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Monday, July 14, 2008

Re: The Battle Over Animated Fatness

posted by on July 14 at 11:37 AM

Point One:
In WALL•E, human evolution from normal weight to overweight is concomitant with their evolution from animal…

…to animation.
The transformation, which is pictured on the commander’s wall, has this as its meaning: the infantilization of humanity is the final result of the capitalist mode of economic production and parliamentary politics. It is not without meaning that the last organic things are infantile humans (Neitzche’s last man, the absolute couch potato) and cockroaches. The superman—that rare and wonderful thing—has been reduced to a weed in a boot.

Point Two:
The appearance of robots in the movie is more real than the appearance of people. Reality, then, is not about being on Earth but doing hard work. The return to Earth is a return to work (the real reality), which is the metabolic interaction between labor and nature.

Point Three:
Wall-e is the subject of universal history, a slave. A slave is in history because of his/her work marks the temporality of his labor. The temporality is the trace between the body and world. The trace is the subject. Wall-e builds pyramids out of blocks of garbage. He is continuous with the slaves pulling blocks of stone in the cradle of civilisation.

Point Four:
Wall-e’s form of consumption—productive consumption—is the opposite of the consumption taking place on the space/cruise ship—unproductive consumption. Unproductive consumption ends with a mere (fat) individual; productive consumption ends with an object, and from the object we see history in the making, and from this making of history arises self-consciousness, and this form of recognition is the foundation of class consciousness. On the space/cruise ship, Wall-e is the hero of a slave/class revolt.

Point Five:
The revolt in the movie corresponds with Hardt and Negri ideas and not with Marx’s. The rebel robots are disorderly, heterogeneous, monstrous—they are the multitude. Marx’s revolt was to be organized and orchestrated by a single class—the proletariat. If Wall-e’s revolt was a Marxist one, then the other Wall-e robots compacting the garbage at the very bottom of the space/cruise ship would have recognized him as a revolutionary subject. Instead, they only weakly wave at him as he departs to the struggle. That struggle is a love movement.

Point Six:
It is not surprising that the thing that Wall-e most loves is itself in a state of perfection, an absolute robot, a most excellent machine, Eva.

Point Seven:
Work on its own can not revolutionize the subject (this is why the other Wall-e robots are doomed to the bottom of the space/cruise ship). The revolutionary moment must be activated by love. This love, however, is the love of work. This worship of work is the Marxist core of WALL•E. This core is the troubling one of capitalism and Marxism. This oneness presents, in the 20th century, a dead end for the Marxist project and open road for parliamentary capitalism. It is here that things stand in our moment of history.

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A refreshingly cogent post, Charles.

Posted by w7ngman | July 14, 2008 11:48 AM

You are a nut, Charles, but I love ya.

Posted by Uncle Vinny | July 14, 2008 11:48 AM

Seriously. I think this is the most coherent I've ever seen him write. (Although I have a feeling that the robots looking more realistic than the people is as much based on the limitations of the animation as it is for any deeper reason, if not more.)

Posted by Abby | July 14, 2008 11:50 AM

HEY! Not even once did I yell at my screen or roll my eyes while reading a Charles post. ;-)

Posted by monkey | July 14, 2008 11:51 AM


Have to agree with everyone.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 14, 2008 11:54 AM

Well, that does it. Now I'm definitely going to watch the movie.

Posted by Hernandez | July 14, 2008 11:55 AM

now that brad doesnt have whiskey for the masses chaz can't blithely post drunk ramblings before noon.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | July 14, 2008 12:04 PM

Has he been working on this all week, or does this kind of stuff just flow out of him spontaneously?

Posted by pox | July 14, 2008 12:05 PM

I rolled my eyes, unfortunately. Is the substitution of the contraction "it is" (it's) for the possessive "its" American English a moment of ignorance, Mr. Mudede, or is it an attempt at a Marxist statement on bourgeois language construction and abuse in a once prosperous nation that is now dumbed down?

Posted by i love my hourlong commute | July 14, 2008 12:06 PM

The "capitalist Stalinism" of Shenzhen. The fact that the State has strongly endorsed the Seattle-created DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) to get the disabled back to work (learning to "love work"). This is one of your most important postings ever, Charles.

Posted by Chris Estey | July 14, 2008 12:06 PM

Hey, wait a minute! That's my slightly-Photoshopped-but-still-very-photogenic home town in back of that newscaster! Oh crap! Now I'm going to have to see the movie, too!

Nice post, Charles. But not all labor is alienated, is it? "Our moment in history" has much more to tell us about capitalism's seemingly infinite capacity to distract labor -- with porn and drugs and, dare I say it, blogs -- and keep our attention away from the economic and military workings of the current kleptocracy.

I'm just sayin'.

Posted by MichaelPgh | July 14, 2008 12:13 PM

Can't you just watch a cartoon? How awful is it to go through life trying to spot Chairman Mao in your Cocoa Puffs?

Posted by Dave | July 14, 2008 12:13 PM

Why would a notoriously skilled writer such as Charles Mudede use the it is --> it's contraction in the possessive position? I'll wager that, having knowingly and deliberately jumped the shark with his most recent Natalie Merchant-infused post, Mudede is now deliberately misusing the it's contraction as a means of bating the haters.

Congratulations, ILMHC, you're the first to have bitten the bait.


Posted by Jeff Stevens | July 14, 2008 12:15 PM

This is my favorite Mudede post to date. WALL-E is awesome.

Posted by Bub | July 14, 2008 12:17 PM

Excuse me, I meant "baiting the haiters."

All that Herbert Marcuse in high school, when I should have been reading Strunk and White!

Posted by Jeff Stevens | July 14, 2008 12:20 PM

thx for this interesting post, but the wrier/director would debate you on this. he claims there is no greater meaning. it is simply a love story.

Posted by inference not fact | July 14, 2008 12:27 PM

Great post, Charles. Nobody else does Marxist analysis like you.

Posted by monkeyNose | July 14, 2008 12:34 PM

Just seeing Fred Willard's picture makes me chuckle. Thanks Charles...

Posted by Joe M | July 14, 2008 12:52 PM

thank you for posting something that doesn't make me want to stab my eyes out with letter openers.

please keep up the good work

Posted by tiffany | July 14, 2008 12:56 PM

Re. commute @9 & Jeff Stevens @15, I've come to believe that this recent epidemic of confusing "its" and "it's" is a symptom of our dumbed-down, corporate, consumerist culture. (I believe I have just made the worst insult imaginable against Charles Mudede: I have suggested he's a product of modern-day capitalism. Well, when you confuse "its" and "it's," you deserve whatever comes to you.)

MichaelPgh @11:

Hey, wait a minute! That's my slightly-Photoshopped-but-still-very-photogenic home town in back of that newscaster! Oh crap! Now I'm going to have to see the movie, too!

Michael, while Fred Willard does make the one non-animated speaking appearance in WALL•E, that picture Charles grabbed is not from the film but rather from the deservedly cancelled Fox sitcom "Back to You."

Still, you are going to have to see WALL•E because it is that rare film that is both timeless and timely, that works as both pop culture and high art, that is completely grounded in film history and yet is outrageously original, and... and... oh yeah, it appeals to both children and adults. Peter Travers in Rolling Stone is one reviewer who does does this film justice: You leave WALL-E with a feeling of the rarest kind: that you've just enjoyed a close encounter with an enduring classic.

Posted by cressona | July 14, 2008 12:58 PM

Nom Nom Noms in agreement.

Posted by Fatty Arbuckle | July 14, 2008 1:05 PM

Just an aside - why are there two point 5's?

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 14, 2008 1:16 PM

And don't forget the labor used to make this cartoon...union writers and cheap Korean(or Chinese)labor. Cartoons rule!

Posted by Vince | July 14, 2008 1:35 PM

They fixed it in a subsequent edit, Will.

Now there's a Point Seven, and two Point Sixes.....

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 14, 2008 1:54 PM

Why are you people unhappy that now you'll have to see the movie? It's playing at Cinerama - how often does a non-crap movie play in 70mm on a gigantic screen? GO!

As for point two - realistic attempts to portray people in animation always suck. It's much easier to realistically portray robots because

a) they're easier to draw mechanically, i.e. by computers, because of all the straight lines and simple [for computers] algorithmic curves and all.

b) people [who watch these things] are much more attuned to the human face than they are to the veracity of a depiction of, say, a toaster oven. Whenever you try [in an animated cartoon, not an oil painting] to "realistically" depict the human form, especially the face, you just fall short pathetically every time. But if you just go for expressiveness, via caricature, then you cut to the chase of what you want to convey without distracting us with your crappy drawing.

Case in point, that wretched looking new animated Star Wars movie, the preview of which I saw before Wall E, where you just get a failed representation of Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan, and it just looks wooden because it is - it is too simplistic to convey the subtleties that a real human face can. But - to go to the other extreme - South Park has succeeded perfectly in conveying the personality and various emotions of its characters with the simplest of strokes, BECAUSE it doesn't waste time trying to draw in every hair, but focuses solely on the important, and suddenly that kid, Butters, has the sweetest, most tender, yet wistful expression on his face.

It's also why it's easier to do animals than people. Bugs Bunny is more of a person than a rabbit, and a more effective representation of a person because of it.

Posted by Phoebe | July 14, 2008 2:35 PM

Worship of work is exclusively **Marxist**?

Protestant work ethic? Anyone?

Posted by raisedbywolves | July 14, 2008 3:17 PM

Nice deconstruction, Charles. You will win bonus points if you can now provide analysis of how Pixar and McDonald's will engineer their inevitable Happy Meal campaign to completely subvert the political themes of the film.

Posted by I Heart The Robotic Masses! | July 14, 2008 3:23 PM

Charles, just so much BS once again.

Yes, we know about slaves, capitalism, Marx got it somewhat right and womwhat wrong, blah blah blah. But you just write drivel, man.

Like this:"Wall-e is the subject of universal history, a slave."

That's meaningless. We have no history now because really very few slaves right now?

" A slave is in history because of his/her work marks the temporality of his labor."

Even more meaningless. A slave is in hisotry be (a) there were slaves in history and (b) it's a form of eoonomic organization also (c) oppression which is a somewhat constant theme in history, though not always via slavery.

" The temporality is the trace between the body and world."

all 4 mouns completely meaningless giberish in this sentence.

"The trace is the subject."
OK got it.

Wall-e = subject
subject = slave
slave = temporality of his labot WTF that means
temporality = trace WTF that means
trace = subject

This is about as meaningful as saying Wall-e is the hodah, the hodah is the blitbump, the blitbump is the footzkreig, and the footzkrieg is the olipan, and the olipan is the hodah.

It's just words strung together w/ no meaning.

"Wall-e builds pyramids out of blocks of garbage. He is continuous with the slaves pulling blocks of stone in the cradle of civilisation."

Un, one of like the 5 cradles, there are many variety of slaves in history too, ranging from Egypt to Mongols to NAtive Americans to moors taking white christians to vikings taking Irish chicks to serfs being sort of slavish to the Slavs blah blah blah. So Wall-e is reminiscent of slaves in Egypt. Wow. What a brilliant insight. Get it? The pyramids, man.

Hey did you ever think our whole universe might be like really little dots floating in the eyeball of a really duge ginormaous giant dude?

Posted by PC | July 14, 2008 3:56 PM

Someone's either drunk, or has two hands comprised entirely of thumbs.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 14, 2008 4:05 PM

@24 - i saw that - now it has the points numbered correctly ...

Plan to take over the World:

1. Steal underwear
2. Write long story about animated fatness of robots

4. Profit!

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 14, 2008 4:37 PM

A Marxist love of work? Hmmm... maybe they could set up some camps for that? Say, work camps? Yeah, that's the ticket...

Speaking of worshipping the trascendent power of work, the SS General who first thought to put up the "Arbeit Macht Frei" signs at the gates to the concentration camps was not being a smartass. There was Serious Philosophy behind that, you know.

Posted by CP | July 14, 2008 6:43 PM

I can ignore Charles's it's/its mistake. I say it's a function of our high typing speed nowadays. Fingers are way ahead of the brains somedays. Also, we're so surrounded by folks mangling the it's/its/there/theirs/your/you're anymore, it's easy to screw it up.

I'm not being merciful because I share Charles's fixation upon the odd-yet-interesting Natalie Merchant. That's a completely separate issue!

Posted by CP | July 14, 2008 6:46 PM

Point Seven? There is no Point Seven!

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 14, 2008 8:37 PM


"Can't you just watch a cartoon? How awful is it to go through life trying to spot Chairman Mao in your Cocoa Puffs?"


Posted by violet_dagrinder | July 15, 2008 7:53 AM

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