So, I saw Wall-E last night and it was frustratingly bad. Frustrating, because it was SO unnecessary. The fat baiting was completely unnecessary and I do think it will be taken however the many different shades of fat bigotry choose to see it. Nevertheless, it is betraying one particular shade of fat of bigotry. That which views fat as a consequence.
See, fat people don't cause the problems in the film. They are the RESULT of the problems in the film. I tend to view this as "enlightened" fat bigotry. Enlightened only because those who harbor it feel quite confident that this is a polite, even fat friendly belief. It's not.
These are the people who saw Super Size Me and thought it made a great point. To them, fat people aren't bad, per se. We're just victims. Poor souls who've been subjected to being fat by evil corporations. That's definitely what they are getting at in Wall-E. That fat characters are sympathetic, but only in the sense that we are given to believe that their fatness is the result of the evil machinations of the films true villains.
Yeah, spare me the pity. Its not kind to a fat person to view their bodies as a horrible state for which you must pity and mourn. That's not fat positive. That's just an effort to justify your disgust with fat people without having to blame fat people for it. The core message is STILL that our bodies are disgusting and wrong, and that's just not something I will accept. This kind of "enlightened" fat bigotry is just a sham. A more "progressive" facade placed over the same old, "Ew, fatties". I'm not going to pat these "enlightened" fat bigots on the head just because they want to blame someone else for my fatness instead of blaming me. They still see my fat as something that needs to have blame assigned for it. That is unacceptable.
There are good and valid points to be made about the overconsumption of our natural resources. While not explicitly linked, its hard not to see the fat humanity as still a shorthand for that. There are also valid points to be made about the ways corporations are influencing our everyday lives or how technology can make us lose sight of simple pleasures. The film DOES make those points without using "OMG, FATNESS!" as a crutch. But yet, it still uses the crutch and I find that terribly disappointing. Because its otherwise a good film.
The imagery is striking in the first part of the film. Heart-breaking, even. The robot characters, without much speech at all, are some of the most richly developed characters I've ever seen on film. It is a testament to the skills of the Pixar crew that they can communicate so much about the inner lives of these robots with no substantive dialogue. They are absolutely wonderful characters who will have you on the edge of your seat anticipating their next move.
They just didn't need the fat baiting. Which was used more than symbolism of the fat as consequences but was also used for a series of dumb "ha, ha, fatty" sight gags. Which is what will really infuriate me in the long run. Because while the purpose of the fat characters was the promotion of "enlightened" fat bigotry, those sight gags will appeal just fine to the "unenlightened" fat bigots who will take away from this films that fat people are the cause of or at least symbolic of the world's problems. Even if that was definitely not the point the film was making, they still absolutely delivered for that kind of prejudice and it will just reinforce it. Which is really the whole deal with "enlightened" fat bigotry. They feel just the same horror and disgust at fat people as the rest. They just try to justify it. But its just a lame justification. In the end, they're still pointing and laughing. They just want to pretend that's not what they are doing.
I do have to say one thing in favor of the film, but its a bit spoilerish so stop reading if you're really concerned. During the credits, there is an epilogue of sorts that follows-up the happy ending of the movie. We see the humans through these vignettes and for the most part, they don't magically become thin as a result of the happy ending. THAT, I appreciated but its a small thing in the movie's favor in the context of the previous fat baiting. Still, it was a trick Comcast of all people couldn't keep themselves from doing in a recent PSA, so I'll give them credit for that. If you haven't seen it, Comcast as a cartoon ad touting their community rebuilding efforts where we see a downtrodden stoop transformed into a thriving community center. A black female character is also transformed in this sequence from fat to thin. It was powerful but also subtly fat negative and when the artistically rendered epilogue came on, I expected a reprise of Comcast's magical weight loss, but it didn't really come. The humans were all still fat in the happy ending. I don't think fat haters would notice that, but I did anyway. A spoilerish note against them, though, is the inexplicably, video of humanity in the past using actual live action. Both in scenes of "Hello, Dolly" that Wall-E watches and images of humans at the time when the Earth was become uninhabitable. This is a very odd choice that makes the cartoonish image of the fat humans that much more dehumanizing.
UPDATE: Check out my responses to Wall-E apologists in my follow-up post.