Wall-E, Right Wing Hero?

Illustration for article titled Wall-E, Right Wing Hero?

Click to viewYou may have thought Pixar's trashbot epic Wall-E was an environmentalist screed about humans ruining the planet through over-consumption. But you'd be wrong, say a rising chorus of conservative commentators. Rather, Wall-E is a right-wing dream come true, a saga about the need to escape big government and return to small-town family values. Not only that, but some progressives are starting to attack the poor little guy for not being hardcore enough.

Sure, some conservatives have been condemning Wall-E as green agit-prop. But they're missing the real point, says the American Conservative:

In the film, it becomes clear that mass consumerism is not just the product of big business, but of big business wedded with big government. In fact, the two are indistinguishable in WALL-E's future. The government unilaterally provided it's citizens with everything they needed, and this lack of variety led to Earth's downfall... Staples of small-town conservative life such as the small farm, the "atomic family," and old-fashioned and wholesome entertainment like "Hello, Dolly" are looked upon by the suddenly awakened humans as beautiful and desirable. By steering conservative families away from WALL-E, these commentators are doing their readers a great disservice.


A side note: Is Hello Dolly really a prized conservative narrative? Being that it stars Barbara "Stalin" Streisand?

Meanwhile, BeliefNet's Rod Dreher hails Wall-E as a film for "crunchy cons." (According to Dreher's book, "crunchy cons" are conservatives who live in harmony with nature, including organic farming, turning off the television and cooking their own food.) He sees the movie as a sort of reverse "Garden of Eden" story, where Eve tempts the humans with an "apple" to get them to defy their false god and return to the garden they've left. Says Dreher:

In another twist on the Genesis story, "Wall-E" contends that what makes us human is labor. In the film's most meaningful iconic image, the Tree of Life on the new earth grows out of an old work boot. You'll recall that when Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden, Adam was cursed for his sin by being condemned to draw his sustenance from the very Earth from which he was drawn. God says to Adam, "In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Gen. 3:19) In "Wall-E," humanity discovers that it can only complete its own given nature through labor — first agricultural labor, then the labor of building cities.

DailyKos blogger oilpolicy points to some of these right-wing fans of the movie, and then chimes in by calling it a disappointment to progressives, because it lets the overconsuming humans off the hook too easily:

Wall-E is so ignorant of the basics of sustainability and [its] original sin, overpopulation, that it actually has humans, who have somehow learned how to live sustainably on a ship for 700 years, return to overpopulate the earth again in a happy ending! The rest of us had paid good money to see Wall-E and Eve, the new robotic life forms, get their shot at happiness on earth sans humans.


It's totally true. I paid for my Wall-E ticket hoping all the humans would die in the end. And then maybe Wall-E and Eve would do that Flight Of The Conchords song.

Reed Johnson at the L.A. Times chimes in:

In serious science fiction, humans who've degenerated into some sort of new mutation force us to confront the darkest sides of our nature. Think of the cannibalistic Morlocks and the feckless, sheeplike Eloi of Wells' "The Time Machine," one of sci-fi's master narratives. By contrast, the Pillsbury doughboys and girls in "Wall-E" are a bit dim but otherwise sweet, polite, essentially harmless, kinda cute... Apart from the spaceship captain, who rebels against a bullying computer, the humans in "Wall-E" really don't do much to earn their shot at redemption. The movie doesn't make the case that mankind, having fouled its nest, deserves a second chance.


(And yes, Reed is accusing Wall-E of not being a hard core enough science fiction narrative, because none of the supposedly "adult" scifi movies this year are even bothering to tackle the issues Wall-E raises. And since Wall-E is raising those issues, Reed wants it to deal with them in a manner worthy of 2001 and Silent Running. (Personally, I felt Wall-E was a much more serious movie than 2001, but that's just me.)

So will progressives abandon Wall-E en masse because it has an unrealistically happy ending? (Unless you really believe the humans come back to Earth to die. Dreher pins his hopes on those cute ending credits, with the Peter Gabriel song.) Will conservatives embrace the little bot as their new mascot?


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Annalee Newitz

@Charlie Jane Anders: I think it's interesting that people are willing to believe that politics can be entertainment (a common criticism of political campaigning), and yet are unwilling to believe that entertainment can be political.