Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

Is It Human Nature To Prefer the Non-Human?

I finally took Skylar to see Wall-E last night. She loved it. And I was just as delighted to see it a third time as I was the first two. I realized, though, as the scene where Eve watches the footage from her own security camera, shot when she was in a mission-induced coma, and realizes how devoted Wall-E was to her non-responsive form, that the film is even more profound than I had thought. It isn't just a story of how human beings end up more programmed than robots, though that is its most obvious point. No, the film is also meditation on the nature of identification itself, the fact that we frequently find it easier to get in touch with our most fundamental feelings, such as love and hate, when we focus on non-humans. Wall-E has now brought tears to my eye more than any film I've seen, despite the fact that the human beings it showcases elicit a mixture of incredulity, pity and disgust. I recognize that the filmmakers were inspired by human models, specifically Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton pictures. But both of those actors were famous for crafting characters whose humanity shone forth precisely because they didn't act like ordinary humans. In a sense, a figure like The Tramp is already well on the way to being a robot. Nor is it any accident that Chaplin and Keaton's heyday overlapped with the period that gave us the term "robot" itself. I'm sure that the folks at Pixar, careful planners that they are, were well aware of that fact. And I also suspect that they were eager to explore the Moebius-strip like terrain of a film about fetishizing the inanimate that would have to be marketed in a way that crassly fetishizes the inaminate. If Wall-E makes us tear up, it may be at least partially because we are so invested in the means of concealing all the ways in which we are torn apart by the commodification of ourselves.
Tags: autobiography, film, theory

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