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Spineless

4th November 2007

Spineless

*June 28 Update: This post was made during the film’s developmental stage. WALL-E has now been released in theaters and it appears as if Pixar has considerably reworked the show since the time of this post to tone down its negative and discriminatory portrayals of fat people. Still, stereotypes abound. For more information on this, see Daniel Engber’s “Fat-E” column on Slate.com.


ATTENTION NEWS ORGANIZATIONS:
Note the date of this post. The comments below reflect my views on Wall-E during its production stage in the fall at the time these posts were made. The film has changed considerably since then, therefore these are NOT my views of the version that has been released to the public. If you quote from this blog, be sure to note this important detail in your story or you will be deliberately quoting me out of context. If you would like my thoughts on the film released to the public, e-mail me at Rachel at the-f-word dot org.

So, my post on Pixar’s upcoming film WALL-E has garnered strong reviews across the spectrum. I must admit, I was rather surprised by the hordes of trolls who emerged sneering at my concern over the ways in which fat people are allegedly portrayed in the film.

Brandon gave the sage advice to never post concerns about Star Trek.

Pixar has always shown itself to make films of a high caliber, so I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised by the strong reactions from Pixar loyalists. The wildly popular and revered company has managed to cultivate such a cult-like following that its supporters refuse to believe such a cute little spotlight can use animation skills for evil.

I like Pixar, I really do. And I hope the film isn’t as discriminatory as is suggested – not because Pixar’s films carry such commanding box-office power and are so influential, but because I would feel personally betrayed by a company whose films I adore. And outside of my concerns with the depiction of fat people, what I read of the film promises to be Pixar’s best yet, raising crucial concerns about the state of the environment and the endurance of the human spirit.

This is, in fact, why my original post did not call for a boycott of Pixar or WALL-E. Rather, I posted contact information so that folks can contact Disney/Pixar to clarify the allegations circling the web.

One of the more vocal protests lobbed is that WALL-E isn’t showing people as fat because of gluttony; people are fat because of the effects of living in a gravity-free environment. According to a couple posters, the effect of evolution in space apparently somehow atrophied human skeletons, thus turning mankind into boneless jellyfish.

Okay, I concede. Perhaps the film really is just showing humans’ gelatinous appearance to be the result of galactic-inspired evolution, which, despite centuries of man’s evolution to upright beings, somehow phases out the need altogether for a spine and thus mobility of any kind. Yes, mankind could plausibly evolve into Jabba the Hut in just a few hundred years, I’m sure.

But will general audiences (which form the bulk of Pixar’s demographic), upon seeing a fat blob “drinking liquified food from Big-Gulp-esque cups, and forever surfing (and chatting) on chair-mounted video screens” think “Oh, wow, so that’s what gravity does to humans!” or “Wow, so that’s what the obesity epidemic will do to humans!”

Other common complaints launched are that I’m judging a book by its cover, that I’m basing my concerns over just one person’s viewing of the film, that I’m just being overly sensitive and am looking for ways to be offended, and that I should just wait and see after the film is released. On this last point, can someone please explain the logic of waiting until a film has been finalized and released to raise objections over its content?

Of course, these protests are lodged by people who haven’t seen the film and/or don’t care that fat people are unfairly and erroneously typecast as fat and lazy. Those who have seen the film are coming to much of the same conclusions I expect above.

From JimHillMedia:

And wait ’til you see what happens to WALL E once he gets on board the Axiom and finds out what has become of mankind. How “because humans have grown even more lazy in the 700 years that they’ve been off Earth, we’re all now just these enormous fat blobs who can only move about because we travel in huge floating lounge chairs.

From Dominic von Riedemann:

A little background is needed: in the year 2700, when WALL-E is set, humans have become giant, lazy blobs of fat who are unable to move without their hoverchairs

From Steve Yun:

All humans have turned into couch potatoes after living in luxurious space condos for hundreds of years, and all humans have a levitating recliner chair that they use to move around. The video clip showed a big plaza where dozens of these couch potato humans were moving about in their hoverchairs. The next clip showed one human attempting to roll out of his chair and falling on the ground. Humans are big and fat, but not quite blobs or mutants. Just fat humans.

But, hey – it could just be me being all sensitive and looking for ways to be offended.

The real truth is that people just don’t care that others are being discriminated against, as long as its not directed their way. They don’t – or won’t – see how such stereotypes harm both fat and thin people, and contribute to an environment where a recent study of teen girls reveals they’d rather be blinded or lose a limb instead of becoming fat.

We don’t need space-based evolution to phase out our vertebrae. People today are spineless enough as it is.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, November 4th, 2007 at 8:05 pm and is filed under Arts and Music, Fat Bias, Pop Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 19 responses to “Spineless”

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  1. 1 On November 5th, 2007, GroovyBabe said:

    Hey I just wanted to say I am with you on this! I think your points are well made.

  2. 2 On November 5th, 2007, nuckingfutz said:

    Honestly, you know what it sounds like to me? These people who are refusing to believe that Pixar could possibly be perpetuating a false stereotype about fat people are reverting to their playground days.

    They’ve closed their eyes, put their fingers in their ears, and started chanting “La la la la I can’t hear you!”

    They don’t WANT to believe it. Oh, NO! Pixar couldn’t POSSIBLY be perpetuating false stereotypes! They wouldn’t do that! What? Disney’s already had a history of doing it? Um… well… Pixar wouldn’t!

    I swear, if these people had more than 2 brain cells to rub together, I’d be very, very suprised.

  3. 3 On November 5th, 2007, La di Da said:

    Ugh.

    Fairfax (which owns SMH and The Age) holds itself up as one of the most respectable and classy news sources in the country.

    I’ve sent my complaint to them (readerlink@smh.com.au). Even if they ignore it or dismiss it, at least I said something.

  4. 4 On November 6th, 2007, Wish said:

    I was wondering if you’d been made aware of that article referencing you. Reading it killed a little bit more of my faith in modern society (and there isn’t much left). The comments were equally horrific and hateful.

  5. 5 On November 6th, 2007, Pear Juice said:

    I can’t believe all this is coming from a Pixar film. People need to stop being so sensitive, I’m sure its mostly for comic relief, as I would like to see fat people floating around space in hovering recliners in a Pixar film, sounds funny. And so what if its suggests we are going to de-evolve into blobs. Maybe an animated wake up call will help further drive home the message to our obese society. That being said, everyone needs to lighten up, this movie looks adorable, and I can’t wait to see it. It will Pixar’s best work, I can feel it.

  6. 6 On November 6th, 2007, Rachel said:

    Yep, making fun of fat people is always good for a few laughs, huh Pear Juice? I mean, who cares if the stereotype is true or not. And who cares if fat people have their children taken away, or if the state mandates fat camps for overweight kids, or that you can be fired or not hired just because you’re fat. And so what if this “animated wakeup call” also sees a rising number of eating disorders as girls (and boys), deathly afraid of becoming fat, resort to drastic and dangerous measures to stay thin?

    I mean, it’s funny, right?

  7. 7 On November 6th, 2007, littlem said:

    Pear Juice’s mental acumen is summed up thus:

    “It will Pixar’s best work, I can feel it”

    *Me no can haz brayne cellz? Nd grammer plz*

    I’ll save my rant about subsumed guilt for overconsumption of natural resources by people whose habits (crappy or otherwise) don’t happen to show up on their bodies and the reactionist, Calvinist, Puritanistic conflation of “fat” with “lazy” for another day. I can’t deal with any more of this today.

  8. 8 On November 7th, 2007, Jackie said:

    I do care that fat people are considered erroneously fat and or lazy. Maybe I am taken in by the cult of Pixar. I dunno, it’s hard to logically consider a company that made a short, with birds about being prejudiced towards others, would make a movie that is prejudiced.

    I can tell you the more I have thought about this film, the more I have dreaded it’s release. It would be absoluetely horrible if this caused more obesity backlash. I also might just be ignorant, in assuming because Pixar has obese members on it’s team, that they would not make a sizeist film.

    I have read on a few sites, something about them changing the plot of the film. I have no clue what that means, but could be a change from the sizeist ideals behind the first concept to something less offensive.

    It’s rather depressing, to think that a company that has brought joy to so many people, would go down this road. I think alot of it is my mind simply cannot process the excess of stupidity that would be required, to put out a film depicting stereotypes of fat people at a time when the prejudice towards fat people is so high. I think my brain might be stupidity intolerant.

  9. 9 On December 14th, 2007, Wanderer said:

    A few clarifications from available data:

    1. The entire picture has precious little dialogue; the robots will have mechanical dialogue (they joke they’re making “R2D2: The Movie”), and only the Captain has any animated dialogue. Fred Willard has a live-action appearance.

    2. The picture is focused almost entirely on the robots and their actions. (This should be pretty obvious when everything but two humans is being “voiced” by the sound effects department.)

    3. Yes, there are going to be fat jokes. Their viral site, “BuynLarge.com”, has the following in the fictional headlines, underv “Liver Regeneration is Now Here”:

    “Most people on Earth now lead “nonrestrictive” diet and exercise lifestyles, exercising as much, or in most cases, as little as they’d like. This trend is largely due to the “Quick Fix” advancement in medical science, which started with the BnL “New Heart”, an instant heart regeneration device that some believe is used at least once in a lifetime by one in three people on Earth.

    The BnLiverator is expected to keep the trend in medical-assisted health booming.

    “We can now offer customers unparalleled access to healthy lifestyles”, said Dr. George Jennings, head of the BnLiverator project. “Because of these advances, it’s the customer who now decides what “health” is. You may now be either “pure” (or naturally healthy) or choose assisted health. In the long run, they are both the same.”

    The BnLiverator will be available over-the-counter pending approval from BnL FDA.”

  10. 10 On December 14th, 2007, Wanderer said:

    4. That said, there should be very few, particularly given the absence of humans for most of the picture.

    5. P.S.: For a piece of laughable linguistics, look up Buy N Large’s “Core Values”. It’s hilarious! Just try and read it through!:D

  11. 11 On February 13th, 2008, mo pie said:

    I don’t know where I was for this original post, but awesome quotes. Cool!

  12. 12 On April 8th, 2008, PatboyX said:

    I realize you have addressed the concern of “Have not yet seen the film” but I worry about a letter-writing campaign before the art has been released or (perhaps)finished. This seems like the sort of writing-by-committee / focus group stuff that leads to the majority of movies, television and other forms of popular art being watered-down For Everyone broad garbage.
    I’m not saying don’t write letter and I am certainly not saying pay for and watch a movie that may offend you but I am of the school of thought that if something is offensive to me, I simply do not consume that product. I am simply saying that I believe this to be premature and a somewhat dangerous course of action.

  13. 13 On April 26th, 2008, TM said:

    Seriously I have no problem with the idea of humans becoming so dependent upon their robot underlings that they slowly devolve into an obese race. I mean seriously, think about it – what’s wrong with a movie that points out that a majority of American’s are becoming shut-ins who do not venture outside?

    A new generation of children right now are weaker than the previous generation, why? Because they don’t do anything, except spend their time inside playing video games and watching television. What’s wrong with going out and getting a little exercise? People that are offended by a movie pointing out the danger of being so side tracked in the little things, that they lose touch with a healthy lifestyle, is just silly.

    Look I know there are people that are overweight, who are very outgoing and active and particularly good role models – but this isn’t about ‘destructive fat people.’ This movie, like all forms of theme based stories is taking the extreme cases that sadly is becoming more common everyday. Selfishness and single-minded interest is what will destroy us, Wall-e is a curious robot, he’s curious about the world around him and through this curiosity he learns to care for the world. In the movie the people have lost their curiosity, the sense of wonder, and they fall back on the ‘well nothing to do but indulge’ and stop accomplishing anything.

    To think that this movie is supposed to blame fat people for all the problems in the world is to be blind to what the message is really being presented. For those that think, ‘This movie says fat people are the reason for the destruction of the human race’ really need to look around at the world. It isn’t that lazy fat people are the destruction of the world, but the fact that humans selfishness can result in the destruction of the world as well as what it is to be human.

  14. 14 On June 18th, 2008, Michelle said:

    This doesn’t surprise me at all; I am having a hrd time recalling a single animated feature which didn’t have some fat staerotypes in it; Ratatouille with the fat brother being the one who will eat ANYTHING and who doesn’t care how it tastes, the dad in The Incredibles and his weight loss regime – I think Nemo was OK though. Not to mention every Disney movie villian and/or idiot (Ursula the Sea Witch??) – I was especially annoyed by the continuous “yuk yuk!” nudging in Over The Hedge about how Americans are just soooo obsessed with junk food of all kinds. That was basically the whole movie, that people stuff themselves all day and still leave enough for a Raccoon to steal. In some ways movies meant for kids are worse.

  15. 15 On June 18th, 2008, robot said:

    I have seen the movie, and I think you are making a big mistake with this pre-mature anti-WallE blog. Out of confidentiality I can not explain why, but you will find you are wrong and are actually doing the stereotyping yourself by assuming that’s what they were saying. If you agree with me at a later date, I hope you write an apology to Disney/Pixar to join your complaint.

  16. 16 On June 23rd, 2008, TempleDog said:

    I very much doubt that all of the animators at Pixar bench 200 and have washboard abs, so you can rest assured that the film isn’t a deliberate stab at heavy folk. It’s supposed to be anti-over-consumerism (c’mon, ‘Buy n’ Large Corp.’?) and pro-environmental in a gentle way, but I think at it’s basis it’s a goofy love story with cute robots in it. Oh, and ya figure that if the humans in the film can develop A.I. autonomous robot technology by 2200, some kind of artificial gravity seems like a no-brainer. Just a geeky thought.

  17. 17 On June 25th, 2008, Rachel said:

    For all my critics here: I’m not “assuming” anything about WALL-E. Rather, my comments are all based on the reviews of critics, who HAVE seen the film in its preview status. And I sincerely hope I – and the critics I cited above – are wrong about this film and that it doesn’t demonize fat people.

    When I wrote this post, WALL-E was still in the development stage. I hope that Pixar developers have taken the reviews of the critics they invited to screen the film to heart and made the appropriate changes so that viewers are not left with such negative impressions of fat people.

    Update: According to Fatshionista, it appears Pixar has taken concerns about sizeism into consideration and reworked the film in a more compassionate manner. There are still undeniable problems, but the anti-fat imagery has been considerably toned down it appears. Kudos to Pixar for recognizing that insulting your demographic isn’t the best way to go.

  18. 18 On July 11th, 2008, Wall-E revisited » The-F-Word.org said:

    [...] two posts — here and here – on Pixar’s Wall-E last fall drew strong reactions across the spectrum. At the time, [...]

  19. 19 On July 13th, 2008, Quotationally Incorrect » The-F-Word.org said:

    [...] quotes liberally from a blog entry I made in the fall voicing my concerns with the way fat people are characterized in the film Wall-E. At the time, the [...]

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