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.