Wall-E: Eco-cinema at it’s finest

Its been 8 years since Wall-E was released to the world. One of Disney/Pixar’s finest animated movies, it raked in many awards and is considered by Time magazine to be one of the top ten movies of the decade (2000-2010). It was also incredibly important to educate the young generation on the possible final consequences of our current consumerist society: a world full of trash.

Wall-E is not Disney’s first film to fall under the loose category of eco-cinema. Starting with Bambi (1942), Disney Studios challenged hunting culture. Even with it’s most recent release, Finding Dory (2016), Disney challenges the concept of keeping marine life in captivity, at aquariums and rehabilitation centers. It also challenged the accepted act of collecting fish out of the oceans, whether for aquariums or for consumption (think about the net scene at the end) in Finding Nemo (2003).

B. Thevenin, who wrote “Princess Mononoke and beyond: New nature narratives of children”, views Wall-E as a “dystopian societ[y] in which humans have ravaged the Earth in search of resources and are now struggling to regain an environmental conscience and revive the natural world” (2013). Wall-E does more than challenge our consumerism in the environmental sense, but also in a social sense as well. In space, humans interact with their projected screens on their roaming chairs, not each other. They also have become incredibly obese and barely able to walk. Thevenin also states that “these narratives acknowledge the immediate threat that issues like global warming pose and even seem to take for granted humanity’s inability to adequately address these problems (at least until after a global catastrophe).”

Some are concerned that Wall-E may send a message that humans will get a second chance on Earth after filling it with trash, giving up, and walking away, that we can rebound as a society. And while, with future technology, we very well maybe able to do this, some argue that we shouldn’t be promoting a message that allows for children to think that maybe walking away and coming back in a thousand years is the answer.

Disney has been known to promote stories which all “work out in the end”. In some ways, this is beneficial to childrens’ grasp of environmentalism. The term “ecophobia” is growing notoriety for environmental interpreters as they become aware that introducing children to the “doom and gloom” of our world’s problems early on can cause a desensitization later on. This is where Disney is doing right. It is teaching children an appreciation for our earth and its resources, without over whelming them with “the world is ending” messages. The complexities of humans returning to earth aren’t directly answered, but there is a commitment that is exhibited to renew it. It is said clearly in Murray and Heumann (2011):

“In WALL-E, questions regarding [environmental] conflicts remain unanswered. In a nod to the environmental contexts to which they respond, the conflicts remain too complex for a simple solution. Instead, the film draws on both human and organismic approaches to ecology and offers a resolution that requires an ongoing commitment to conservation and interdependence.”

If we hold onto this message of ongoing commitment to environmental preservation, then perhaps that acknowledges the attempts of the film-makers of Wall-E and other eco-cinema film makers who are trying to make the world a better place, one family movie at a time.

Sources Cited:

  • Murray, R. and Heumann, J. (2011), That’s all Folks: Ecocritical Readings of American Animated Features, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
  • Thevenin, B. (2013), ‘Princess Mononoke and beyond: New nature narratives for children’, Interactions: Studies in Communication & Culture 4: 2, pp. 147–170, doi: 10.1386/iscc.4.2.147_1
  • http://entertainment.time.com/2009/12/29/the-10-best-movies-of-the-decade/

The Art of Maps

I’m on of those people who simply does not have a single artist bone in my body. Creative? Maybe. Original? Not in the slightest. I have a Pinterest board because I need to be hand-fed ideas, not because I can dream them up all by myself.

So I am sharing my first ever GIS (Geographic Information Systems) class lab project. The prompt: create your own island, with roads, streams, and forests.

So I created an awesome island that I would live on in a heartbeat. But if you read the description, it sounds an awful lot like one of the Channel Islands in Southern California, which I didn’t realize until a few days later. But oh well. I said I wasn’t original.

Colby's Island

The reason I’m sharing this particular piece, even though it’s not a great masterpiece? I LOVE maps. There is a reason that I’m a Geospatial Analysis minor. Not because it’s a great job skill, even though it is. No, I am just obsessed with all of the ways you can represent spatial information. I am motivated by my love of all things geography. I love knowing why, how, where people and things are. One of my main focuses for the rest of my life will be coastal management, which also asks the why, how, and where people are on the coast, (and how long before their houses will fall into the ocean). Maps are just one tool that you can manipulate to show just about anything you want, because almost everything has a spatial relationship to something else. They can be simple, or busy, bland, or incredibly beautiful.

Because my artistry is less than museum-worthy, I am also sharing a recently discovered artist who has captured my attention because of the media he works with. Can you guess which media that is?

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Copyright: Matthew Cusick.
Kayli’s Wave
Inlaid maps, acrylic, on panel
42 x 63 inches

Yep, it’s maps. You may need to look very closely to see them. All collaged together to create one amazing piece of hypnotic artwork. Even when maps aren’t being used to show important spatial information on how to get from point A to point B, the still lend a sense of placement to any piece of art.

The artist, Matthew Cusick, based out of Dallas, TX,  combines maps that have a particular relevance and background that is important to whom the wave is named after. He also does other pieces, mostly involving collages. a link to his website is here: Matthew Cusick

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Copyright: Matthew Cusick.
Chasing the Dragon, 2006
Inlaid maps, acrylic on panel
40 x 64 inches

 

Video Games

My video game of choice:
Wii Just Dance 3.
Why:
Because the people I were dog sitting for had this game, and why the heck not?!

First off, does that even count as a video game? More like a work out routine!
Anyways, the variety of songs and levels was great, but it’s hard to keep going for 30 to 60 minutes straight without breaking out in some sweat. Why do people play this? Because they can escape to an alternate reality where they are some sort of backup dancer. That’s what I thought of as I was playing!

I believe that in general, video games let us escape to an alternate reality, maybe not one where they are back up dancers, but perhaps heroes of the kingdom, or galaxy.

While Just Dance Four hardly has any hint of violence, I could have definitely chosen a few that did, such as Star Wars, and, well I can’t even remember the names of the others, but they looked war-like.

War games are evolving quickly. In some ways, developers have heard the complaints on links between child aggression and video game violence. However, they can’t sacrifice entertainment. Like Christopher Beam mentioned in his article “Death from Above” on Slate, developers “don’t want to confront players with moral questions at every step”. The science on violence in games and links to child, young adult, and older adult aggression is lacking long term results. While television and aggression have been studied, “results suggesting a larger effect of video game violence.” If this is not a cause for worry, then what is?

While soldier violence and video games have yet to be officially linked, “they [accidentally kill civilians] because the killing itself feels like a game.” Some air force units, such as drone pilots, are required to wear airmen uniforms everyday, despite never actually leaving the ground, to remind them that they are pilots of a real aircraft. The 2007 killings in Bagdad revealed a weakness in that concept. So video games where developed to train and test problem solving and other non violent circumstances. After all, “video games are hardly to blame for the 2007 tragedy in Baghdad. But they could help to prevent the next one.”

Taking an Interest: Satire in the News

My first experience with parody news was the radio quiz show “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me” that aired from WBEZ Chicago to my local NPR affiliate, KCRW Santa Monica. Every Saturday morning, in the car on my way to dance lessons, volleyball practices, or camping trips, I listened along with my parents to news that were actually interesting, and amazingly enough, made me laugh. Some of the stories I realized were made up. Some of them, I made the mistake of believing and then was embarrassed when someone corrected me. It’s now pretty easy to tell the difference. I was about 12 years old when I first realized that I was essentially being tricked into being up-to-date on current events, to the joy of my parents and my social studies teacher, who delighted in my ability to share the latest news story in class every Friday. I am a prime example of those who are unaware for a certain period of time that they are being offered up the headlines of the week along with their brief summaries. If they are really motivated, they may even look up the full story behind the feature.

I think that parody news serves another function, to help with public moral, to lift spirits of those who would otherwise be drowning in constant bad news. In this day and age, it’s easy to be discouraged by a world “where the surreal and outrageous have become commonplace”. Shootings, terrorist attacks, unemployment, droughts, etc, are all overwhelmingly present and depressing. The satirical news can handle this in a way that makes us a little less anxious. They also serve to be an outlet that says what everyone else is thinking, but doesn’t have the guts to print.

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“And they’ve done so in ways that straight news programs cannot: speaking truth to power in blunt, sometimes profane language, while using satire and playful looniness to ensure that their political analysis never becomes solemn or pretentious”.

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What would make us cry on a typical news feature may now make us just roll our eyes or maybe giggle a little. The hosts of these shows have become some of the “many trusted news sources” because they are upfront, blunt, and giving us the truth in a way we can handle. That is why we turn to satire.

Documentaries

DamNation was one of the first documentaries that I ever watched that left me feeling almost as conflicted as when I sat down and turned in on. While some may feel that a lot of it was over exaggerated, like many documentaries, (like New York times film critic states, “When it comes to documenting reality, the lines between information and entertainment blur”) I feel that the only fantastical entertainment factor was the incredible stunts some of the film makers followed, such as painting a giant crack on dams in the middle of the night.

For those of you who have not seen in, it follows the history of dams in the United States, and their many pros and cons. The most obvious con being: the fish are dying.

The not so obvious pro: We gain a huge amount of power from many of these still operational dams, and shutting them down means going from a power source that is technically renewable, and have it be replaced by something not so renewable.

Feminism of ‘FireFly’

Firefly is a “American space western drama” television series that was released on Fox and ran for just 1 season, to the dismay of many. While it failed the reach high viewership during its run on the popular network channel, it became a cult classic after it released on DVD, which happened to feature the episodes in a different, more pleasing order.

It is set approximately 500 years in the future, in a system of planets that has recently been through a “civil war” of sorts. The main characters, which reside on a ship called Serenity are mainly smugglers, some of who were on the losing side of the war.

The writer of this series, Joss Whedon, was also responsible for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He gained critical acclaim with that series for breaking the thin blonde girl out of the “damsel in distress” mold, and pushing her into the spotlight as the strong, smart, heroine.

With the release of FireFly, many hoped that Whedon would create a similar break-though for the females of the newer show.

Four of the main characters are female (Zoe, the first mate; Kaylee, the mechanic; Inara, the Companion; and River, the child genius). Zoe, being the first mate, and a frontline soldier during the war, balances femininity and being a bad-ass, quite well, and promotes a strong, empowered female role model. Kaylee, the mechanic, is an inspiration to all potential female engineers and mechanics everywhere. River is the smartest, most powerful one on board, minus her frequent psychotic breaks brought on by abuse from her former captors. “All three of these female characters draw on a second wave feminist discourse in that they enjoy a seemingly equal relationship with the male crew members and do not trade on their femininity as a source of their power” (Dee-Chin, 178).

However, Inara, the Companion (a registered, high status sex worker) gives pause.  At first glance, she seems to be the perfect figure of breaking the stigma for sex workers. However, actions of other characters quickly dismiss the assumption that in this created world, all stigma surrounding sex workers has been forgotten.

Mal, the captain of Serenity, who is actually in love with Inara, is perhaps one of the most consistent characters to reinforce withholding acceptance of this type of work. He refuses to call her Companion, referring to her work as whoring instead. While he refuses to let anyone else use this term against her, he still reinforces the stigma.

This interaction leads me to believe that the author of “Tis a pity she’s a whore”, Dee Amy-Chinn, is correct when stating that this world portrayed in the series has not yet whole-heartedly accepted sex workers as respectable and honored. However, it seems to be a step up from what we have now. In this series, Inara is empowered with many choices, such as her prices and partners. However she is disempowered by the fact that outside of her work relationships, she may not enter into any sort of affections until she has retired. She is also subject to rigorous physical and health examinations, while her paying partners are not.

As Dee-Chin pointed out consistently, the world of FireFly is also still held by expectations that relationships that are lasting and wholesome are monogamous. This is reinforced even by Inara herself, when she “collapsed on the floor in tears, distraught that Mal had sex with another woman.” Monogamy is upheld today, and it seems to have carried over into the future. However, it is hard to imagine a world where people are free to have sexual relationships with multiple partners without jealousy getting involved. I most likely feel this way mainly because of the fact that I have been told be the media my entire life that cheating, affairs, they are bad, and that you should stick with your’e girlfriend/wife. If people who were educated from birth that monogamy is not the “right way”, were to then engage in relationships, it would be interesting to see if they were then able to overcome jealousy, and embrace multiple partners in a healthy way, or whether jealousy and insecurity over other partners would win out. It is essentially a question of whether monogamy is a result of nature (instinct) or nurture (taught by culture).

In essence, the series, at the surface, seems to be a shining example of feminism in the loosest sense of the term: powerful women shown to be equal with their male peers.But take a closer look, and I notice that there is always more ways to work towards equality and female empowerment.

Binge-Watching &the World of Streaming

Reading the New York Times article “Can Netflix Survive in the New World it Created?” startled me. I had almost forgotten that Netflix started out as a DVD rental company. It seemed that the DVD aspect of it was very important at it’s start, (after all it practically put Blockbuster out of business), yet now, I’m not sure I know anyone who subscribes to the DVD services.

When I first heard the term “binge-watching”, Netflix had already been streaming instant content for a year or two, but I can definitely remember partaking in the behavior long before I had access to that, nor knew the proper term for it. I was a big fan of renting two or three discs of various shows, FRIENDS and Avatar, the Last Airbender, being the ones I remember most clearly. In fact I remember complaining that Netflix was too slow for the pace I wanted to watch them. I didn’t have the chance to try streaming Netflix until I got to college. It was then that I discovered shows that had been on the air for a long time, that I suddenly had access to. I definitely took advantage. I’m not sure how I would define binge-watching for myself, however, as “there needs to be a ‘norm’.” in order to determine an excess. I’m not sure that I could establish a normal TV behavior, as my opportunities to watch Netflix do not follow any sort of set pattern. Having extremely limited access to internet or time to watch Netflix has left me with an extreme range of usage, from 30 minutes to probably 3-4 hours.

I think any thing past 2 hours I would consider bingeing, yet I wouldn’t consider it a negative thing until I had started ignoring responsibilities or had spent a beautiful day indoors. Living in Humboldt, you appreciate the sunny days a lot more, and if I ever spent a day like that indoors watching TV I would feel as if the time was wasted. But I don’t feel like sitting and relaxing, even for more than two hours, is wasted, when someone has a very mentally or physically taxing schedule, and needs to turn their mind of for a bit, as I sometimes need to.

Since my switch from Netflix to Amazon Prime (I still sneak on to my boyfriend’s Netflix every once in awhile) I have felt like my streaming time has decreased significantly, mainly due to the fact that the format that Amazon has does not seem to draw me in for long periods of time like Netflix did. However, Amazon offers a lower price and a lot more flexibility. Netflix definitely has it all figured out on how to keep their audience captive, and I believe that in itself will allow them to maintain their power as a dominate force in streaming. However, I cancelled my Netflix mainly because I was frusturated “with something was there one month and gone the next or why, for that matter, so many titles were missing entirely from Netflix’s catalog”. With HBO Go now available to everyone for a fee, not just cable subscribers, and a lot of networks streaming their own shows on their websites (most only for limited times and with ads), they will need to keep ahead of the game so they don’t their lose their edge, even in a “period of stability” as they claim to be right now.

Radio in III Acts

Radio, despite the incredible progresses in technology over the last century, is still a relevant and important source of information in the 21st century. While its deliver method has changed (streaming from the internet, or through satellite radio, alongside the car and alarm clock radios), it still holds a special place in many’s day. I agree with Jack Hitt, from the second act of This American Life, when he realizes “just how homogenized everything […] on the radio is”. The stations are littered with the Top 40, New Rock, New Country, New Pop, which, if you listen to a song on your way to the grocery store, you are going to hear it again on your way back home 30 minutes later. Talk radio is mainly dominated by NPR affiliates, sports and religious broadcast stations. Depending on what you like, radio may be great or it may be awfully boring and repetitive.

I couldn’t imagine my life without some sort of radio today. I am fortunate enough to have friends that put up with my constant tuning to whatever NPR or BBC station I can get. I’ve had “driveway moments” that actually end up being more like a “driveway hour” listening and waiting for a news story or talk show to end. I prefer to turn on my clock radio when I’m trying to get things done around the house rather than plugging in my iPod. However, I have also veered away from traditional radio and become a huge fan of podcasts. I got hooked on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me as a child, (WBEZ Chicago, NPR affiliate) and it actually became such a huge part of my Saturday mornings each week that when Carl Kassel retired as scorekeeper a couple years ago, I shed a couple tears. (Bill Kurtis is a pretty darn good successor though). I got hooked on the Serial podcast, like the rest of all podcasters did. Then I branched out slowly. I am now I big fan of Planet Money, This American Life, Fresh Air, Mortified, Criminal, and UnFictional. Some of these I can catch on NPR, others I need to go in search of via iTunes. I have done countless 12 hour drives to HSU from home and back again, and my first cross country road trip this summer, surviving mainly on these podcasts.

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The future of radio is not nearly as uncertain as the futures of other information industries, such as newspapers and magazines. Radio will continue to endure because it is there for you during times of need, because “Pandora can’t provide emergency news and information”. It will also be there through long waits in traffic, and can wake you up on that alarm clock radio. However, radios biggest downfall, is that if you don’t like something on this station or the next station or the next, your stuck. With the popularity of apps like Spotify, Pandora, and iTunes new radio/music streaming services, its hard to imagine that Top 40 stations will continue doing as well. Podcasts are the new, on demand talk show, that you can cater to your liking. Radio stations need to diversify if they want to remain a large force, rather than continue to diminish. It will never go away, but it will suffer.

 

Popular Music

Music is incredibly useful as a tool for communication. It has the potential to make us happy, make us cry, make us get up a dance.

Last week I chose to watch the MTV 25th Anniversary Special for The Rolling Stone magazine. I couldn’t help but notice that Nirvana was not only anti-corporate music, but also anti-corporate magazine, and anti-corporate everything. While I cannot claim to be an avid listener of Nirvana, I can claim to hear their messages in other music.

One of my favorite songs is the Hymn of Acxiom by Vienna Teng.

When I first heard it, I thought it was a beautiful hymn about a dysfunctional matchmaking experience. It wasn’t until I looked up the lyrics later on that they revealed the more haunting message behind it. (I’ve posted them below)


 

Somebody hears you. You know that. You know that.
Somebody hears you. You know that inside.
Someone is learning the colors of all your moods, to
(say just the right thing and) show that you’re understood.
Here you’re known.

Leave your life open. You don’t have- you don’t have-
Leave your life open. You don’t have to hide.
Someone is gathering every crumb you drop, these
(mindless decisions and) moments you long forgot.
Keep them all.

Let our formulas find your soul.
We’ll divine your artesian source (in your mind),
Marshal feed and force (our machines will)
To design you a perfect love—
Or (better still) a perfect lust.
O how glorious, glorious: a brand new need is born.

Now we possess you. you’ll own that. you’ll own that.
Now we possess you. you’ll own that in time.
Now we will build you an endlessly upward world,
(reach in your pocket) embrace you for all you’re worth.

Is that wrong?
Isn’t this what you want?
Amen.

I didn’t even know that Acxiom, a huge data collecting company, had millions of files of data on individuals and groups, all ready to be sold in order to most efficiently sell products to them. Like we learned in our social media units, “we are not the customer […], we are the product”.

This song is the result of Teng questioning the status quo, of data mining and collecting, and then using it to create a world of want and “need”. For those people like me, who enjoy a beautiful song, it’s an educational experience, and an eye-opener to the reality of our internet-filled society.

Vienna Teng’s independence as a musician has allowed her some independence, and the capability to express these without fear of her label’s backlash. I believe that this work fits the bill of being productive, honest, and independent all at once. However, not all artist are so lucky. Many, like Nirvana suffered from “a corporate entity using its power for censorship of an uncomfortable message”.

While the internet and cheaper audio editing software is allowing many artist to self-produce their work, we may be able to void the corporate control all together and,”music [may] be a productive cultural force, helping audiences become united in the goal to be better ancestors” yet.

 

 

 

Magazines

The Rolling Stone magazine took an “innocent” thing: listening and enjoying music, and turned it into a popularity contest with judges, aka, the editors and reporters. They took the judgement away from the people, and gave it to themselves for mass distribution. However, one of the artists made a very good point in saying “there are critic’s bands versus popular bands”, and The Rolling Stone may try to pass judgement, but it won’t be able to completely dictate what becomes truly popular. It brings me back to last week when we learned the difference between things being popular, versus things that are created to mimic popularity. The Rolling Stone has no doubt made a huge impact in the music industry, but even though it was slow to follow rap, and then punk, it didn’t stop those genres from becoming what they are today. However, there is also no doubt that the magazine inspired somewhat of an interest in the band members past the music, mainly because the reported were asking questions and writing from a “fan’s perspective”. If the magazine hadn’t zoomed in on those artist’s lives, there may not have been such personal interest that we feel today with artists. These interviews have the power to connect us and enable us to feel a personal connection to their music.

These magazines hold greater power than we know. After all, who hasn’t browsed the titles and gossip while waiting in line at the grocery store? What girl hasn’t been affected in some way, shape or form, by what she saw on the cover of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Shape, or other magazines that habitually feature beautiful women, that are airbrushed to be even more (fake) beautiful. In some ways, these magazines have empowered females. Vogue showcases successful women on a regular basis. Cosmopolitan allowed girls (who were maybe brave enough to sneak some issues into the house) to feel more comfortable with sexuality. Even, so far back as the 1970s, where sex is still a little bit taboo, the cover conveys “female sexual empowerment”, through “the gentle submission of the male model to the bikni-clad woman”. But these magazines also disempower us by holding us to certain ideals or molds, that don’t need to apply to everyone, and are sometimes darn near impossible to achieve.