The meaning behind WALL-E

Much has been made recently of the meaning of the plot-line behind WALL-E, Pixar’s newest animation. Conservatives have been debating whether this movie is an attempt at environmental indoctrination of our kids or a well camouflaged conservative message. World Magazine did an interview with Andrew Stanton, WALL-E‘s filmmaker, for its June 28th edition and asked about the movie’s meaning. The entire interview is worth reading, but this part is particularly interesting:

WORLD: How does WALL•E represent your singular vision?

STANTON: Well, what really interested me was the idea of the most human thing in the universe being a machine because it has more interest in finding out what the point of living is than actual people. The greatest commandment Christ gives us is to love, but that’s not always our priority. So I came up with this premise that could demonstrate what I was trying to say–that irrational love defeats the world’s programming. You’ve got these two robots that are trying to go above their basest directives, literally their programming, to experience love.

With the human characters I wanted to show that our programming is the routines and habits that distract us to the point that we’re not really making connections to the people next to us. We’re not engaging in relationships, which are the point of living–relationship with God and relationship with other people.

WORLD: The depiction of humanity is pretty stark in this movie.

STANTON: Well, when I started outlining humanity in the story, I asked myself: What if everything you needed to survive–health care, food–was taken care of and you had nothing but a perpetual vacation to fill your time? What if the result of all that convenience was that all your relationships became indirect–nobody’s reaching out to each other? A lot of people have suggested that I was making a comment on obesity. But that wasn’t it, I was trying to make humanity big babies because there was no reason for them to grow up anymore.

That’s the argument that conservatives have been making against more government control and womb to the tomb governmental care. It will make Americans, independent and resourceful by nature, lazy and unambitious. In my book, that’s a good message for American kids – all kids – to learn today.

Megan Basham, the author of the World piece has a side bar in which she offers her take on the movie and she offers this:

And though on the surface WALL-E looks like it’s selling the easiest, trendiest message going today – environmentalism – it’s too smart for that.

True, the foundation for the story is that humanity has left the planet heaped in garbage. But far weightier themes – like how technology distances us from the wonder of creation and how that distance cripples us spiritually – play a bigger role. In fact, if Stanton criticizes people for anything, it’s for worship of leisure. Because they live to be cared for rather than to care, the few human beings WALL-E meets have become, to use Stanton’s words, giant babies – literally feeding on milk rather than solid food. In contrast, WALL-E, the meek little trash collector, accepts stewardship in a way that people have rejected. And because love springs from service, he comes to love the creatures that inhabit Earth. That’s not an environmental message, it’s a biblical one.

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