Everyday Semiotics

Monday, July 07, 2008


Why is it that so much imaginative storytelling must refer back to Biblical themes and events?

This I ask after watching (and thoroughly enjoying) the new Disney-Pixar film “WALL-E,” which, after I stopped to think about it for two seconds, was no more original than Genesis 2-3 and 6-8 and Luke 23-24. (That’s the stories of the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark and the death and resurrection of Christ, for all us philistines.)

Thankfully the film isn’t evangelizing, and none of the characters are seen standing or lying with arms outstretched a la the crucifixion. But sadly the cute anthropomorphic robots of the film are needlessly inscribed with the doings of Adam, Eve and Jesus.

To review: WALL-E (Johnny-5 lookalike, stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter/Earth Class) finds a lone weed growing in a discarded boot. He gives it to EVE (blatant Bible crib, stands for Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator). EVE puts the plant inside her Mac-inspired white streamlined body and waits for a ride back to the starship Axiom, where the human survivors a trash-swamped Earth have been camped out for 700 years.

My gloss: WALL-E as Adam impregnates EVE as, well, Eve. She takes the specimen to Noah’s Ark. There she and WALL-E defy the almighty robots in charge, who are programmed to believe Earth is lost forever.

Tension, drama and hilarity as the weed is tossed about, exposed to the vacuum of space, saved, lost, found, etc. etc. In the climax WALL-E is crushed in a piece of machinery while trying to bring humanity back to the Promised Land. But he is repaired and given a new motherboard and rebooted by EVE. For a moment he doesn’t remember EVE at all --- for the first time in the film he is actually robotic and not anthropomorphic. But then, disappointingly, he remembers. And Christ is risen indeed.

Is any of this necessary? is the point I’m trying to make. It’s not really a question of whether the film’s writers were going for the Biblical parallelism. These tales are so totally engrained in our collective consciousness it becomes hard to escape them. But escape them we should. These tropes are hackneyed beyond belief. In the Bible and in classics is where they should stay. Let’s branch out, for Christ’s sake.

One thing Biblical the film did but I rather like: The Ark, that is, the Axiom, is clearly a capitalist venture as opposed to backup storage for genetic material. The first generation aboard, we may safely infer, paid to be there. Their fat, atrophied and osteoporosized great-great-great-grandchildren are mostly white.

What is the Axiom’s axiom? Perhaps that to save humankind is inevitably to exclude parts of humankind.

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