WALL-E (2008) (Reprint) – Ace Long Review

This is a review I wrote several years ago. It was originally published in the December 2008 issue of AVENues. I have added the star and ace ratings for this post.

Written by: Andrew Stanton & Jim Reardon
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
U.S.A., 2008

WALL-E operates on many levels: as a comedy, a satire, and a love story. For children it offers loveable characters, slapstick humour, and a moral about protecting the environment. For adults it offers biting commentary on chronic social ills such as consumerism, ignorance, and obesity. To everyone it offers a rather unusual romance – a love story about a couple of robots.

“He” is WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class), an ancient robotic trash-compactor on an apparently never-ending mission to clean up the Earth’s garbage. “She” is EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), a sleek, space-age scout robot who has come to Earth looking for signs of life. Each has been created for a specific purpose; each has a “directive” to fulfill. Yet, when they meet, they discover a desire for something more, setting the stage for what appears to be a truly asexual romance.

Does it work? That depends on your point of view. On the one hand, the love story is almost painfully conventional. Both robots are clearly gendered, leaving no doubt that theirs is a heterosexual love. Their relationship also plays out according to standard gender clichés. WALL-E is shabby-looking, but plucky. Having fallen in love with EVE at first sight, he follows her around making puppy-dog eyes and trying to get her attention. EVE – looking like the iPod to WALL-E’s toaster-oven – is consistently hard to get, but eventually falls for WALL-E after he rescues her from a series of scrapes.

At a basic level the very idea of robots falling in love – let alone a specifically monogamous, heterosexual kind of love – seems rather unlikely. At worst, it seems like an affirmation of heteronormativity that extends even into the inanimate world. But then, we’re talking about a cartoon, after all. Does it have anything positive to say to asexuals?

Well, the thing about robots falling in love is that their relationship pretty much has to be asexual. Whereas we can infer off-screen coupling between other Disney heroes and heroines, it’s pretty hard to imagine hunks of metal going “all the way”. Or maybe “all the way” just means something different to them. Throughout the film WALL-E longs to hold EVE by the hand. That isn’t his version of “first base”; it’s the ultimate expression of his love for EVE, and his desire to spend his life with her.

There’s a lot here for asexuals to identify with. WALL-E and EVE may be robots, and thus free from sexual desire, but they still experience a full range of human emotions and express those emotions in very human ways. WALL-E feels lonely without EVE. EVE worries about WALL-E when he gets in trouble. They hug, they kiss, they hold hands, and, in one particularly beautiful scene, they even dance through space together. A final shot shows the two strolling hand-in-hand though a meadow. Clearly, these two characters are very much in love. The fact that sex never enters into their relationship does not diminish it at all – any more than it diminishes the love of asexual romantic couples. And if the relationship looks a lot like any sexual love affair, it just shows that sexual and asexual romances really aren’t that different.

Ultimately, WALL-E’s take on relationships is very conventional. A boy and a girl from different worlds overcome obstacles to be together and live happily ever after. But it also provides a model of an asexual romantic relationship. That alone might be enough to recommend WALL-E to asexual people everywhere. But if it isn’t, there are also the cute characters, the biting satire, and the environmentalist moral.

3.5 Stars; 4 Aces

Edit: I realised after publishing this that calling obesity a “social ill” was overly simplistic.  There are lots of reasons for being fat other than lack of exercise and poor diet, being fat does not automatically lead to health problems, and many people who are fat have very healthy lifestyles.  A certain amount of fat is totally healthy and we need to stop stigmatising it.

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