See, "Wall-E" is not a Luddite film. It doesn't demonize technology. It only argues that technology is properly used to help humans cultivate their true nature -- that it must be subordinate to human flourishing, and help move that along. Where humanity got into trouble was allowing technology to exacerbate its own internal disorder -- to alienate people from their labor, from each other, and ultimately from themselves. The film is wise enough to know that we can't go back to a pre-technology state, so it says the best thing to do is to put technology in its proper place -- which we can only do when our own souls and communities are rightly ordered.
"Wall-E" says that humans have within themselves the freedom to rebel, to overthrow that which dominates and alienates us from our true selves, and our own nature. But you have to question the prime directive; that is, you have to become conscious of how the way you're living is destroying your body and killing your soul, and choose to resist. "Wall-E" contends that real life is hard, real life is struggle, and that we live most meaningfully not by avoiding pain and struggle, but by engaging it creatively, and sharing that struggle in community. It argues that rampant consumerism, technopoly and the exaltation of comfort is causing us to weaken our souls and bodies, and sell out our birthright of political freedom. Nobody is doing this to us; we're doing it to ourselves. It is the endgame of modernity, which began in part with the idea that Nature is the enemy to be subdued -- that man stands outside of Nature, and has nothing to learn about himself from Nature's deep logic.
If Wendell Berry made a sci-fi movie for kids, it would be "Wall-E."
July 6, 2008
I finally saw Wall-E this afternoon. I don't have much original to add to all the ink that has been spilled on it so far. It is a beautiful film in every sense of the word. Fragile, gentle and troubling all at the same time. The theatre was oddly quiet for most of the film. I largely agree that it isn't a kids movie. You could make a strong case that kids were never the target market, although I think older children, especially those who love stories, (8 and up maybe) will find it captivating. I saw this review by Rod Dreher on his blog earlier in the week but avoided it because of the spoilers (as should you if you haven't seen it) but I think this bit at the end points nicely to many of the thoughts I was left with after leaving the theatre, and I would consider it spoiler free: