7.08.2008

The believability of Buy n' Large

Last week, we went with friends to see the much-acclaimed Pixar movie, Wall-E.



The movie deserves all the praise it has gotten- Pixar has yet to disappoint me. The art and talent it takes to communicate a good story such as Wall-E in so few spoken words is definitely worthy of recognition. There's talk of perhaps even a Best Picture award? Even the trailer makes people cry? (HT Matt) There hasn't been a lot of talk- either in the movie or in the reviews- of an underlying message of the movie that I noticed, however.



The premise of the movie is that Wall-E along with robots like himself (we meet none of them- they all appear to have stopped working) were left on Earth to clean up piles and piles of trash and pollution after Earthlings took off to live on a huge space station. In the background, and on almost every piece of trash Wall-E picks up, we see an ubiquitous logo- Buy n' Large. When I first saw it, I thought, what a cute play on words, and apt description of the real-world parallel, WalMart.



And then I started seeing the logo everywhere. When the viewers are finally shown the human's space station, the branding is even more pronounced. Babies are raised in front of screens full of advertisements for Buy n' Large products, until they grow into adults constantly transfixed by screens, always wearing headphones, fed advertisements left and right, and horribly overweight and out of shape, but perfectly comfortable in their consumeristic state. Their culture is disposable, and they all have every material thing they could want. Their relationships, however, are shallow, and only exist through the screen in front of their face- they never turn to talk to a person next to them.



Wait. Is this sounding familiar?



Nothing was negative said against Buy n' Large in the whole movie. It was more of a backdrop to the story than part of the storyline itself. No one in the movie ever points out that an over-the-top consumeristic culture was what got humanity into the state that it was in- or, even, the state that Earth was in. Undeniably, however subtle, the message was there. During the movie, Josh leaned over to me and whispered, "I'm really surprised this is a Disney movie". When he said it, I didn't understand what he meant, but he explained later- Disney, the top brander of Happy Meal Toys and Movie Paraphernalia, has a movie with the underlying message of "If you keep buying our stuff, you'll destroy the Earth and humanity." Perhaps the theme was kept as subtle as it was because Disney didn't want children getting that message- and, if the adults figured it out, at least it wasn't in their face.



As another blog review put it, "Pixar has given us a delightful love story for the twenty-ninth century.  I wish they too would have given us a sensible mission for the twenty-first." There was no call-to-action to avoid the materialistic mess depicted in the movie. I suppose that's OK- no one likes a blatant morality tale. But I do wonder- will Wall-E have the same movie-tie-in merchandise as basically all other Disney movies? If so, does that nullify the message?



BONUS:

Buy n' Large on the web. Compare this to WalMart. Be sure to check out the Buy n Large Site Disclaimer.

Seeing the WalmartStores.com page makes the BuynLarge.com site seem less ridiculous. Believable, even.



Which of these is from the Wal-Mart site?

5 comments:

Kacie said...

Shane and I saw Wall-E over the weekend. We certainly enjoyed it, but I couldn't help but notice this wasn't your average Pixar movie.

I think you're right--the filmmakers weren't intending to be explicit with the "your consumerism is destroying the planet" message. But still, it was there.

And the people in space who were too large to walk? Yikes.

Not really sure how the B n' L would be able to fund all of those things for 700+ years, especially if the citizens aren't earning a wage.

But anyway.

Lots of interesting things to think about! I wonder how many Wall-E products we'll see in stores.

Anonymous said...

We enjoyed the show as well. I have seen plenty of Wall-E merchandise in the stores.
The obesity and lack of connection between people definitely parallels our society. It seems as if most kids (in their 20's and younger) are part of the ME generation. This movie highlighted that for me. Technology removes them from having to physically interact with another human being. We went camping and my niece and nephew brought: cell phone, personal DVD player and IPOD with earbuds. Now how is that for interaction?!

Anonymous said...

We went to see Wall-E on opening week-end and as a reward, were given free watches for the kids. I'd say the merchandising is already happening.

-Matt B

guynameddave said...

Thanks for mentioning my review. You might also be interested in this:

http://makerfaire.com/press/bayarea/2008/disney/

Definitely BnL type stuff.

Larissa said...

I saw it as well but wasn't as impressed as you were. (worth renting but not paying to see it in the theater) I think the best feature of the movie was that most of it lacked dialog.

Honestly, I didn't think it was going to be a popular movie since I thought it would offend overweight people and consumers. Like you guys, I was surprised by who was sending such a message (that I actually agree with). At the same time, I felt they could have been more creative. After all, the time period was 7,000 years after the world was covered in trash. But perhaps they were trying to keep it simple.

I also found the movie racist. This was a problem with Earth and yet nearly everyone on the ship was white. (very US-centric and not even accurate)

Overall I don't regret seeing it. I just wish I had waited to rent it.

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