Counterpoint: Wall-E’s Love Story

     August 10, 2008

Written by Matt Goldberg

Over at, Devin Faraci has wrote an odd editorial entitled “Wall*E’s Unlikely Love Story”. His central argument is that “The central love story really doesn’t work,” because Wall*E is “a complete social retard” and that the film is providing wish-fulfillment to other social retards.

I thought about replying over on CHUD’s Message Boards but since last January Devin responded to an article by /Film’s Hunter Thompson on “There Will Be Blood”, I figured he wouldn’t mind a little cross-site opining.

Devin begins by trying to build support for his argument by pointing to “Wall*E’s” relatively weak box office take (better than “Ratatouille” and on-track to beat the summer’s other big animated film, “Kung-Fu Panda” but not even close to “Cars” which many agree is Pixar’s worst film) and that others must have found that what really turned people off to the film is the love story. I don’t buy this argument just like I don’t buy any argument that relates box office to a film’s quality. “Titanic’s” not the best film of all time and I don’t think that “The Dark Knight” is a better film than “Hellboy II”. And I think if Devin had talked to some more people, he would have found it ludicrous to think that any film would be bigger than “The Dark Knight” this summer. It was hyped for about a year and the actor who played the main villain died. Pixar’s successful, but there are too many factors to calculate why a film succeeds or fails at the box office. Without comment cards or even critical response, he doesn’t have a leg to stand on here.

Before I continue, I’m not going to cast aspersions on Devin’s character. It may seem appropriate to start launching ad hominen attacks since he’s basically saying that people who love the film’s love story are as socially damaged as Wall*E. I’ve met Devin a few times and he’s a quick-witted and smart guy and while there’s a movie that may better fit his argument (“School for Scoundrels?” “Revenge of the Nerds?”), it’s not “Wall*E”.

Devin believes that Wall*E never wins EVE over. That just by hanging around her and following her around doughy-eyed, she’ll fall for him. He says that “Wall*E” can’t charm her because he can’t talk. Wall*E’s actually quite verbal. He just doesn’t speak English. He talks like R2-D2 (there’s a reason that sound designer Ben Burtt is credited as the voice of Wall*E) and uses body language. Wall*E’s an expressive little robot and it’s clear that EVE finds him cute. That’s not to say she falls for him because of that. She falls for him for reason’s I’ll get to in a bit.

Then, according to Mr. Faraci, Wall*E makes things worse by showing EVE his “rare comics and action figures” when he takes her back to his home. The problem is that comic collectors and action figures are looking for something specific. They actively search for something and furthermore, they don’t enjoy it. They keep their products hermetically sealed; never understanding that toys were meant to be played with and comics were meant to be read. Wall*E’s collection is eclectic and showcases his wonder with the world. Wall*E doesn’t care about the diamond ring; he cares about its case. Is he trying to impress EVE? Of course. Find me a guy who isn’t trying to impress a girl and I’ll show you a guy who isn’t interested. But sharing who you are isn’t socially retarded. Socially retarded is if he invited her in and asked her not to touch anything and then just showcased his obsession, rambling on and on about his rare 1972 spork.

Coming around the block, Devin says that a chick like EVE may find such behavior endearing but that it would never push him beyond the friend zone. I whole-heartedly agree. EVE falls for Wall*E not on Earth, but when he constantly demonstrates that he would do anything for her. He risks his life to get back the plant. Wall*E doesn’t understand why the plant is important but because it’s important to her, it’s important to him. When she looks back on her record of when she was shutdown on Earth, Devin sees date-rape. It’s an understandable (although disturbing) read of those scenes, but I see Wall*E as a protector. That’s why he’s putting an umbrella over her head when it rains and takes her along with him. Yes, he wants to spend time with her but to imply that his trying to hold EVE’s hand by forcing her arm open is rape? That’s a special kind of crazy logic there. Wall*E’s trying to force a connection he hasn’t earned. He’s trying to hold a girl’s hand and she pulls away. If you want to extrapolate that to date-rape, you can, but our date-rapist population is going to explode.

I’m going to take a brief moment to make an aside on Devin’s other painfully absurd point:

EVE is the exotic other, since no local girls will like the misfit. He needs to find a girl from outside his world (ie, one who doesn’t know he peed his pants in gym class in third grade). That exotic otherness takes on a very definite racial tinge here: notice that EVE has almost Asian eyes – this is certainly some sort of nerdly Yellow Fever on display.

Aside from the fact that there are no other women and no other men and that’s why his best friend on Earth is a cockroach, I can only pray that the “EVE is Asian” idea is a joke that totally falls flat and he doesn’t actually believe such a preposterous notion. EVE reminds me of an iPod but I don’t think that means Wall*E has a deep-seated desire to fuck guys who wear black turtlenecks.

The second part of Devin’s theory that the movie plays into social-misfit wish-fulfillment is that Wall*E expects the world to change for him rather than make any changes himself. This still follows that Wall*E is a social-disaster, but even assuming that he is, Wall*E leaves his world. Most social-misfits won’t leave their rooms. They depend on routine and change is anathema. So faced with a choice of staying on Earth, alone, doomed to dig through trash for all eternity with no one to share his interests (also Wall*E has no taste in movies because he has no other movies; it’s not like he’s got “Casablanca” on the shelf and he goes for “Hello Dolly” instead; furthermore, if Devin wants to talk about real women and what they find attractive, in my trips around the block, I find that passion is more stimulating than expertise) or hitching a ride on a rocket to God-knows-where just so he can have his shot at love, that doesn’t exactly fit the profile. If constantly risking your life isn’t “upping your game”, I’m not exactly sure what is.

I’m not sure what Devin’s definition of a social retard is but it must be an unforgiving metric to qualify Wall*E as such. He’s brave, he’s curious about his world, he’s constantly introducing himself to people, and he wants to impress a girl he likes. Devin can write great editorials from time-to-time but saying “Wall*E” plays into the creepy fantasies of social misfits with a false love story is as embarrassing a thesis as right-wing nut-jobs saying “The Dark Knight” is about the Bush Administration’s “War on Terror” and that the President is Batman.

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