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Implicit Politics Surrounds Wall-E
The Disney Pixar film, “Wall-E” provides a futuristic outlook on the possible outcome of human life and the earth in which they inhabit. Wall-E influences the audience to question if the government’s take on pollution and sustainability is in its’ best interest for the human population. Climate change is a real and relevant, and Wall-E as supporting evidence as a guide throughout this reading. With this lens, I will review and discuss the political take on the movie, analyze the issue revolving around the participatory politics in popular culture, while raising awareness about what steps the government has taken or lack thereof to protect and promote a sustainable earth.
Wall-E was released in 2008 by Disney Pixar studios. Wall-E is a small robot who is nestled within a decaying waste collecting industry. As a result, his home is primarily settled among an overwhelming amount of towers of garbage covering once tall skyscrapers. The protagonist, Wall-E stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth class. In the movie, it shows in the maybe not so distant future that mankind has left earth because of the towering litter of garbage, and pollution left behind by mankind. The culprit behind the rubbish left behind was the product of the antagonist Buy N’ Large, a corporation whose primary motive is to produce a profit regardless if it results in making the earth uninhabitable. When the earth inevitably reached this breaking point, humans escaped to outer space to carry out a comfortable life where their rapacious need for consumption has turned them into “blobs” who cannot stand or move on their own. As a result, Wall-E is left alone on earth to clean up after the humans who have polluted and littered the earth.
Over the centuries, Wall-E eventually learns certain values of sudo “emotions” and a sense of attachment to this once forgotten planet. Wall- E longs for these moments he finds in old movies and items he finds fascinating. Wall-E brings these items back to his shed and collects these old earth artifacts. This movie musical ultimately inspires feelings of loneliness and romantic longing in Wall-E. Suddenly, an advanced robot named Eve emerges from a spaceship causing Wall-E to simultaneously be terrified and intrigued. Eve is sent from the space station where the humans are housed in order to look for any remaining signs of life on earth. If life is spotted, her duty is to report this back to her human superiors so they will know that Earth is once again habitable, and return to recolonize the planet their ancestors destroyed.
The movie has left the audience to question how the culture of consumption could lead earth to a desolate state. The film is an exaggerated extension of society’s consumer-driven lifestyle and the effect it has on causing detrimental pollution on earth. Wall-E brings awareness to the audience that earth could potentially be destroyed by pollution and climate change and what it may look like as a result. This raises the question of our own capabilities of sustaining earth. Particularly questioning to what degree does the government take the issue of pollution and global warming seriously? The government implementing climate control initiatives is a complicated subject and situation.There are a variety of different variables to be considered in order for this change to come into effect. For example, what changes can humans realistically adjust to to create a long term change? Can human society work together as a unit instead of being divided among what countries they reside in? I came across an activist, a young activist might I add, by the name Greta Thurnburg. She is a young environmental activist who attended the United Nations Summit.She delivered a speech at the United Nations summit, a call to the government to take action on climate change. Thurnburg was trying to convince the government to take more action on reducing carbon emissions(Milman, 2019). The summit had intentions to encourage companies and countries drive to reducing the carbon footprint left behind by countries and their trash, or companies and their machines. The release of toxic fumes into the atmosphere is shaving our Ozone layer. As many attempt to initiate a call to action in regard to climate change and sustainability, governments continue to show no avail. The state our earth is in now reflects a similar movement to what occurred in Wall-E’s eventually resulting in a deserted earth. Many do not realize the constant indulging society partakes in can exponentially progress our environment to a replica of Wall-E’s home. A popular online The Guardian stated, “A new UN analysis has found that commitments to cut planet-warming gases must be at least tripled and increased by up to fivefold if the world is to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris agreement of holding the temperature rise to at most 2C above the pre-industrial era” (Milman, 2019). What policy and movements can governments possibly implement to truly make a difference for the earth?
In the movie, the antagonist Buy N Large has bureaucratic power to make waves of influence to its consumer. When utilizing a “critical approach” in this case, coined by social theorist Karl Marx, it is argued that, “…the prevailing ideologies and cultural norms of any society serve to benefit its ruling class and perpetuate their power”(Grazian, 2017, p.60). It seems that the critical approach is based on the idea that power is not equally distributed, it is rather based on a traditional hierarchy (Reed). In correlation to Wall-E, we see that Buy N Large’s main motive is to provide all the necessities for human life through its robust production. They hold a powerful stance in the lives of their consumers and are able to do so through their prevailing market power. This can reflect a parallel in our own government with capitalism. A possible reason the government takes small steps to curb fossil fuels, may be because large private businesses control a significant amount of the market and would rather sustain their profit than contribute to sustaining the earth. For example, Amazon is one of the largest and most profitable online e-commerce corporations. Amazon’s convenience of having all one’s necessities delivered straight to their door encourages people to buy more due to the ease in its process. Such ease also comes along with consequences to the environment as it lacks mandatory initiatives to promote sustainability. The environmental cost produced is caused by several corporations this day in age, as shipping is brought directly to the comfort of millions of people’s homes rather than to one store. “Expedited shipping means your packages may not be as consolidated as they could be, leading to more cars and trucks required to deliver them, and an increase in packaging waste, which researchers have found is adding more congestion to our cities, pollutants to our air, and cardboard to our landfills” (Nguyen, 2018, para. 2). This proves that the critical approach to Wall-E is parallel to the message that, if we do not address the perpetuating power of influencing consumer-driven consumption aggressively it can lead to an earth like Wall-E’s.
As we have reviewed some political background on climate change, and its relation to Wall-E’s political message, and I do recognize the government taking steps toward a more sustainable earth. However, I do not think the steps are significant enough to make any noticeable change. An aggressive attack on curbing fossil fuels is necessary, but we have yet to see our government make any significant changes in law and holding certain corporation accountable for their waste. Awareness is raised and I believe every political party understands the significance of controlling pollution and climate change, but are looking to line their own pockets first before saving the planet. Wall-E serves as a crucial message that the ongoing actions of society and their respective governments hold the power to both increasingly damage their earth or make drastic change for the benefit of all.
- Grazian, D. (2017). Mix it up: Popular culture, mass media, and society. New York: W.W. Norton.
- Milman, O. (2019, September 23). Greta Thunberg condemns world leaders in emotional speech at UN. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/23/greta-thunberg-speech-un-2019-address.
- Nguyen, N. (2018, July 22). The Hidden Environmental Cost of Amazon Prime’s Free, Fast Shipping. Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/nicolenguyen/environmental-impact-of-amazon-prime.
- Reed, D. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://study.com/academy/lesson/the-critical-approach-to-organizations-communication.html.
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