said...

    Classic case of self-conceit. You may not hate «Wall-E», but you definitely hate people who like it. I’m done reading «In Contention».

  • 8 12-22-2008 at 4:34 am

    limeymcfrog said...

    As an obese person, I actually found Wall-E to be quite inspiring. I do think that our culture has gradually become more sedentary, but that’s not the only thing lampooned on the axiom; it’s how disconnected we are from each other (the hover chairs with video screens, the slavish obedience of advertising). To me this says that these people are victims of their own comfort, which I have to tell you, is how I feel sometimes. And I just don’t see the mean spirited vein there. My experience of Wall-E was not that we were a lazy people who need a kick in the ass, but a distracted and used bunch that needed to be reminded what it was to be human… by a robot. That’s why I love Wall-E.

    Anyone who is an asshole in defence of Wall-E, does a disservice to the film. I think this is a good discussion to have and to pollute it with ad-hominem attacks is not useful.

  • 9 12-22-2008 at 8:44 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Thomas: Good riddance then, because anyone who would wrongfully read such a thing into my posts shouldn’t be reading them in the first place.

    limey: Thank you for tackling the issue and bringing a civilized conversation into the mix. I was worried that it was a total lost cause.

    I agree so much with the hover chairs and computer screen stuff. It’s an important point to make, but then again, hardly the most original point. It’s almost pat, actually. Regardless of that, I think obesity is an important issue to bring up, certainly, in a film where children are a major target audience. My concern has always been the level of laughs certain gags are played up to, almost an insulting level and at times, an inappropriate one. I couldn’t shake the feeling that, even with an important point underneath, the filmmakers couldn’t help themselves and, therefore, got away with a lot. As one poster noted in another thread, think they got away with some insensitivity that they wouldn’t have in a live action film.

  • 10 12-22-2008 at 9:30 am

    N8 said...

    My goodness! Take one day trip to see some friends for dinner, and I miss out on a huge WALL-E debate (Dang it!).

    Oh well, perhaps it’s for the best. Like Kris, I’m not too proud of some of the pro-WALL-E posts I’ve seen on comment boards this week. I don’t like the idea of these people representing the film’s fanbase, whether I agree with them or not.

  • 11 12-22-2008 at 1:42 pm

    Scott Ward said...

    First off, with no connection to the movie itself at all, am I the only one who thinks that obesity should be a non-issue in any discussion?

    Like Limey, I am moderately obese, but I do it to myself. As has been said on this post before, the only issue that should be regarded here is apathy and laziness.

    However, with that said, don’t you all think that the apathetic person is a lost one? I think the thing we forget is that you can not MAKE someone or some people care about something. People can never be made to care about something. So in that sense, you could say this movie is preaching to the choir because we know either one of two things: 1)that these fat people on earth see films or read other stories with this same message and true to form choose to do nothing, or 2) they are too dumb and blind to understand a message of the film/story.

    And as the ones who have read the posts on WALL-E know, I am not a huge fan of the movie for many of these same reasons. I do like the movie, but I just don’t see anything in it to merit it masterful because any message it is trying to convey is, again in my opinion, blatantly over the top.

    And Limey, not bashing you at all, but I know you could argue that the film in a way opened your eyes and now you will change, and so doesn’t that mean it succeeded? Well, if you buy into that “if you change one person you’ve done your job” notion, that’s fine, but if something with all that magnitude and money only changes a few people, then I don’t think you could say that it succeeded in that aspect.

    Also, I’m not saying this message was the sole intent of the movie, so therefore it failed. So don’t attack me about that and say I didn’t understand the “bigger picture” so to say. I’m merely critiquing the movie’s critique of society.

    And Kris, I’m also not insinuating that this was an irrelevant point to bring up in the first place because it was. I’m simply saying that I think it should be an irrelevant point. As I said, you can’t change the apathetic crowd as a whole. If we choose to fuck ourselves over, that’s our choice. But areas of life where we get fucked over is what film makers should be criticizing.

  • 12 12-23-2008 at 5:31 am

    limeymcfrog said...

    It’s as simple as this: I loved the film. I thought it was a wonderfully simple musing on what it was to be human. The axiom was only one part of it, and admittedly the slightly lesser part. But that’s what’s wonderful about loving a film; I admit the flawed parts, but I still wouldn’t change them.

    You didn’t love the film, and therefore everyone’s adoration is puzzling and, in your mind, wrong.

    I’m currently going through the same thing with Slumdog Millionaire – I thought it was okay, but not even close to one of the best of this very watered down year. That’s my opinion and it flies in the face of several people who adore the film. I’m not going to change their minds, nor am I going to get them to stop loving the film. In fact I don’t want to. Why would I want someone to stop loving a movie? That would seem cruel.

    However for others who do not like Slumdog, click my name to see my spoilertastic review.

  • 13 12-24-2008 at 4:16 am

    YouG said...

    It seems that you have to qualify your post these days by stating your weight. Well, I’m borderline anorexic.

    Regarding the issue or non-issue on weight, it could have gone the other way when everyone was so obsessed with slimming pills or surgery that with the advanced technology, everyone looked like a size zero. That would have changed the whole story completely.

    But was that a factor in the captain choosing to return to earth? I do not think so. It wasn’t so much of a “life on axiom represents obesity or a decadent lifestyle of consumerism and we must stop this”.

    To me, it was how humans realized that they had to do something after being desensitized for so long. “I didn’t know we had a pool…” They were merely going through the motions everyday like a routine check. They lost that adventurous spirit that Wall-E possessed.

    I know this might be spoilerish but I assume anyone who would check the comments thread to this article would have already seen the movie.

    To go out there and explore for yourself what life means to you and making your own choice. That was what I got from the movie; not how to keep fit.

    One problem I can see from the film was the escape of the faulty electrical appliances and the approach on *gulp* autonomy.

    It was used to advance the plot so that “with the help of your friends, you can succeed”. The subplot wasn’t resolved. Metaphorically speaking, they would personify criminals in jail; with the autopilot being the dictator, the captain being a puppet.

    I watched the film twice — the second time without the mental luggage of themes, morality or lessons learnt. I loved it.

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