SuperMechagodzilla on… WALL•E and Robots

Not to agree with Jeferoo, or resurrect an old topic, but eating and shitting imagery is very important!

Compare best-ever computer animated movie WALL•E with a debacle like Robots. When Wall-E extrudes a cube of trash from his waste port, he grunts like he’s taking a little robot dump. He also survives by ‘eating’ solar power and parts of his fallen comrades. (when his foot is worn out, he heads to the junk/grave-yard and attaches a new one).

The attaching of a new foot to restore the decaying one blurs the line between eating, clothing, and surgical modification – making some really subtle points about prosthesis and identity. Taken to a logical extreme, Wall-E himself is a Ship of Theseus, where his identity somehow persists despite all his original parts being replaced.

There’s a lot of fun with gender in the movie as well. Despite the masculine name, Wall-E tries on a bra, wears makeup, contemplates a wedding ring… But he does so naively and playfully, because these concepts are alien to him. His gender is fluid, and he doesn’t have a sex: the waste port serves as a generic orifice that both he and EVE share.

Wall-E ‘consumes’ media by putting it in his port – but then displaying it in his home instead of simply ‘digesting’ and ‘shitting’ it. The home thus serves as an extension of himself, a body whose parts he modifies, the same way he swaps out his parts.

The Robots robots eat gears and shit the worn gears, drink oil and piss used oil. Larger components are called ‘upgrades’ and serve as a metaphor for healthcare.

There’s literally a scene where Ewan MacGregor’s character gets a penis attached. (Robin Williams also has his lower half swapped with a female one, at one point, to his chagrin). Washroom doors display a plug or socket to denote ‘men’ or ‘women’. However, the robots reproduce by purchasing a kit that comes in a cardboard box. (How does cardboard work, in a world without trees?) There’s a scene where MacGregor tinkers to build a tiny homunculus in his bedroom, and gets embarrassed when his parents walk in. It’s a masturbation scene! ‘Sex’ and ‘childbirth’ are weirdly simultaneous here – and asexual.

There’s also the important distinction that oil is not merely a substitution for ‘water’ in this narrative, since the robots also use literal water to clean things and put out fires. They cannot subsist on water alone. They need to purchase drinks by the can or bottle, from larger companies. The hero’s goal is also to start a small business to supply cheaper gears (food/healthcare) to meet the demands of lower-income consumers. The film also, unlike Wall-E, draws a hard line between clothing and prosthesis. ‘Medical’ upgrades change you, while clothing is ‘merely cosmetic’. There’s a gag where a buff robot has his ‘shirt’ torn off to reveal just a spindly, naked(?) (exo)skeleton.

Where does the massive amount of used oil-piss go? Where do the drains lead? And from where do all these private companies obtain their fresh oil?

Robots’ use of food and shit imagery is then rather insidious. With few exceptions, everything in the Robots world is privatized, and the only alternative presented is a ‘capitalism with a human face’. You can’t just go down to the river and scoop up some oil, or collect rain-oil. In some ways this is accurate – the ideology is all-pervasive and inescapable. But in a more accurate way, it’s normalizing.

The scene where MacGregor gets his robot penis attached functions as a sort of reverse castration, but why have male and female genders determined by sexual organs at all? Why is MacGregor’s mom a housewife?

Wall-E is of course very concerned with what happens to the garbage.



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