I was happy to see an article, in the Washington Times of all places, arguing that conservative and libertarian critics of the new Pixar film “WALL-E” are missing the point. If you just watched an ad for the movie, or just read a blurb about it, you might expect to be hit over the head with an unsubtle environmentalist message, or a diatribe about overconsumption. But that’s not what I took away from “WALL-E” — which is, by the way, the darkest but also most hauntingly beautiful of the Pixar films so far.
While the film does make it clear that we produce too much trash and buy too much junk, it is less about that than about finding connections in an age of technology. As Scott Galupo writes in the Times, in the “WALL-E” future’s “desensitized dystopia, people have literally lost touch with one another and themselves.” Back on earth, robot WALL-E himself is totally alone save for an inquisitive cockroach, pining for any sort of companionship.
Galupo says Pixar has long been “a bastion of a certain species of conservatism. It’s not partisan or even political,” but “the realization that the present and the future may not be better than the past.” In addition, “that outsize institutions — whether overweening nanny states like that of Pixar’s brilliant 2004 feature ‘The Incredibles’ or a multinational corporation” as in “WALL-E” are “no good for individual freedom is a cardinal belief of modern conservatism’s small-is-beautiful entrepreneurial wing.” And it is not only the place of the left “to worry about the numbing effects of accumulating too much stuff and automating every imaginable mundane task and movement.”
More than anything else, “WALL-E” reminded me of the importance of moderation in all things — a lesson I often forget in my own life. There’s nothing wrong with stuff. There is a lot wrong with too much stuff. In the Los Angeles Times, Charlotte Allen of the Manhattan Institute says the film “isn’t denigrating consumerism but passive dependency,” and expresses “confidence in the West and its capacity for rejuvenation” that “dovetails with the film’s other message — a belief in free will.”