Looking Back At WALL-E - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Looking Back At WALL-E

"There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" says Alexander Wall-E.
In the past few decades we have been becoming more and more aware of how the entire planet is one utterly complex and yet uniquely singular system. The planet cannot be conceived of simply in terms of a gestalt of individuals; no, it is its own thing that must be managed as a single thing. It is the planet that birthed us, and it is the planet that we may end up destroying out of our own callousness.

WALL-E is Pixar’s attempt to remind us of the fragility of the planet that gave us life. It is a world that is a mere husk of what it once was, barren and dry and dusty and packed with piles of scrap as far as the eye can see. It is the detritus of our current industrial civilization in which the market and the dollar are king. It is the writing on the wall that reads “mene mene tekel upharsin.” It is memento mori before sic transit gloria mundi.
WALL-E is a robot left over on this husk of a planet. There is something just so perfect about the last intelligence on that dying world being the last creation tasked with mitigating the damage. WALL-E, in his simple conception, is a visualization of the concept of ‘too little, too late.’ He wanders this post-apocalyptic waste, curious as to what was left by the people too cowardly to tackle their problems head on.

The Axiom, the ship upon which the remainder of the human species lives as it glides through space on a mission that has lasted longer than anyone had intended, let alone anticipated. The very name of that ark is suffused with haughty arrogance and biting irony. Think back to your geometry lessons in high school/secondary school (or whatever they call it in your country); you may recall that an axiom is an assumption, something so obvious that learned scholars feel comfortable basing something so complex as mathematics upon them. Naming your generation ship Axiom is tempting fate; you assume that your goals will come to fruition, but as they say, when you assume you make an ass out of you and me.
The civilization aboard the Axiom is the twenty-first century market economy brought to an extreme that borders on the cyberpunk. Everyone is morbidly obese and gets around the ship by chair. Machines cater to their every whim. In some sense, it feels like they haven’t just fled Earth; they have rejected Earth as being simply not good enough. In a sense, WALL-E is a very cynical movie in that regard. This film portrays us as a spoiled, pampered species, so self-centered that it will make a new world rather than acting with anything resembling responsibility to the old.

But despite that cynical conceit, this film has optimism about humanity, as Pixar always does. That one trash collector meets that one scout drone, and eventually the diaspora returns to its promised land. It is a land for which they will need to take responsibility, and they seem to have learned the lesson that their ancestors simply refused to accept: that humanity is not a lone species on its homeworld, but is part of an immense and life-giving world system.
WALL-E is a warning, one that only grows more potent with each passing year. As the Arctic ice melts and the temperature rises and our port cities inch ever closer to sinking beneath the sea, we need to remember more than ever our responsibilities to the planet that nurtures us even as we brutalize her; as La Marseillaise would put it, we are “pitiless tigers that rip out their own mother’s breast.” But Pixar has faith in us; I hope we as a civilization can come to that faith.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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