Friday, July 11, 2008

The Only Thing Fat (And Dying) Is Your Head

"Wall-E is an innovative and visually stunning film, but the "satire" it draws is simple-minded. It plays off the easy analogy between obesity and ecological catastrophe, pushing the notion that Western culture has sickened both our bodies and our planet with the same disease of affluence. According to this lazy logic, a fat body stands in for a distended culture: We gain weight and the Earth suffers. If only society could get off its big, fat ass and go on a diet!

But the metaphor only works if you believe familiar myths about the overweight: They're weak-willed, indolent, and stupid. Sure enough, that's how Pixar depicts the future of humanity. The people in
Wall-E drink 'cupcakes-in-a-cup,' they never exercise, and if they happen to fall off their hovering chairs, they thrash around like babies until a robot helps them up. They watch TV all day long and can barely read.

It ought to go without saying that this stereotype of the 'obese lifestyle' is simply false. How fat you are has a lot more to do with your genes than with your behavior. As much as 80 percent of the variation in human body weight can be explained by differences in our DNA. (Your height is similarly heritable.) That is to say, it may not matter that much whether you eat salads or drink 'cupcakes-in-a-cup,' whether you bike everywhere or fly around in a Barcalounger. If you have a propensity to become obese, there's only so much that can be done about it.

The desire to link obesity and environmental collapse seems to have more to do with politics than science."

-- Daniel Engber, putting the lie to Wall-E's (and dumb liberal's all-too-willing) lies - and their unspoken desire to be prejudiced - in

1 comment:

  1. BAH... Proof that you can be offended by anything if you put your mind to it.

    If you actually watch the movie, and pay attention, there's nothing of the sort going on. A very normal-looking Humanity (some fat, some thin, you know... Normal) boards giant starships to escape the spoil of the planet, and spends 700 years adrift in space waiting for the automated systems left behind to clean it up. There's a scene where they explain quite handily that long term exposure to the microgravity evironment has caused a loss of bone mass (A documented scientific phenomena), and as a result, humanity has become much more sedentary.

    Moreover, the humans are depicted as intelligent, compassionate, motivated, courageous - ultimately brushing away their psysical limitations and stepping away from their pampered lifestyles to return to do the right thing and recolonize the planet. The people weren't depicted as pathetic because they were "fat"; the scene where the guy is pushed out of his hover-chair has him flailing a bit, sure, but its every bit as much because he's simply disoriented. I found it refreshingly devoid of any attempt at ham-fisted political message, despite the elements of the story that would normally be pounced upon and beaten for all they were worth.

    If there was a message to this movie I'd have to say it was something along the lines of "don't become too distracted with things that don't matter", and I think the author of this piece would do well to learn that lesson.