Saturday, July 05, 2008

WALL*E the libertarian

Cross-posted from theConverted:

Since it came out, the Pixar film WALL*E has generated great kudos. On the second night it was out, I took my entire family - my wife, my 9 year-old daughter, my 7 year-old son and their 2 1/2 year-old brother - to see the film.

It is a wonderful, heart-warming and cute film, with incredible animation and a fairly good story.

Unfortunately, that has not stopped some knee-jerk, anti-environmentalist Randroids and slack-jawed conservative idiots from labeling it as "environmentalist, anticapitalist, and antitechnological propaganda" (sic).

Really?

**Spoiler Alert - do not read any further if you haven't seen the film**

Lets see, we have an planet ruined by garbage, as the result of what appears to be the monopoly of a single company - Big and Large (BNL) - because they cater to every whim. They seem to be able to dump garbage because they seem to be able to externalize the cost of doing so. Now that could be a metaphor for pure socialism, but it seems more likely to me to be a metaphor for our current state capitalism.

Now, when faced with environmental disaster, what is the answer? why a more technological and nanny state existence on a cruise ship in space. Every aspect of life, from cradle to grave, is taken care of by the State - the cruise ship - and its minions - the service robots. Indeed, the humans become so lazy and distracted by this they do not realize they are always following the carefully controlled and laid out plans of the State to the point that they don't realize the ship has a pool and that other people are more than just picture on a view screen.

It is not until the people of the ship are awakened and remember their past, fight against the agents of the state - the service robots trying to stop them from going to earth - shut off the "Autopilot" and leave the ship are they truly free.

They leave the control and comfort of the ship (state) and enter a fairly barren, despoiled land. It is not a paradise, but harsh - literally a garbage dump. But they courageously step forward, awkwardly, and start their new lives without the ship and its nanny-state society.

And if you stayed to watch the credits, the back story that unfold in the background animation, you'll see they better their world not by taking orders from the "Autopilot" but by cooperating and working together to plant food, recover from garbage and to rebuild without the over arching authority.

That certainly seems like a libertarian storyline to me?

I would also add that WALL*E indulges in a few verboten activities that libertarians would love and the MPAA and the RIAA would despise - he watches his pirated version of "Hello Dolly" on his iPod and plays the ripped version of the music on his internal tape deck. He is self reliant, gathering and using spare parts he finds to fix himself and create his home, without relying on "the mother ship" to do it for him, like the bots on the Axiom do.

All that, but some people still call it a liberal propaganda film.

As others have pointed out, if you are so humourless as to be caterwauling about a kids movie like this, without seeing that obviously there are elements of both liberal and conservative politics, than how can anyone take you seriously.
"The fundamental story of the movie is about a culture beholden to a nanny state - in this case, a literal nanny state that coddles them like babies from the cradle to the grave, a world where individual initiative is destroyed and cultural history is entirely alien to the entire human race. Basically, it’s the exact thing that conservatives have been warning us about for years, wrapped up in a movie with cute robots who rebel against it and lead humanity to a hunting-gathering-growing Earth."

Indeed.

Environmental destruction happens and sometimes, the best laid plans of a statist, technological solution are worse. Only when people are free to face adversity and make free choices, not preprogrammed one, will the world be saved.

That is the message of WALL*E. That is the message to the environmentalists who think that answer to state capitalist created pollutions and environmental destruction is more state regulation and exemption.

And it has cute robots, which will be used to market thousands of toys for the next two year.

But its anti-capitalist.

Right.

These people really need to get a sense of humour and get over themselves.

Note:

No doubt, people will not agree with my opinion that WALL*E is really a classic of libertarianism. That's ok. Like most art and literature, there is enough within the characters, story and animation to evoke the sentiments of nearly any political leaning. My point is not so much to convince people that WALL*E is about libertarianism or libertarian ideals, but rather to point out that I was able to find, rather easily, some very libertarian themes in a film that is being panned by conservatives and vulgar libertarians as "liberal propaganda". I found much more libertarian ideas than liberal ones.

It merely shows that some humourless conservatives and Randian libertarians will immediately put on their dogmatic blinders and try to find anything they can use against 'teh libruls'. they are just angry and jealous that this film is popular.

Its just a movie about cute robots. Get over it.

(h/t to John)

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7 Comments:

At 4:03 PM, Blogger son of gaia said...

Wow, that was a great review! I can't wait to see the film, now. :)

Roy
Surreality Times

 
At 12:03 AM, Blogger Josh G said...

Not that I'm ignoring your disclaimer re: interpretations, but I had to spin this:

Now, when faced with environmental disaster, what is the answer? why a more technological and nanny state existence on a cruise ship in space. Every aspect of life, from cradle to grave, is taken care of by the State - the cruise ship - and its minions - the service robots. Indeed, the humans become so lazy and distracted by this they do not realize they are always following the carefully controlled and laid out plans of the State to the point that they don't realize the ship has a pool and that other people are more than just picture on a view screen.

Of course, one might respond that the "nanny state" is wholly unlike a literal "nanny", except perhaps among libertarians partial to silly straw man arguments. That the Axiom's inhabitants are coddled and taken care of to the extent they are is, at most, a satire of automated "perfect" living that's not altogether dissimilar to H.G. Wells' Eloi in The Time Machine.

It is not until the people of the ship are awakened and remember their past, fight against the agents of the state - the service robots trying to stop them from going to earth - shut off the "Autopilot" and leave the ship are they truly free.

As I recall, it was two of those very robots which "set them free" - I should add that the humans' reaction to arriving at a barren and, frankly, still grossly inhospitable Earth was one of the weakest points of the film. I'm not sure their bizarrely happy reaction to arriving at the garbage-strewn spaceport makes a lot of sense, and while it didn't really detract from the film (which is, in the end, not really about the humans), it wasn't terribly insightful either.

But, then, as you say:

Its just a movie about cute robots. Get over it.

And I'll say that the social satire, while simple, is genuinely funny.

 
At 7:41 AM, Blogger Mike said...

Of course, one might respond that the "nanny state" is wholly unlike a literal "nanny", except perhaps among libertarians partial to silly straw man arguments.

Or one could consider the over the top literal nanny state of the movie to be an exaggeration for the purpose of satire...I mean I got that insight not just from my own watching of the movie, but from Jesse Taylor at Pandagon - hardly a 'libertarian partial to straw man arguments'.

My entire point was not to blindly trumpet the movie as some libertarian manifesto for kids. My point was to rebut the mindless, anti-intellectual and dogmatic slamming of the movie by Conservative twits like Goldberg and right-libertarian vulgar ideologues like the guys at Mises.

I was able to find clear libertarian themes, Jesse Taylor was able to find libertarian themes. Goldberg and the Mises crowd didn't because they didn't want to - they merely wanted a platform to rail against 'teh liburl' Hollywood and spew their anti-environmental talking points.

I saw the movie with my kids and loved it. My kids loved it. Everyone I have spoken to who isn't a knee-jerk anti- everything moron loved it.

If they want to interpret the movie the way they did, it says more about their intellectual shallowness than it says about the movie.

It is a great movie and I could care less about whatever 'themes' these pinheads think are in it.

 
At 3:20 PM, Blogger Josh G said...

What's particularly great is that there isn't any bludgeoned-over-the-head "message" and that WALL*E succeeds in depicting an affecting and genuine love story/relationship between two characters who are (a) robots and (b) almost dialogue-free. The amazing thing about that achievement is how easy the movie makes it look.

 
At 8:26 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Absolutely.

 
At 10:48 AM, Blogger Nastyboy said...

It's an anti-capitalist movie produced by the Walt disney corporation. How Ironic.

 
At 9:10 AM, Blogger Mike said...

Nasty,

Yeah, they didn't catch that irony either. I kept thinking while watching the movie that BNL==Disney.

Ah well some folks will see whatever they want.

 

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