(revised March 2017)
Wall-E is a computer-animated movie produced by Pixar and released by Walt Disney in 2008. It was one of the most successful animations of the decade. I watched Wall-E in 2009 when many major events occurred to me. This animation changed my perception. While Wall-E promotes love, friendship, and a sense of environmentalism among young audiences but to me, there are something deeper presenting in Wall-E that forever altered the way the 14-year-old me viewed the world.
Despite its constant presence of comedic events and dialogues, Wall-E’s background story revealed a darker theme. The plot occurs in a near future, where humans become slaves of technology and consumerism completely takes over our democracy and free will. After abandoning our planet due to a global environmental crisis that makes Earth uninhabitable, humans seek refuge from a spaceship sponsored by BnL, the very company that deprives humans of moral values and even of our mother nature. After generations of men and women born and raised on the Axiom, the BnL-hosted gigantic spaceship, away from Earth, humans no longer know their origin along with the absolute lack of reasoning, living under a totalitarian control of BnL system. Hence, I take the liberty to say the plot of this movie is utterly unsettling.
The two adorable robots W.A.L.L-E (stand for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class) and EVE, are biblical representations of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve, according to Abrahamic religions, are the first humans that are created by God. After eating the fruit from the forbidden tree, Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden of Eden for disobeying God. In the first few minutes of the movie, we see the hard-working robot Wall-E patiently and constantly collects the garbage, compacts them and arranges the compacted blocks into orderly manner. Hence, just like Adam, Wall-E is condemned to labor forever.
In 2805, Earth is contaminated with garbage, and no organisms can survive such condition. The entire human population is evacuated by Buy-N-Large on the giant spaceship Axion, leaving behind W.A.L.L-E (stand for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class) robots that are in charge of cleaning up the Earth surface. In the first minutes of the movie, we see piles of trash as tall as skyscrapers that dominate the landscape. The background music plays a post-apocalyptic feeling theme, contrasting the upbeat and happy tune of Put on Your Sunday Clothes.
As the human civilization ends up with a countless amount of garbage because of mass consumption, the first moment of Wall-E already suggests the movie aims to advocate environmental protection. The megacorporation BnL is responsible for this disaster.
BnL corporation is in charge of every market, including supplying and creating demands for gas, food, drink, technology, and even in control of the media and government. In a brief moment, the BnL-owned “BUY N LARGE TIME” newspaper appears to show that the BNL CEO, in a joking manner, declares global emergency from a place being identical to the White House Briefing Room. Whenever a businessman of the private sector represents a powerful political position, like the President of the United States, it always denotes an unsettling scenario. In this movie, it indeed does. BnL corporation controls every aspect of life. The concepts of democracy and free will are taken over by advertisement, product promotion, and complete reliance on technology. These irksome settings seem to only appear in George Orwell’s 1985 or cyberpunk literature, but they are somehow portrayed in this animation supposedly for kids. This is the geniuses of Pixar producers. The messages are clearly not for young audiences to comprehend but perhaps they are served as seeds in the youngsters’ souls, hoping they would one day be aware of how they are under the influence of mass consumption and slaves of large corporations. In 2017, the unsettling scenario in Wall-E becomes partially true.
Not everyone is raised with a Bible to understand the religious content in Wall-E. The movie’s protagonists, Wall-E and EVE, are clearly of biblical reference: Adam and Eva.
In the beginning, Wall-E, the robot created to clean up the mess of Earth, is alone after all other Wall-E compactors cease to operate. Wall-E’s loneliness is a reference to Adam’s before God created his wife. And just like Adam, Wall-E is “cursed” to labor forever.
EVE, whose name is similar to Eva, is a robot sent by mothership to survey Earth to look for sign of life. From this point, there are even deeper layers. It is important to pause here and talk about mothership first.
Buy ‘n’ Large (BnL), the mega-corporation is the dominant company in almost every aspect of life on Earth for centuries. Due to mass consumerism, Earth is quickly covered in garbage, and BnL evacuated all human population to space with a gigantic starliner called Axiom.
BnL is the creator of both Wall-E and EVE. And EVE, with the mission of surveying the Earth, was to bring back to Axiom a sign of life, a growing seedling. According to the Book of Genesis, EVE is a metaphor for the dove with an olive branch and thus while the Axiom is being a reference to Noah’s Ark. From the story of Noah and the Flood, a dove bringing an olive branch signifies a sign of life, meaning it is time to return.
Things even get more interested from here. As EVE brings the seedling back to the ship, Axiom also represents a fake garden of Eden where mankind is enslaved by technology, deprived of critical thinking, physical strength and free will. BnL, therefore, is a false god and EVE must wake humanity from this false god to return to Mother Earth.
This is an almost perfect reverse order of what happened in the Bible: mankind is already in the Garden of Eden, but a fake one, then Eva, carrying the sign of life, more or less a “sign of knowledge”, followed by Adam, back to the Garden to wake humanity up and get back to the real God, Mother Earth.
The seedling itself, which is stored in EVE’s container, is more or less a reference to women’s pregnancy before EVE can “deliver” new life.
This is AUTO, the autopilot robot of Axiom.
AUTO is created by BnL to manage the ship and be in total control, despite a human captain. Axiom carries the entire human population and AUTO is in control of Axiom along with all robotic force, including security and police. That indicates a totalitarian regime in which democracy does not exist. While the human captain may represent the sense of “human being in charge,” it is a fake democracy. The truth is revealed when AUTO stages a mutiny against the captain.
In short, AUTO represents totalitarianism installed by corporatism, eradicating democratic value and taking total control of media, education and police force.
On the other hand, I’d say AUTO is a personification (or, “mechanization”) of the laws that protect corporatism, seeing AUTO following directive A113, stating it is never the case that humanity would return to Earth. A113 is created centuries before the event of this movie by CEO of BnL, prohibiting the ship from returning. This directive is based on the poor judgment of the CEO that Earth will never be clean again. Evidently, he is wrong as Wall-E finds a seedling could survive environment on Earth. However, AUTO blindly follows A113 and disregards the evidence which could challenge AUTO’s regime. Using censorship, AUTO tricks the captain into thinking this is a false alarm. Again, the use of censorship goes well with totalitarianism.
Education dictated by advertisement.
The ending credit of Wall-E makes me think about a beginning or the end. The art is equivalent to ancient Egyptian art, showing how humanity starts their civilization again from scratch.
It may be a continuous part of the movie’s biblical reference when mankind is banished from Garden of Eden and starts their own civilizations. On the other hand, I also think the message here is for corporatism, that is, perhaps we all need a reset button, back to the ancient time where there is no greedy corporation that controls our life and human society is no longer influenced by mass consumerism anymore.
Both theories are of opposite direction. Either way, the moral is clear: mankind must take control of our own life, not by a small group of greedy leaders, not by social trend, but each individual must and should be aware that we all have a choice.
We can have a choice to save our planet, to escape from technology-dominated society, to return to nature. And most importantly, we have the option to love and to deliver the seed of life.