The Message of WALL-E

WalleWALL-E (released in 2008) won both critical and popular success, making good money and winning several important awards. It inspired the manufacture of action figures, a video game, and even a specialized Lego set. Although it is classified as a science fiction comedy, WALL-E’s dark themes encompass corporatism, consumerism, and ruination of the Earth to the point of uninhabitability. This animated feature film from Walt Disney Pictures portrays future humanity in a way that could be described as an epidemiologist’s nightmare.

The megacorporation that owns everything strangles the planetary ecosystem with litter, then evacuates the remaining population to live for hundreds of years in a spaceship, waiting for a cleanup that will clearly never happen.

Aboard Axiom, all the humans, even the ship’s captain, are so morbidly obese they can no longer walk. When one roly-poly character is knocked out of his chair, restoring him to his seat is a major undertaking. But mainly, the bloated specimens don’t care, because they float around in lounge chairs complete with feeding tubes and constant electronic entertainment laced with commercials for the drinkable potions that they subsist on.

For A.V. Club, Sean O’Neal curated a number of media references suggesting that the movie was understood as showing prejudice against obese people who are “undone by their own unchecked consumption and aberrant laziness.” Described as discriminatory, disappointing, and even evil, it was hated by parents of children with eating disorders.

A blog called “The F Word” said:

WALL-E specifically singles out and targets obese people as the primary cause of mankind’s demise, further perpetuating the stereotype of the gluttonous, slothful fat person. Furthermore, the film suggests that, in their exaggerated laziness, obese people disregard not only personal health, but also that of the planet, and are held up as the cause for the destruction of the environmental landscape.

Some commentators speculated that children in the audience might receive the movie as an object lesson, and voluntarily reduce the time they spent in communion with rectangular screens. Kyle Smith, among others, noticed how the Axiom ambiance resembles the Disney theme parks:

The meatball humans in WALL-E are like customers passively being served up a fake existence at the Magic Kingdom (which readily provides wheelchairs for not merely the afflicted but also the obese and the simply lazy), snorfling up the latest wows in an entirely artificial setting where every beverage and hotel room brings profits to the same corporation. And Disney paved over a few thousand acres of Florida wetlands to build Walt Disney World in the first place.

Dr. Pretlow wonders if WALL-E is a farfetched prediction of the future of the Earth and mankind, or an accurate one. What do you think?


Source: “Wall-E Plot Summary”
Source: “Your guide to the WALL-E controversy,” avclub.com, 07/10/08
Source: “Pixar joins in on fat-bashing,” The-f-word.org, 11/01/07
Source: “Review: “Wall-E”,” kylesmityonline.com, 06/30/08
Image by Pixar Animation

 

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Presentations

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources