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?
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?