Friday, July 4, 2008

Wall-E and the Message of Consumption

Pixar's new movie Wall-E is funny, cute, and entertaining, but the undercurrent of social commentary is anything but subtle. Growing ecological concerns have made this a prime time for the release of such of movie. And movie-goers have likely seen the theme elsewhere, as A.O. Scott points out in his New York Times review of the movie.

As the earth heats up, the vanishing of humanity has become something of a hot topic, a preoccupation shared by directors like Steven Spielberg (“A.I.”), Francis Lawrence (“I Am Legend”), M. Night Shyamalan (“The Happening”) and Werner Herzog. In his recent documentary “Encounters at the End of the World” Mr. Herzog muses that “the human presence on this planet is not really sustainable,” a sentiment that is voiced, almost verbatim, in the second half of “Wall-E.” When the whimsical techies at Pixar and a moody German auteur are sending out the same message, it may be time to pay attention.
The idea of consumption is actually made to be so ridiculous that it might at times seem difficult to see ourselves in that mirror. There are instances when evidence of the past consumerist societies and their incredibly large shopping centers flash across the scene. The apparent all-encompassing retailer of the time also has its own website to go along with the plot.

And though its funny to watch and think of the ludicrous myopia of this fictional society, one can't help but see the similarities to our own consumerism. It kind of begs the question: how fictional is this depicted society? And will we take note of its subtle lessons?


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