A journey through my mind. Which is sometimes fabulous. Often not.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My Wall-E Character Analysis

So I made a mistake. I've been strangely obsessed with Wall-E and decided to do some research on his character to hopefully find someone else's analysis that could eloquently explain my infatuation. Instead, I found rants about the gender-fication of the robots, the gender-specific constructs of the characters, racism, and generally why all Disney films just suck.


What is with all the haters out there? Why can't we all just enjoy a movie, analyze it in a way where helplessness and futility are not the motivations for the analysis, and not take every issue to the extreme?

Way to go, team.

Now, moving forward with the intent to put into words my super-strong emotional tie with this funny little yellow robotic character. He doesn't talk except say his name and Eve's, so one must understand him through body language, noises, and his expressions. When there is no superficial yapping, communication is deeper through indirect speaking. One quickly empathizes and feels compassion when words don't get in the way; and the bond between Wall-e and the audience is almost immediate (if the audience is paying enough attention and not getting distracted by trivial social issues).

I did not genderize Wall-e or Eve. I suppose it was subconsciously a given that Eve was "the girl" and Wall-e was "the boy," but I didn't register them as a particular sex, as did these other bloggers/ranters. Sure, it was a love story, but I didn't feel it was a sexified, hetero love story. I didn't see Wall-e and Eve shacking up and having hybrid robot babies. That's not what their relationship conveyed. It was so much more... innocent. And wonderful. This love could be comparable to unending parental love, sibling love, love of a pet, love of life. It could also be nostalgic of one's first crush in elementary school. It's that emotion of something much deeper and stronger than a friendship; it's even, dare I be cliche, a tie that binds.

We see 30 minutes of Wall-e by himself and his little cockroachy friend. Wall-e talks to himself, plays by himself, and collects things that he thinks are valuable. We start to connect with him. We like him. His innocence is refreshing. We hope nothing bad happens to him as he's all alone out there, and these violent dust storms blow through. We watch him roll up and down these massive garbage skyscrapers as the view opens up and we see a whole city of cubed trash that is his lifelong work. I quickly forget that he's not a mortal human - and it's ok if he falls down or gets thrown into outer space where there is no air. We see him watch "Hello, Dolly" with great interest. And witness his longing to understand the holding of hands, as he clasps his own metal hands together, mimicking the motion. To touch. And dance. We realize he's alone. Not necessarily lonely, but alone. He seems happy enough with his bug friend, his daily trash compacting and collecting of artifacts. He's not needy.

Wall-e first sees Eve and this uber-romantic music starts playing, "At Last". It's cute. The audience giggles. You can almost see his non-existent heart start pounding faster and faster. He's really intrigued by her, wants to be her friend, and tentatively begins to build a relationship with her by showing her his collection of things and his home. He wants to hold hands with her. It's possibly love at first sight. But it could also be something so simple as friendship. Someone else whom he can bond with. Someone (or something) like him. It's reminiscent of the very first best friend a child has and holds hands with as they run off to the playground together. It's childhood.

Throughout the movie he demonstrates unconditional love. Unconditional friendship and loyalty. He tries fervently to wake Eve up when she's in "sleeping" mode after she takes the plant. He covers her from the rain, takes care of her. And when the mothership comes to take her back, he panics and jumps on board. He doesn't know where he's going, he's leaving the safety of his home and all that he's known and done in the last 700 years. All because of Eve, who's in a comatose state, but Wall-e can't just let her go. He gets in trouble, not understanding her programming or her mission, and just wants to be by her side. To spend time with her, and hold her hand. Some bloggers say he's the "stereotypic, idiotic male", but I disagree wholly. He's not stupid, he's 700 years old in analog form in a futuristic, digital world. Plus, he's been alone for so long. How could he possibly understand what's going on?

After Eve searches the planet, frustrated, she has more time to finally address Wall-e, and even tolerates his presence and tag-along behavior. It's not because she feels sorry for this loser who's stalking her. We (and Eve) can't condemn him for his naive character. And after aboard the Axiom, she time and again comes to his rescue. Why? We don't let children fall off slides if we can run over to catch them, now do we? Eve realizes (as she had been asleep for a long time) that Wall-e followed her to help her. Although she is a programmed robot, she too, is a learning robot, and after seeing footage of Wall-e that her "camera" captured during her comatose state, she suddenly realizes all that Wall-e has done for her.

Other bloggers like that Disney (finally) portrayed a strong female hero through Eve, instead of being a supporting character. She does end up saving the day, but I would never title this movie as "Eve". It's really not about the actions and tangible deliverables which we can define on paper - this movie centers around Wall-e and his emotions. And his humanity. The other sub-plots and distractions simply provide opportunities for Wall-e to demonstrate his character to the viewer.

The last evidence of Wall-e's loyalty is shown as he sacrifices his life for Eve's mission. He knew the plant was important to Eve and she said it needed to get back to Earth, to save all the humans. He supported her and therefore supported her cause. It is unclear as to if he ever understands why the plant is so important to the people or to Eve, but it doesn't matter; he has faith and compassion. The ultimate sacrifice of himself because he loved her. One could even go so far as to draw parallels to Jesus Christ and His ultimate sacrifice to save People, all for the love of a Father. This love is not romantic love, obviously. And I confess my heart shattered during those few minutes when he lost himself and was reverted into a programmed robot form, continuing his work, ignoring Eve as she tried to wake him from this stupor. Then he "reboot"ed and his soul was "resurrected".

I identified with Wall-e more than Eve, despite all discussion that he is male (or a gay male). He tugged at my heartstrings the whole way through, bringing out emotions associated with my first crush, a motherly possessiveness, a deep friendship, and an adoration of silly cuteness that I see in Rick. I hold a supreme fondness for Wall-e. Perhaps I'm simply a romantic at heart. Loyalty, trust, faith, compassion, and unconditional love. What girl doesn't want that?

For anyone who's seen this movie and has felt nothing more than ambivalence, you are dead inside. You need 100ccs of love and affection, stat. Have no fear, however, it's time for a group hug. And another screening of this feel-good movie.


Jennifer said...


What is with all the haters out there? Why can't we all just enjoy a movie, analyze it in a way where helplessness and futility are not the motivations for the analysis, and not take every issue to the extreme?



What is with all the haters out there? Why can't we all just enjoy analyze a movie because it's what we like to do, and those who don't want to see it analyzed don't have to read the reviews?"

Just a thought. Live and let live.

Also, we also had a glowingly positive review which you missed.


myteemingee said...

It's surprising to know that people actually read this thing. It really is my own ramblings, and I believe I am allowed to have opinions about opinions.

I am a recently rehabilitated negative thinker. In a world where everything seems to be falling apart, I try to find positive ways in analyzing things because it's the only way I can get through the day. But I never said people aren't allowed to be negative. I do choose to remove myself from the presence of negative people, which is harder to do in the virtual world. It is also highly unfeasible to know that you don't want to read something until after you've read it.

I also had the sole intent of finding analyses deeper than the critics' review that it was "fun, funny, great, fantastical." So imagine my surprise when I ran into negative analyses, which I was not prepared for (although I do admit, naively so).

But thanks for the comment and the link. I didn't see that post because it didn't come up in a Google search.

Hsin said...

Go Wall-E!! :) I haven't seen it yet, but he looks cute! How's that for analytical?


Go MyteeM!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you about Wall E. I haven't been able to forget about this character, this movie. Everytime I think about him, or the last scene, I either cry or get choked up. I have thought about it a lot and I think it is powerful because of contrast.

The contrast to our experience today is stark: 700 years alone, a destroyed planet, a superficial world on the axiom devoid of connection and meaning, even robots. The hope for and final appearance of love for us, and for both of these characters is so powerful because of the bleakness and uphill challenges its is contrasted against.

Wall E is effective because there is so much fear, loss, pain, and sorrow within it. The joint appearance of new life and love is powerful because it offers a way out of darkness, away from our worst fears : that we will destroy and lose our home, our way of life, end up alone, without all that we love, and in doing so end up soul-less, media attached and fat, losing what makes us human: hope and love. For Wall E on Earth, however much he had grown used to and accepted despair/destruction of green earth, we feel sorry for him, almost guilty. The appearance of Eve and transformative love offers them and us a way out of a dystopian nightmare and the confirmation of our worst fears. Wall E is a look in the mirror. Even now we see ourselves disconnected from each other, like the people on the Axiom, and as Americans stuffed on prozac, we dream of such deep healing connections with people as Wall E experiences with Eve. We are as happy for love in this sci-fi setting as he is; with love and new life, an offer of redemption is given.

The appearance of a single plant as a source of hope is elegant and speaks to the human drive to survive and continue in the face of death and darkness. It is literally new life. Biologically, photothsynthesis and the appearance of life on earth is exceptional; a miracle and a beautiful anomale in the vast lonely universe of space. The deserted and destroyed setting of dystopian Earth in Wall E resembles primeval conditions on the planet before there was life: hostile, vast, and soulless. The plant represents the unlikely appearance of life as it has always appeared and continues to thrive in the bleakest of climates. Salvation and hope lie with a single plant, a reminder and proof of the miracle of life; when humans alter their perspective they see that their fate is intertwined with the fate of life on earth. Upon embracing this symbol of life, they are brought closer to one another and their planet, a manifestation of the health of humankind, is revitalized. As Wall E shows us in equal and perfect simplicity, so magically appears love despite obstacles. When Eve and Wall e embrace, after overcoming their obstacles as a pair, and after the Captain states “it’s good to be home” the camera pans over new green growth rengenerating all over the planet. The planet’s and humanity’s health and happiness is tied in this final minute to the cultivation of life and love.

Love in this film is like the symbol of the plant, a single ray of hope in a world without any. N0 matter how bleak, love lightens/brightens, eleviates pain. The moment of greatest fear is when it appears that Wall E has lost his soul, at this moment there is the sound of a hollow and determined wind blowing, the music stops. When he is resurrected we instantly hear a love song, coupled by the convergence of their newly formed robot community, and they hold each other close. When you have lost or have come close to losing the one you love, you know that the measure of love is how much pain you feel in its absence. Thus fully loving includes the painful awareness that you must hold on and fight to keep the thing you love because of all the sadness you will inevitably feel without it. Thats why I cry when I hear the love song in the last scene and see them put their heads against the others. Love is what motivated them to act unselfishly, love is what saved them from a bleak world, Love that, however beautiful and meaningful, cannot last and so is clung to with every breath. The comforting power of love is contrast against the devastation, carelessness, and towering tasks behind and in front of them, which despite the circumstances provides hope, healing, joy, and relief from pain.

I cling to this movie because it offers hope, even though sadly like love, Wall E is fleeting. When contemplating this movie I am emotionally close to all that matters most to me, to most people: love, mortality, a planet that needs healing, a sense of responsibility, and a profound appreciation for those things in life that reminds us of love's power, things that add beauty and hope(like films such as Wall e) . I want to stay in the place that this movie brings me. The reflection and empathy inspired by Wall E as well as a vision of horrible consequences of our selfishness as a culture, remind us how valuable the things we love are; the people, the places, the moments, our home Earth, the time we have and the role we play in making a difference (in one person's life: Wall E for Eve) and for the future of mankind (Wall E's many sacrifices). The choices and meaning of life are made clear and stark in Wall E. Personally, after watching this movie, I held the ones I loved a little bit tighter and joined the Nature Conservancy (no lie.) Now that is a testament to the power of the arts and living proof of why Pixar is so damned good at what they do.

myteemingee said...

Dear Anonymous~
WOW. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave such a coherent and positive comment. You've really made my day. REALLY! I've had a tough week that I was going to blog about today, decided against it, and now to receive this wonderful comment that makes me remember all of the feelings you so aptly described that I couldn't verbalize - I can finish the day and the rest of the week with my chin up. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm also fanatically obsessed with Wall-E! Sorry, I can't be as eloquent as you and Anonymous but I just had to comment since I'm so glad to have found other adults that were as moved as much as I was with this movie.

I wanted to see it in the theater but never got a chance until I finally saw it recently on a plane going to meet my friend in Philadelphia. I cried throughout the movie. I don't know why I was so emotional but I was by myself and so I tried to hold back my crying, which just made it worse. It was so embarrassing.

Anyway, they showed it again on my way home and I didn't cry as much but I still loved it! How an animated character can be soooo endearing is beyond me. I loved Dory in Nemo also.

Sigh, I wish I could find a real life Wall-E! He would never be as cute though!

myteemingee said...

Hello Anonymous #2!
Thanks for the comment! It's such a shame you missed it in the theaters. The movie was amazing, as you can imagine, on the big screen. :) It was such a good movie that I wasn't even distracted or annoyed the child who sat next to me, jumping on his seat and running in the aisles. Now THAT'S a good movie!

I think much of our emotions (and the incessant heart-wrenching and tear-jerking behaviors we enact) are led by the possibility that we forget we're watching an animated film. Wall-E, the earth and its trash, and the camera angles are shown like live-action film. It isn't until we board the Axiom and see the humans that I realize that it's a cartoon we're watching. And because of this live-action sensibility, the film is just that much more real and realistic.

Perhaps we really are romantics at heart. As for a real-life Wall-E, the Disney store carries many types of Wall-E merchandise, and the cutest plush complete with sound. Great for snuggling up with in bed (and my heart melts when he says "W-aaall-eeeee" to me in the middle of the night). ;)

Anonymous said...

I love Walle. And I'm totally with you; why beat a dead horse instead of taking something for what it is: a good-natured, fun story?