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« Here's a Scary Thought . . . | Main | Against the Falsely So-Called Gnostiticism »

July 08, 2008

Comments

Christine the Soccer Mom

WALL-E was one of the best films I've ever seen. And I am finally coming to terms with the backlash I feel against those who worship Gaea, too. I don't want to pollute the Earth, we need to care for it (God said so!), but I certainly don't agree with the idea that people are bad for the planet, period. I mean, we ARE a part of the ecosystem, you know. ;)

Anyway, WALL-E is absolutely the best Pixar movie EVER, and whether or not they meant it to be, I see many Christian themes in the movie. My husband wrote his own review of it (he warns you before you hit the spoilers), and he saw some things in it that I missed. I hate to say anything more, especially since the movie is wonderful to watch unfold before you. And I like that his model number is also his name - it reminds me of Asimov's robot stories.

Also, the short before the movie is so hysterical that I laughed uproariously - something I hardly EVER do in public, let alone in a movie theater. I nearly cried, I laughed so hard! (And I'm not even one who has a great love for slapstick humor.)

Jeff

Here are Andrew Stanton's comments on the issue of humans and the environment as depicted in Wall-E (http://tinyurl.com/6movjs):

Can you talk a little about the devolution about the humans in the film?

I knew what I wanted humanity to be, but I didn’t know how to express it at first. I wanted something to amplify the love story in the film. I’m not one of those people that comes up with a theme and then writes to it. I go with natural things and somewhere halfway I realize what the theme is. I realized that what I was pushing with these two programmed robots was their desire to figure out what the point of living was. It took these really irrational acts of love to discover them against how they were built. And that was my theme: irrational love defeats life’s programming. That’s a perfect metaphor for real life. We all fall into our habits, our routines, our ruts. They’re used quite often, consciously or unconsciously, to avoid living, to avoid doing the messy part of having relationships with other people, of dealing with a person next to us. That’s why we can all be in a room on our cell phones and not have to deal with one another. That’s a perfect amplification of the whole idea of the movie. I wanted to run with science that would logically project that.

So I was talking to John Hicks, who was an advisor to NASA about long term residency in space, he told me that people are still arguing about how to correctly set up space shuttles so that when a human travels to Mars and back they won’t start losing their bones. Disuse atrophy kicks in if you don’t simulate gravity just right the entire time. It’s a form of osteoporosis. You won’t get it back. They’ve had arguments where people have said, “If we don’t get this right, they’re just going to be a big blob!” And I said, “Oh my gosh. That’s perfect!”

I didn’t want it to be off-putting. In a very early version, I actually went so weird I made the humans big blobs of Jell-O. I thought Jell-O was funny. They would just kind of wiggle and stuff. It was sort of a Planet of the Apes conceit where they didn’t even know they were humans anymore and they found that out. It was so bizarre that I had to pull back. I needed more grounding. So as I pulled back, I thought that I didn’t want it to be offensive. But if you didn’t have any reason to do anything any more, if everything had been figured out, and technology made it that easy to never get up – which is kind of happening with my remote in my living room – then it would set in. So I thought I’d make them big babies.

It’s a scientific term actually that Peter Gabriel told me about called neoteny. There’s this belief that nature figures out you don’t have to use some parts of yourself to survive, so why give it you? Why let you grow farther? I thought it was perfect. It was sort of a metaphor a time when it’s time to get up and and grow up a little bit.

Can you talk about the political message in the film?

I hate to not be able to fuel where you want to go, but it’s not where I was coming from. I knew I was going into that kind of territory, but I didn’t have a particular message to push. I don’t have a political or ecological message. I don’t mind that it supports that view, it’s a good citizen way to be, but everything I wanted to do was based on the love story. I wanted it to be about last robot on earth and I had to get everyone off the planet. I have to do it in a way that you get it out without any dialogue. You have to be able to get it visually in less than a minute. So trash did that. You look at it; you get it. It’s a dump. Even a little kid understands that. It makes Wall-E the lowest on the totem pole and it allows him to sift through everything left on the planet to show that he’s interested in us. I had to look at everything from the point of view of what you could get visually without dialogue to describe it to you. I actually had him find a plant before I knew where the movie was going. The reason I loved that idea is that it’s like the dandelions that push through the sidewalk. Reality forces itself through all this manmade material to exist and that’s Wall-E. He’s this manmade object but he’s got more of a desire to live than the rest of the universe. I felt like he was meeting himself. I couldn’t get rid of it even though I didn’t know what do with it, but it ended up being a great symbol of hope. I just went with something that felt somewhat true.

The Masked Chicken

This is an interesting problem. Most of the technological advances that have ruined societies have not been problems stemming from a misuse of science, per se, but from a type of moral retrograde driving the science. People want to have recreational sex, but they don't want babies. Hey, amoral science to the rescue. TV is morally neutral (if not neurally neutral), but hey, let's give the public what it wants to see - we can use focus groups and the science of social engineering. The result: people's basest instincts are pandered to in the guise of art.

More and more the problems are not in technology but in the moral impetus for creating or using the technology. The problem is not that we know less about nature than we used to (we know much more), but that we know less about ourselves as human beings because we are less and less taking responsibility for what it means to be human. We are rapidly becoming just animals for sport by large corporate conglomerates. As long as this remains the case, we will continue to see degeneration after degeneration to the point where bad becomes good and good becomes bad and welcome to Newspeak and Big Brother.

This degeneration, this "loss of nerve" was seen as far back as the 1950's (some would say the 1930's), but it is only being made into a public display in recent times. because even while society is becoming less coherent, the shared pain of the consequences of our lapses in moral judgment are beginning to unite us, as it did during the Depression, but I fear anger will be the result this time instead of a turn to prayer and hope for better days, because God has been reduced to a means for many people - a means of prosperity, rather than to a diety who shares and defines.

Some days, I am glad that time machines have not yet been invented.

The Chicken

Tim J.

"The problem is not that we know less about nature than we used to (we know much more)..."

I would say we have a much greater theoretical knowledge of nature, but a much weaker practical, direct, individual knowledge of nature.

I think it used to be much more common, for instance, to know the names of plants and what they might be useful for.

We have used technology - with greater and greater success - to hold nature at arms length. This is great when it comes to things like indoor plumbing and central heat. I'm a big fan of both. But it also has cut us off from a great source of beauty and sublimity.

Nature testifies about God and speaks directly to the spirit of man. The details of natural forms speak of God's limitless creative imagination and energy. Nature is a delight and a terror, and makes us feel alive.

Being cut off from nature leaves us to contemplate the comparatively shabby, dull and angular (and safe) environment of our own creation. It leaves us unsatisfied, yearning always for something we don't quite understand or that we seem to have forgotten.

David B.

See Wall-E, Tim. See it now. ;-)

Amanda

I actually saw it and I couldn't enjoy it. It was cute and there were funny parts but the dystopian images were so strong that I was truly disturbed by the movie. On some level, I almost felt like I was watching propaganda. Yes, we need to curb the trends toward littering, obesity, and our addiction to robots and electronics but to make the ideas so stark? Maybe I was more sensitive to it than others were (my two friends laughed the whole time) but I found the movie to be to strong in its imagery that I couldn't look past them to the humor and positive aspects.

The Masked Chicken

Dear Tim J.,

You wrote:

I would say we have a much greater theoretical knowledge of nature, but a much weaker practical, direct, individual knowledge of nature.

I think it used to be much more common, for instance, to know the names of plants and what they might be useful for.


I agree that such personal knowledge is waning as common knowledge, but the question is, why? Part of it has to do with a curious change in the learning habits of the young. They are really good at looking things up on Google, but, then, they don't do anything with the knowledge. It doesn't become personal. They don't seem to want to own the knowledge. Study after study seems to show this.

I do not think, as some do, that this sort of knowledge is not needed - only analytical skills. The ability to analyze data depends on having an intimate knowledge of the data, otherwise, the analysis tends to be superficial.

That, more than anything, describes the relationship of knowledge to many in the younger generation: superficial. Perhaps even the overachievers learn the material for only practical reasons (to impress a college entrance committee) rather than to learn for the sheer sake of learning. I don't want to cast too big a net here, but this is my impression, although I have no facts to prove it, unlike my assertion about Google, above,

If their relationship to knowledge is superficial, I want to go one step farther and suggest that their relationship with other people is equally so. This may stem from the fact that many young people, today, view relationships as temporary havens of comfort, rather than two people of similar tastes looking out into the world. The change in relationship patterns (sexual behavior) shows this superficiality, very well. Some young kids are so distraught after a break-up because they have no practical knowledge of how life really works. Their knowledge is all imaginary.

Ultimately, one reason for this superficiality may be, as I mentioned, above, the fear of really getting to know themselves. We have so many ways to distract the young,today. How many spend any time quietly, doing nothing? So much to get done; no time to listen.

The Chicken

Padre Steve

I brought my nephews to see the film and thought it was entertaining. I don't particularly like the bleak view of the future that they portray in a children's movie. I did think it was enjoyable for the kids on the surface, but underneath it all I couldn't help but be distracted by the dismal outlook that the film portrayed. Maybe it was just me?

Padre Steve

I brought my nephews to see the film and thought it was entertaining. I don't particularly like the bleak view of the future that they portray in a children's movie. I did think it was enjoyable for the kids on the surface, but underneath it all I couldn't help but be distracted by the dismal outlook that the film portrayed. Maybe it was just me?

McFly

The plotline and overall message of Wall-E aren't really what could be called "AlGorey". Just the same, promoting any sort of environmentalist message, no matter how tame, seems in today's society to be analogous to promoting an anti-witchcraft message in colonial Massachusetts. In a vacuum, both messages are potentially valuable, bearing noble warnings of real evil; but in context, problematic. I am sorry, but I have to dock Wall-E one star just for flirting with the subject.

Mike Melendez

WALL-E was beautifully done but I don't believe it the best Pixar movie. All have been worth seeing, but they have tended to the cliched slowly. I had difficulty that the human race would be so homogenized in space, not just in appearance but also in culture. I couldn't suspend my disbelief over that presentation. And the revival at the end (details left for those who haven't seen it yet), how many times has that been done before?

Still, WALL-E and Pixar has managed to avoid the overtold story lines followed by other American animation. Watch Saturday morning cartoons to get one extreme. Of course, that works for kids as they haven't heard many of the stories before.

The last Pixar effort that wowed me big time was "The Incredibles", not so much for the CGI but for the ideas, rediscovered and spoken softly. How can an action movie be soft? By not hammering the audience about how bad it had gotten before. The lives the Incredibles had chosen after the lawsuits were not bad, just ordinary. How do they (we) rise above that? That's the story.

Sleeping Beastly

Chicken, you wrote
Part of it has to do with a curious change in the learning habits of the young. They are really good at looking things up on Google, but, then, they don't do anything with the knowledge. It doesn't become personal. They don't seem to want to own the knowledge. Study after study seems to show this.

I'm not sure it's just about youngsters not wanting to own knowledge. I think you're being a bit harder on today's kids than they deserve.

Part of the non-retention of knowledge has to do with the ease with which we can access that knowledge. When I was growing up, people memorized phone numbers because that was really the only way to call someone without having to go look their name up in a phone book. Now even I don't remember people's numbers, since I can generally just call people by pressing a couple of buttons on my cell phone.

I don't especially mourn the passing of the memorizing-phone-numbers era, and with Google so easy to use, I'm not even entirely convinced that kids today need to be able to remember and own all the same kinds of knowledge you used to.

I do think you're right that a lot of knowledge has gone out of the public consciousness, but that may have more to do with modern methods of schooling than any reticence on the part of today's youth. Go spend an afternoon at a local public school to get an idea of what they're working with. You'll see several hours of time wasted interacting with irrelevant, useless, and false information. When the kids are presented with useful knowledge, they are seldom offered any real context in which to apply it, and so generally don't retain it. In fact, I'll wager you get hopping mad when you see the kinds of things today's kids are taught, and the ways in which that knowledge is imparted.

parick

Wall-E totally looks exactly like the robot from "Short Circuit" (minus the cheesy 80's style)

The Masked Chicken

Dear SB,

You wrote:

Part of the non-retention of knowledge has to do with the ease with which we can access that knowledge. When I was growing up, people memorized phone numbers because that was really the only way to call someone without having to go look their name up in a phone book. Now even I don't remember people's numbers, since I can generally just call people by pressing a couple of buttons on my cell phone.

[I'm being a good Chicken and not using italics for the time being...see the Gnostic thread for why]

What happens, SB, when the batteries go dead? These are some of the real problems with the digital revolution - the ephemeral nature of the data and the ability to modify historical artifacts.

If I have an address book from, say 1940, I have a heck of a lot of historical data at my disposal. An erased entry could tell me about the moving habits of some of the people in the book. Did they write with cartridge ink or the new-fangled ball point pen ink? A ripped out page could hint of all sorts of things.

A cell phone? Pull the SIM card or even put it too close to a magnet and everything is gone and unrecoverable - no pen impressions.

If you didn't like the fact that your mother-in-law were in that old photograph, well, you knew the family you were marrying into. Today, Photoshop to the rescue. Did you know that I once shook hands with the president? Actually, I did not, but I can make it seem that way.

You wrote:

I'm not even entirely convinced that kids today need to be able to remember and own all the same kinds of knowledge you used to.

You know, I asked if any of my students could recite any lines from Shakespere (Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou...does not count). No one could. How sad. When life deals you a raw blow, which is more noble: to quote from King Lear or twitter your friend that life sucks. Many young people today have never heard a Beethoven symphony or any really beautiful music. Why do you think they are being drawn to the Tridentine Mass? It is so alien and so beautiful compared to their existence that the sheer light draws them like moths.

It is true, that they probably do not need to know the Log table today (although...), but some types of knowledge are important for forming culture and personalities.

So, what do kids know today that is so important that it could displace this old knowledge? I ask this in all seriousness. I see no evidence that they are learning substantially important things.

I don't mean to insult the younger generation. They are very active and socially concerned, but without a basic knowledge of history, that concern can be easily misdirected.

You may be right about modern education, but I fear that if we get onto that topic, I might never stop. It does go to Tim J.'s other point about doing unto others. Schools no longer teach virtue. Students are taught politically correct ways of relating. I have not read the research that Tim J. cites, but I find it hard to believe that they could find an unbiased sample of people with which to do the experiment. People have been taught that everything short of murder is a life choice. It must be hard being considerate of nonsense when one's gut is saying otherwise. In modern times, it is considered incorrect to project your love of self onto another person.

The Chicken

Sleeping Beastly

Chicken,

Technology always has its downsides, and something is always lost. Back before most of us were literate, some people could recite poetry for hours on end. I doubt you could find anyone with that kind of mnemonic capacity today. Electronically accessed information is probably going to atrophy parts of our minds to the same extent.

It's a bit sad, and a little frightening, but what can we do? Maybe you can do what you can to preserve what you think is worth preserving. Some worthwhile things stick around for reasons other than their initial purposes. (Martial arts in spite of firearms technology, boardgames in spite of computer games, theater in spite of film...) Maybe this is why you're a professor.

Also, a lot of the value you speak of has to do with shared experience. Quoting Shakespeare is only more noble than twittering because other people understand your allusion. If no one else has read Shakespeare, you're just sharing an inside joke with yourself.

Have kids replaced the lost knowledge with something equally valuable? Not as far as I can tell. We have had adults failing children for a good fifty years now, and the result may well be a new dark age, at least for America. If you ask me, this would suit the socialists in charge of the school system just fine.

LoveYourMother (was NaturalCatholicMama)

I learned nothing in school 20 years ago (I'm 32). My children's friends learn less. Memorize facts to cram for test, forget.

We have far more information as a society, but in the hands of far fewer. Most of us know nothing of what common yard weed ends bug bite itching, or how to preserve food without heat or vinegar. I AM grateful for Google & the internet age b/c I can learn what my grandparents and parents failed to pass on or never learned themselves b/c it was too "old-fashioned."

But at some point we have to get up from the computer and go live it. I'm going to go do that now. Thanks for the review, Jimmy!

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