Tubby-Slam…Whuh?

“If Michael Moore, Oliver Stone or, God forbid, some effete French director had crafted a feature film that was a thinly disguised political broadside portraying Americans as recumbent tubbos who moved around on sliding barcaloungers with built-in video screens and soft drinks always at the ready, don’t you think there’d be some sort of notice taken?”

So asks Hitsville’s Bill Wyman, the former arts editor for NPR and Salon. His point is that Pixar has done exactly this with WALL*E and that reviewers have barely acknowledged it. Many who have admitted that WALL*E has this social criticism aspect have done so in a vague pussyfoot fashion. The only ones who have stood up Gary Cooper-style and called a spade a spade, says Wyman, are N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott and myself and…I think that’s it. (In Wyman’s piece, I mean. Variety‘s Todd McCarthy and Cinematicals’s James Rocchi also took note.)
“What was rarely analyzed in the reviews is that the earth is deserted because a Wal-Mart-like company called Buy n’ Large has filled it up with trash, and the departed humans, expanded to Big Gulp size, are contentedly gorging themselves amid the comforts of a flying Club Med, where they slide around on those carts, on which they watch TV continuously without even having to sit up completely,” Wyman writes. “While some of the better reviewers mention the beglotted humanoid forms, I found it odd that most mainstream reviewers didn’t bother to point out what the film was saying.
“I’m no film theorist, but I think what director Andrew Stanton is trying to tell us is that we humans eat so much and limit our movements to such a degree that we will soon become immobile whales unable to focus past the video screens permanently affixed in front of our field of vision.
“And not subtextually, either; as my friend Michael Sragow says about such obvious material in films, ‘It’s not subtext — it’s text text.’

  • Rich S.

    The key phrase here is “a thinly disguised” political broadside. I don’t think Moore or Stone remotely capable of such a thing.

  • leepe

    What other country in the world has poor fat people?

  • BillRamsey

    A film after Wells’ heart! Man, to be inside your vapid brain for a day Jeffrey, I wonder where it would take me….
    Fat people. Mexicans. Feet. Fat people. Feet. Fat people.

  • Richardson

    Does ‘Wall-E’ really single the people out as Americans? If not, I’m pretty sure it is an interpretation — and, yes, “sub”text — to infer that they are meant to only represent Americans. I haven’t seen the movie, but reading that description, it sounds as if the point is that the entire human race has evolved into perfect consumers, which would perfectly fit with what I have been led to believe the theme is.

  • http://www.innerexception.com murdocdv

    It is fairly obvious this is about Americans. Any view of Earth shown in the movie has North America in prominent view, nearly exclusively. The accent of all speaking humans is American, I don’t think I heard anything else. Buy N Large (what a great name) is absolutely an American style conglomerate, the President and CEO is obviously American. America is on the leading edge of consumerism, but that’s not all of what the message of the movie is. It’s also about taking automation as we presently know it, pushing it to the max to say humans really need to do physical work, don’t let everything get automated. However, this kind of thinking makes no allowance for any kind of advanced medical technology that would counter the tubbyness. The only possible advanced medical tech on display is cloning, otherwise where did the babies come from, the people in this movie are too fat for sex. I have to watch again, but can anyone pay attention to whether all the future humans are the same, or slight variations on each other? So in a way the movie is non-sensical, faster than light travel, very advanced robotics, but no diets? Crazy talk.

  • T. Holly

    Wells is so transparent, but more to the point, this is like saying there’s no political subtext to Mamma Mia!

  • gruver1

    Wells to Ramsey: I’ve never once said or implied any sort of slur against Mexicans. Ever. Once — once — I reported that a Latin American mother had taken her very young (maybe two years old) daughter to a commercial showing of an El Roth torture porn film. I found this reprehensible, and mentioned in passing that her heritage was Latino as opposed to Swedish, Thai, Chinese, Scottish, Somali or whatever. One other time I mentioned that a posse of rowdy, overweight tubby-tuba Latinos had come into a Carl’s Jr. How was that a slur toward people of Latin ancestry? They weren’t Germans or Russians, these kids — they were Latino, and so what? It is the absolute height of p.c. facism to say someone has a discriminatory attitude toward this or that ethnic group simply because he identifies their (apparent) tribal origins in this or that context.

  • laurence

    folks,
    this is well done.
    take a look at this if you have not seen it yet been up for awhile sort of an inside joke
    notice the copyright
    http://www.buynlarge.com/

  • Richardson

    “Buy N Large (what a great name) is absolutely an American style conglomerate, the President and CEO is obviously American.”
    Sure, what what American conglomerate worth its salt isn’t international these days? If you want to say that the sort of commercializing and consumerism that they’re lampooning is inherently American, I wouldn’t personally argue with you, but that’s still an opinion which is informing the interpretation that it’s only talking about America.
    But, like I say, I didn’t see it, so I can’t say that it doesn’t speak specifically of Americans. It just doesn’t sound like it has to be limited to them — we’re just the forerunners.

  • Krazy Eyes

    I think the ship was meant to represent Americans. It certainly wasn’t a vert multi-ethnic mix of people on the ship and now that I think of it I can’t even remember if there were any fat black people on the ship.
    Subtext, text text, or whatever . . . I loved it.

  • PerfectTommy

    Huh. I wonder why Michael Moore has never done a film critical of Americans as “recumbent tubbos”?

  • DarthCorleone

    Who cares if it’s American or not? In very real, terrifying ways, on a long enough timeline assuming certain things don’t go wrong, this is where the human race could be headed. The first half hour of WALL*E is brilliant, but I was overcome with sadness and actually felt queasy looking at that depiction of Earth.
    I couldn’t help but cynically formulate an alternate message for WALL*E. It’s o.k. to trash the planet with irresponsible consumerism devoid of forethought, because a millennium down the line it will all be salvageable thanks to some lovable robots. That’s the real fantasy.

  • T. Holly

    Didn’t David Poland do an opposite riff on this before eloping? And wasn’t there a fatty thing running through Kung Fu Panda? I was apalled by the largess and the abuse of Jack Black’s character.

  • BurmaShave

    leppe, what an original observation! If you in fact were to observe the world at all, you would find that many poor in places such as Latin America or Eastern Europe are overweight, due to the high starch content and poor quality of their food. You’re clearly the new Lenny Bruce though.

  • p.Vice

    Jeff, what you should understand is that the sooner the world’s population is comprised solely of immobile tubbos, the sooner they’ll die of heart attacks and then there will be nobody left. And deep down that’s really what we all want, isn’t it?

  • berg

    In the last month no less than three films have used fat people and their obesity as the brunt of comment. Make it four if you count the big bone bear in Kung Fu Panda. Stuff like this is only as offensive as you want to make it …
    In Get Smart Maxwell Smart dances with a huge lady to comic effect. Although she displays grace in her movement the momentum reminds one of the hippos dancing in Fantasia. Less complementary is James McAvoy’s boss in Wanted. As seen by the film she’s a pig, berating her underlings and scarfing down junk food …
    In WALL-E humans are blobs kept alive as corpulent vessels by their computer gods. The humans think they are in charge, but really they are the computer’s bitches. One of the things that influenced the Pixar film’s view of future flab was the fact that bodies engaged in perpetual space travel would lose bone mass. Of course the reality is that space vehicles spin to produce an artificial gravity that prevents similar bone loss, at least in the short run.
    All the characters mentioned above are heavier than the title character in Run, Fat Boy Run, which had Simon Pegg concerned about his weight when in reality he had under a 40-inch waist

  • SmilingPolitely

    Chud, AintItCoolNews, heed Pixar’s advice! They need your geek spooge, and if all you guys are dead by 40, it’s not going to do them any favors.

  • quitstaringatme

    So getting to glide around all day watching TV in an air conditioned space ship with all the Pepsi I can drink, and not having to deal with body image issues since everyone’s fat? Why is this such a nightmare to people?
    Like the Earth is all that precious. If this is the future, I can’t wait.

  • quitstaringatme

    Oh, and Jeff, why are you so obsessed with fat people? You should get out of LA more often.

  • James Rocchi

    Plenty of people have caught this, Jeff. And it’s part lifestyle, part life in microgravity (as mentioned in the film) that’s had them swell, but they’re not just tubby and inert bodies, but also inert and flaccid souls; they’re also not making eye contact with anything outside of their mediafeed: ” … the remains of humanity scoot through the ship in hoverchairs, drinking their meals from to-go-cups, holoscreens inches before their faces, essentially (in the words of social critic Neil Postman) amusing themselves to death.”
    It’s not just flabby bodies; it’s flabby minds.
    Oh, and Krazy Eyes, the ship had a multicultural compliment of bloated passengers and crew.

  • messiahcomplexio

    I wonder how Jeff would feel if Barack Obama was fat?
    would he still know hope?

  • CinemaPhreek
  • LuckyWilbury

    Wyman and Jeff are assuming that the humans
    left Earth of their own accord, after they had trashed
    the place beyond recognition.
    It’s ain’t necessarily so. More likely reason is they were forced to flee due to some unforeseen disaster.
    That disaster scenario is a much more potent subtext than
    whether or not Stanton or Disney were making a comment
    about obesity.

  • BillRamsey

    Wow. James Rocchi is more of a tool than Wells. At least Wells has good taste in movies. And hates hispanics. Rooooooooooochi is more in line with Georgie Prager. Also, nice wikepedia page Roochi. Self boast much?

  • erniesouchak

    I seem to recall there’s a brief reference in “Wall-E” to humans losing bone density because of their prolonged exposure to outer space, but it’s a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” reference. The film definitely struck me as fat-phobic in the extreme. The impression is that fat people are the human equivalent to a garbage-ridden planet.

  • Michael Cavayero

    Don’t you know that fat people alone are to be trusted? Only in strong-walled vessels like these does everything get thoroughly cooked, only these capitalists of airspace are immune from worry and insanity, to the extent it is humanly possible, and only they can go calmly about their business and, as someone once said, they are the only useful citizens of this planet, for they provide warmth in the north and shade in the south. (Of course this can be twisted around, but then it isn’t true.)

  • http://somecamerunning.typepad.com Glenn Kenny

    Wyman’s self-congratulatory twaddle provides a useful case study in the ever-expanding field “Why People Can’t Stand Liberals.” And I say that as a bit of a lefty myself.

  • http://blogs.nypost.com/movies llumenick@aol.com

    Amen, Glenn. If Wyman had actually checked reviews, including mine, carefully, he would have found lots of references to fat people. I even called them Wall-Mart Nation.

  • mizerock

    The obese now outnumber the hungry, worldwide.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4793455.stm

  • storymark

    As the the question, are they supposed to represent Americans? I ask a question in response: What were the (only) three colors the humans were wearing on the ship?

  • Richardson

    the guy in the picture is wearing red and white, which could be Austria, Greenland, Indonesia, Latvia, Monaco, Poland, or Singapore (for a start). It also looks like he’s wearing a uniform with no flag on it, but that might just be the angle.

  • http://livingincinema.com Craig Kennedy

    Jeff is like that dog in the Far Side cartoon that only hears his own name when the human is talking to him but in this case it’s “blah blah blah fat people suck blah blah blah”
    Maybe more people aren’t commenting on this particular layer of the film because it’s the most obvious and least interesting angle.

  • http://livingincinema.com cjKennedy

    Jeff is like that dog in the Far Side cartoon that only hears his own name when the human is talking to him but in this case it’s “blah blah blah fat people suck blah blah blah”

    Maybe more people aren’t commenting on this particular layer of the film because it’s the most obvious and least interesting angle.

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    Why has AUNT SASSY been BANNED???
    I miss her insightful comments on film, and her bitchy commentary. She added a refreshing viewpoint to this site.
    FREE AUNT SASSY!!!

  • mylondonsun

    It doesn’t seem to me that this is really a direct attack on Americans – it’s an attack on any nation that has luxury cruise liners. If you’ve ever been on a cruise for a week, you’ve probably gained a few pounds. The initial expedition of the space cruise liner all the people were on was meant to last a few years, not 700! Any nation’s people would blow up like balloons if allowed to live such a sedentary life style. And, honestly, Americans are some fat people – in fact, I’m a fat American. And I was not offended by this film. Anyone who is needs to grow a thicker skin to go with their big bones.

  • doublexjohn
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    Sure, what what American conglomerate worth its salt isn’t international these days? If you want to say that the sort of commercializing and consumerism that they’re lampooning is inherently American, I wouldn’t personally argue with you, but that’s still an opinion which is informing the interpretation that it’s only talking about America.
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  • emogurl12

    I’m pretty sure Facebook is still THE site. Everybody I know uses it everyday. I know a couple of people who Twittered for about a month before forgetting all about it. online fax

  • crazzyy44

    Does ‘Wall-E’ really single the people out as Americans? If not, I’m pretty sure it is an interpretation — and, yes, “sub”text — to infer that they are meant to only represent Americans. I haven’t seen the movie, but reading that description, it sounds as if the point is that the entire human race has evolved into perfect consumers, which would perfectly fit with what I have been led to believe the theme is.coat rack

  • crazzyy44

    I have to watch again, but can anyone pay attention to whether all the future humans are the same, or slight variations on each other? So in a way the movie is non-sensical, faster than light travel, very advanced robotics, but no diets? Crazy talk. identity theft protection

  • http://www.miamiticketcompany.com/ miamiticket

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    leppe, what an original observation! If you in fact were to observe the world at all, you would find that many poor in places such as Latin America or Eastern Europe are overweight, due to the high starch content and poor quality of their food. You’re clearly the new Lenny Bruce though.
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  • miksol

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