To some, the computer-animated science-fiction film, "Wall•E," is a cautionary tale about consumption. But to others it's left-wing, America-hating propaganda.
The film (which I saw on Sunday) is set 800 years in the future. The earth has been transformed into a giant toxic landfill, whose only remaining denizens are Wall•E, a solar-powered next-gen Roomba who spends his days compacting trash into bricks and stacking them into skyscrapers, and his cockroach friend.
The last humans left Earth 700 years earlier, where their descendants live on a huge interstellar cruise ship run by Buy n Large, a corporation-turned-government. The humans have evolved – if that's the right word – into bloated couch potatoes whisked around by hover-chairs and endlessly distracted by video screens.
"[L]eftist propaganda about the evils of mankind," is what the National Review's Shannen Coffin calls it. "Nice to see that Disney and Pixar can make mega-millions off of telling us just how greedy, lazy, and destructive we all are. There's no hope for mankind. Hand over your wallet."
"It was like a 90-minute lecture on the dangers of overconsumption, big corporations, and the destruction of the environment," wrote Greg Pollowitz, also of the National Review.
"At first there’s not much of an environmental message," writes the conservative film critic who goes by the handle Dirty Harry. "The piles of garbage covering our planet come off as nothing more than a good idea to set up a cool alt-version of our world and the lead character. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last. The humans are introduced as meaty, lazy, chair-bound consumers who live in a world run by a large corporation. The message about our consumerism, sloth, and addiction to visual stimulus is eventually beaten like a drum.
"This may well be the fifth or sixth movie this year to depict our government as taken over by a corporation – as though that would be a bad thing."
(I should note here that I actually think Harry is a pretty astute movie critic, corporativist politics notwithstanding.)
"[U]nless you want to pay good money to have your kids propagandized into a Marxist, Eco-Theological world view ... stay far, far away from this one," wrote a blogger at RedState. "Goebbels would be proud to know his tactics have reached all the way to California."
The only evils of mankind portrayed are those that come about from losing touch with our own humanity. Staples of small-town conservative life such as the small farm, the 'atomic family,' and old-fashioned and wholesome entertainment like 'Hello, Dolly,' are looked upon by the suddenly awakened humans as beautiful and desirable. By steering conservative families away from WALL-E, these commentators are doing their readers a great disservice.
Many conservative commenters saw the film as hypocritical. It's hard not to notice that the Buy n Large ship filled with overindulged consumers looks a lot like a certain theme park run by the studio that financed this film.
But where others saw hypocrisy, I saw subversiveness. After all, among all the garbage piled up on the earth, we see several discarded plastic toys from other Pixar films such as "Toy Story" and "Monsters, Inc."
If you have any doubt about the sense of irony that the filmmakers wish to convey, be sure to check out the fictional Buy n Large website. It's a spot-on satire, worth exploring at length.
I suspect that the flap over this movie won't be the last. With a number of eco-thrillers in the pipeline, I bet we'll be seeing a lot more outraged convervative critics.