(FIRE IN THE HOLE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS)
Okay, I saw Wall-E. I was very impressed. No, it’s no My Neighbor Totoro, but what is? Even Santa Claus v. Totoro would be a series of grey decisions, possibly resulting in some new nation-state boundaries:
Mai and Totoro
But Wall-E is pretty damned good. I would go again… (Merc, I’m talking to you).
I’ve heard there’s a big ol’ backlash a-brewin’, and this (from Slate) is one of the more asinine articles I’ve read in a while.
So… anyway. Yes, this movie is propaganda. But really, what animation isn’t propaganda? It’s not like there’s objective animated footage out there, and it just needs an impartial eye to present it properly. Michael Moore, yes, that shit is propaganda. And we could get into a whole Godard thing here (but we won’t because I can already hear the snoring), about how any shot taken by a camera is a moral judgement on what is being viewed. So a better question would be… what film isn’t propaganda?
I for one, was a sucker for the “message” of Wall-E, mostly because it didn’t stink of patchouli and Ani DiFranco lyrics, but was presented with a deft and witty touch. Beauty and intelligence was at the heart of this creation, and everything else took a backseat. Films about space can often be correspondingly airless. The best films about space make us homesick for the intimate equation of gravity, sunlight, air, magnetism, and water that have shaped our bodies. Space, and Earth in it, is one of the most beautiful things we can consider.
Russian pond, opening shots of Tarkovsky’s Solaris
People are apparently up in arms because they perceive that it’s vision of Earth filled with garbage and left behind by a race of overweight people is some kind of doom-and-gloom Marxist propaganda. Well, such a situation, in many ways, already exists. Fast-forward 700 years, and it is entirely probable that the undernourished would have perished. At present, we may not see giant towers of trash everywhere, but rest assured, the trash, on a molecular level, is everywhere.
This is not gloom and doom, but rather, bringing up the elephant in the room. Furthermore, we may know the aims of propaganda by its binaries. Characters arc and change in Wall-E, find new facets of themselves. Often these facets pivot on cliched assumptions handed down to us from too many viewings of E.T. and 2001, both of which you will never think of in the same light after viewing Wall-E. That in itself, anthropologically speaking, is pretty major for us contemporary humans. As of late, we haven’t been able to do real satire, or really say anything fresh about our cultural touchstones other than use them as “Trivial Pursuit” clues or cute references in indie flicks.
Many so-called conservative critics are lambasting the movie for brainwashing children with a leftist agenda. Well, let’s just throw out Charlie Chaplin, the Muppets, and Hayao Miyazaki while we’re at it, and all get back to the glory days of D.W. Griffith/whatever Mel Gibson is in these days. Ever seen Veggie Tales? Familiar with Hannah Montana? I rest my case. Chaplin? Sublime. Muppets? Floppily liberal but undoubtably magical. Miyazaki? Whole worlds of skill and reverence I can’t even fathom, and ecology to boot….. Veggie Tales? Mel Gibson? Um… Mel Gibson? D.W. Griffith…. well at least, in between 3 hour Ku Klux Klan movies, he married Lillian Gish:
Let’s not mention the likes of Dora the Explorer and Barney, which seem to be TV-watching-skill builders for little minds that would rather be doing physical science. Propaganda is all around us, folks! So, before you take your vulnerable Lil’ Bill O’Reillys to a screening of a movie, it is a good idea to suss out it’s moral agenda beforehand. The letter “G” doesn’t always stand for “Agrees with your morals”. What we consider beautiful is subjective; but morality and aesthetics have an inescapable connection, because they both appeal to us on a higher human level. Ever seen a dog really enjoy a sunset? Dogs can’t be evil, either; they don’t know how. But it’s a solid bet that “liberals” have had a lock on a whole lot of beautiful art, for a long time. It’s sort of our “thing”.
Let’s ask ourselves what’s really conservative here. Certainly we can all agree that a fruitful and abundant Earth, and responsible attitudes about our pysical and imaginative health are eminently conservable? And yes, I am well aware of the incongruity of the “Wall-E Commemorative Wristwatch” I received upon admission, which will surely fill future landfills alongside decoder pens encouraging us to drink our Ovaltine. But, you know, I forgave 2001 it’s surgical misanthropy because it was beautiful and intelligent, and I’ll forgive Wall-E it’s inconsistently applied and supposedly Malthusian humanism for exactly the same reasons. Because for me, in art, beauty trumps. Because it synthesizes disparate things in such strange and beguiling new ways. And rearranges our minds. Wall-E is one of these.
I normally detest computer animation, because it endeavors to recreate the 10% of existence that we can see, while leaving behind the important stuff: the 90% we can’t see. Wall-E is full of this last 90% in spades. And the 10% we are looking at is quite technologically advanced besides. The computer animation is a refreshing counterpoint to the message.
Life is nothing but imperfection and the computer likes perfection, so we spent probably 90% of our time putting in all of the imperfections, whether it’s in the design of something or just the unconscious stuff. How the camera lens works in [a real] housing is never perfect, and we tried to put those imperfections [into the virtual camera] so that everything looks like you’re in familiar [live-action] territory. –Andrew Stanton, creator of Wall-E
And my kid liked it. And my sister cried. My sister has no soul. So there you have it.
Merc, whenever you have the time. Grammarye, yes I know I’m wrong on all counts. Thank you for clearing that up. :)
Oh, who am I kidding? No one’s going to read this anyway. It’s not about booze or food.