*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.
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.