Are we humans rendering our planet uninhabitable? I thought the idea was still controversial in polite society, but apparently it's hit the mainstream -- at least enough to form the premise of a Disney/Pixar animated blockbuster: Wall-E.
Wall-E's setting is essentially a modernization of the tradition of 1984, Brave New World, Soylent Green, etc.: here's a scary and weird possible future for humanity. But what most surprises me about it is to see such a clever retooling first from Disney/Pixar, as opposed to coming from some more obscure indie literary channels. Admittedly, I don't know the obscure indie world well enough to say there's not a whole new genre of stories about how human society is going to evolve in the next fifty-to-a-hundred years (given climate change, diminishing fossil fuels, etc.). But before Wall-E, I hadn't seen anything that comes close to an interesting modernization of the question of where society may be heading -- just lots of the usual, cliché "post-nuclear-holocaust" premise that has been repeated so many times since the fifties.
Now, Wall-E is a comedy for kids, and it's very clear that it's not at all meant to be taken as something that could seriously happen in the future. Yet it's amusing to see how much social commentary there is in it.
It's not just that the Earth is covered with too much trash,
to the point where leaving the atmosphere entails pushing through a carpet of junk satellites...
The first scene where we see live humans reminded me of my two colleagues who chat with one another through skype even though they sit right across from one another:
Even if it weren't for the garbage,
the consumerism is, itself, a problem.
Americans have been sufficiently innoculated against communism that there's not much danger of a "government" taking over everything, but so what? It's not as though It's not as though there aren't other giant, powerful human organizations that have a huge control over the choices available to you in your life.
More stores don't necessarily mean more choices, particularly if you want the type of life that can't be bought in an ultrastore.
As "the Other Maria" points out in her insightful review, there's really no villain. This is, perversely, an improvement over 1984, which gives you the standard "blame the bad guy" out. But, here, it wasn't some sinister, evil person or organization that destroyed the Earth and ground the meaning out of these people's lives -- it was just a whole lot of people following the comfortable path of least resistance, to this.
As I said, this particular future couldn't happen -- it's meant to be a joke, an exaggeration. Yet it's an interesting to see how much it challenges a lot of the "common wisdom" I talked about in my New Year's post. And the fact that has arrived (controversy-free) right in the middle of the consumerist mainstream? It makes me wonder -- maybe attitudes are changing...?