WALL-E: Messages for Today's Society and The Future
Updated: Mar 17, 2022
By Katie Rose
Image: Wall-E the hero of Disney Pixar's 2008 movie / Credit: Disney
What do you think the world will be like hundreds of years from now?
Hover boards? Flying cars?
Well, PIXAR animation studios have a very different, more sinister view.
I’m talking about WALL-E, a film that, despite being released in 2008, is scarily close to the reality of our world.
WALL-E takes place hundreds of years from now where earth has been consumed by vast amounts of rubbish and pollution. This problem has long since caused humans to evacuate, leaving robots such as the main character WALL-E to clean it up so that one day they can return.
The world is covered in rubbish due to mass consumerism, which made the problem of waste so bad that there are literally skyscrapers of scrap lining the earth’s surface.
Image: A panorama view from the movie Wall-E / Credit: Disney
Therefore humans were forced to live in space instead on a ship called the Axiom. However, despite it being 700 years since they left earth, the humans in the film are still all living the exact same lives- consuming everything that is created for them. They are also constantly bombarded with advertisements from the company BnL which they follow without question.
Image: Electronic advertising hoardings in Wall-E / Credit: Disney
Although this dystopian situation is quite extreme, it is worryingly close to the consumer cycle that has taken over our world; EXTRACTION, CONSTRUCTION, DISTRIBUTION, CONSUMPTION and DISPOSAL.
Let’s face it, we make and use too much stuff. It all started with the industrial revolution in the 18th century which allowed factories to produce things on a larger scale, making them much cheaper to buy. Ever since then, the cycle has got worse. Like the characters in the movie, we are brainwashed into buying things, so much so that it could force all forms of life into extinction. In the United States alone, about 40 million plastic bottles get tossed out every day, and only a fraction of this is recycled.
Image: Try Blue Advert (Wall-E) / Credit: Disney
The clothing industry is the biggest culprit. Cotton makes up 40% of our clothing and it takes 20,000 litres of water to farm 2 pounds of it. Once it has been farmed, the factory it is manufactured in produces massive amounts of water waste which is horribly contaminated with dyes, bleach, inks and more. Where does this go? Straight into the environment.
Dependence on Technology
Another problem addressed in WALL-E is our reliance on technology. The humans on the ship are slaves to their own technology, allowing it to do everything for them, from bringing them meals in a cup, to even teaching their children. Humans are so dependent on it, that they are no longer able to walk; instead they travel around on automated hovering chairs.
They are also constantly looking at the screen in front of them, so much so that they forget about the world around them and are instead fully immersed in a fake world. Two men demonstrate this when they are shown having a video-call even though they are right next to each other. At another, more hopeful part of the film, WALL-E accidently disables a screen in front of a woman called Mary. She is immediately fascinated by the world around her and is even surprised to realize that the ship that she has lived on her whole life has a pool.
YouTube video: Fitless Humans (WALL·E)
After she sees the world for the first time, Mary isn’t seen with her screen fixed again, instead she chooses not go back to her old life. Her realisation allows her to enjoy things like the pool instead of sinking back into the convenience of technology.
A Brand New Start...
Things like this, representing the humans’ motivation for change, push the film towards its happy ending. The hope of returning home is represented by a small plant that is constantly sought after throughout the movie.
When it is eventually used to allow the humans to return home, they plant it, hoping to make a brand new start. This shows that saving our world and our future is possible; we just need something to motivate us into taking action. But I’m not here to lecture you on the environment.
The staff at GreenBlue, an environmental nonprofit dedicated to the sustainable use of materials in society, watched WALL-E as part of their monthly environmental film screening. I will end with a quote from their then Communications Designer Stephanie Fishwick: "What is clear to all of us is that something has to change. I found myself thinking at the end of WALL-E, “What can we do to make sure this doesn’t ever happen?”
Oh, and if you haven’t watched the film, I really recommend you do.
Katie Rose is a student at St Andrew's Catholic School in Leatherhead who has just completed her GCSE studies. This blog was originally written as a speech delivered as part of Katie's school work. Katie is interested in a pursuing a career as a writer.