A look at the film ‘WALL-E’ directed by Andrew Stanton.
Towards the end of the 20th century, humankind entered a shift in attitudes. The days when we took responsibility for our own actions and used common-sense to resolve certain situations were outbound and a new paradigm was establishing itself.
One where if some dizzy tart tips a cup of fast-food coffee all over herself, she can successfully blame the restaurant for not warning her that tipping scalding water into your lap is a bloody stupid thing to do.
One where if a woman is stalked and attacked, it’s her fault for dressing in a manner that might be interpreted as provocative by the poor, unsuspecting, prowling rapist who had no choice but to be lured to her like a sailor to a siren’s song.
This inability to think for ourselves, this apparent lack of interest in consciously deciding to do – or not do – something, favouring this brainless wafting from situation to situation and wondering where it end up, this is why we now have to be warned that packs of peanuts may contain peanuts.
There are still many of us on the outside of this and we look at these cases and shake our heads and wonder what the world is coming to. There have been a few films over the years that highlight in various ways this decline. One of them I saw recently was the Disney/Pixar hit, ‘WALL-E’.
A “sweet and funny” story about a small robot in the future who attends a derelict and abandoned Earth in the hopes that one day, the planet will be ready to support organic life once more. In the course of the film he meets another robot, boards her spaceship, finds himself with the last surviving shreds of humanity and becomes instrumental in saving our species.
As with any Disney/Pixar feature, it is first and foremost a children’s film, though, as is par for the course, there’s plenty for adults to take from it too. Kids will get a visually pleasing story about robots and silly humans and learn that friendship and caring is important. Adults will get that humans are lazy selfish creatures who are becoming dependant on technology and that the irony of a robot saving our race should be a reminder that we mustn’t allow ourselves to get that bad in the first place.
Before I get into my real beef with this film, I’m going to take as few words as possible to give it a bit of a run down in terms of the overall viewing experience.
As already said, the film is visually very good. The animation is slick and polished as you’d expect from a studio of this calibre and there are lots of little visual jokes that the eagle eyed members of the audience will enjoy searching for. It’s cartoony enough that it is easy for youngsters, but just sharp enough that even the most cold-hearted adult won’t end up injecting vinegar into his/her eyeballs to make it all go away.
The story is easy to follow and very basic wth just enough plot holes to make the whole thing feel as flimsy as an MFI flat packed, self-assembly wardrobe. The soundtrack is fairly generic and forgettable with no real stand out cues to make your spine tingle. The in-film sound (characters, environment, voice acting) is all horrific enough to make you want to bash your skull in with a heavy paving slab.
I don’t wear my heart-rate watch anymore, but I’d be willing to stage an experiment where I do, taking measurements before during and after the film, and I’d stake a hefty amount of money on being a physical wreck by the time the end credits roll. I think the most excruciating parts are the largely voice-less sections where, to avoid lengthy silences, they have the robot make small noises, like audio gestures, and this grates pretty damned fast.
But these annoyances are small-fry compared to the most glaring and insidious element that many appear to have overlooked in this film. And let’s make no mistake here; we are talking about a family film that is being used as a vehicle to promote behaviour and thought. The bit I have the most issues with is the message that rape is basically okay and something you’ll get away with, so long as your victim is unconscious while you’re doing it.
You probably think I’ve lost my marbles and am getting mixed up with something else, but I can assure you I’m not. Allow me to explain…
When the EVE robot discovers plant life on Earth, she gathers the specimen into her container and then engage some sort of hibernate mode while she awaits the return of her ship. By this point, WALL-E was massively infatuated with EVE and was devastated by her going offline.
Any stable and benevolent entity, organic or mechanical, should have either moved the dormant robot to a safe place or left it where it went into hibernation to prevent it becoming disorientated should it power up again.
But not WALL-E.
WALL-E decides that leaving EVE alone is not whats best for him and so he embarks on a series of activities that we see in a montage that suggests a reasonable passage of time is passing. Amongst these scenes are WALL-E prying open one of EVE’s access ports to gain access to her ‘inner workings’, adorning her with a string of fairy lights, taking her to a remote location in a boat and then touching her while watching a sunset.
One could argue that this is WALL-E trying to help EVA reawaken and that he cares for her so deeply that he still makes the effort to take her to watch a romantic sunset where he can hold her hand and comfort her.
But it doesn’t seem that way to me. It felt a lot more creepy than that. Forcibly prying her ports open is a clear violation of personal space and shows a lack of respect on WALL-E’s part. Dressing her up in fairly lights indicates fetishist behaviour. WALL-E could so easily have used normal rope to tow EVA to the boat or even carried her, but chooses to dress her up in a way that pleases him more, much like a creepy stalker/murderer putting a wig on a dead prostitute for personal arousal.
Loading EVA onto a small boat and then whisking her off to a remote location is, apparently, the Disney/Pixar equivalent of bundling a drunk or drugged girl in the boot of your car and then whisking her back to your hideout to do your horrible stalkery things to her. The entire world is a remote, desolate wasteland, how does WALL-E moving the unconscious EVA help matters? A better view? Nonsense! It’s a precaution in case someone comes looking for her. Rule number one (I presume) of how to be a rapist; don’t get caught… WALL-E was just covering his back.
And lastly, that bit where he goes to hold EVE’s hand. He didn’t reach out lovingly. He knew he was being creepy and nasty so he walks his fingers over to her body cautiously, making sure he isn’t seen, and then grapples her in quite a forceful way. Pixar try to make light of this by having the piece of EVE’s body case snap back to position, but the message is clear; WALL-E is molesting an unconscious female and he’s getting away with it.
This is not cool. And it gets completely glossed over and ignored for the rest of the film. What I’d have liked to have seen would be WALL-E’s memory logs downloaded and analysed as part of a security check once he’s aboard the spaceship and for his antics to be revealed to EVE who then presses charges and drags him through a hideous and painful legal process which ends up with him being mechanically castrated and put on the e-sex offenders list. Also only allowed access to robot maintenance bays if properly supervised.
So should you choose to watch WALL-E, brace yourselves for the most family friendly rape scene in cinema to date. It certainly takes the ongoing debate about robotic ethics to a new level.
And remember, kids; if she’s unconscious and you hide the evidence, you can access any port you want and nobody will ever know. And even better, because nobody has to be responsible for their own actions anymore, you can blame it on popular media, claim you were brainwashed and you could even be quids-in by the end of it all… Welcome to the 21st century.
A reason why you should watch it: Cure for low blood pressure.
A reason why you shouldn’t watch it: Robot rape is not cool.