Disney’s “WALL-E” is a 2008 family movie with urgent lessons we can apply today to preserve the good in society. The main life lesson viewers take out of the film is environmental consciousness, as we only have one Earth, and the movie depicted a heavy, dystopian consequence of continually failed attempts to live sustainably.
“WALL-E” is a work of science fiction that takes place hundreds of years in the future where humanity has driven itself off Planet Earth and into outer space out of dire necessity, as waste and pollution have rendered the planet unsustainable for life to survive on it. The enormous spaceship, called the Axiom, carrying the people of Earth left behind one of the main characters, WALL-E, a simple robot whose only job is to compact trash and avoid dust storms. Upon meeting a futuristic, female robot who assesses land for plant life, EVE, he catches her eye and follows her back on the Axiom.
The movie subtly provides three steps to a well-rounded, preserved and happier global society, and they include the following.
Be stronger than the status quo.
Over 11,000 viewers watched an eight-second YouTube video called “Try Blue – It’s the New Red!” a comical scene from “WALL-E” that takes place on the spaceship that encompasses the core of much of Gen Z’s unhappiness.
Humanity, in the film, is made up of obese, screen-dependent people who wear identical red clothing. In the scene, all together, they watch a short advertisement of computer-generated, muscular and slim people and families wearing blue. The speaker in the ad says “Try blue—it’s the new red!” The people watching the advertisement together gaze in awe, and, as if they’re robots, click a simple button that changes the color of their clothes from red to blue. They then proceed to return to their personal screens and drinks.
People are not robots. We are not destined to look the “best” among our peers, be the prettiest or the most handsome, appear the wealthiest or wear the best clothes since none of these determine our worth, even though everything online may be fighting for our attention to suggest otherwise. The same applies for the things we cannot see. Grades are a good example. While it is important to score well, it is not important if it bears an expensive cost to our mental health so we can please others.
“Comparison is the thief of joy,” Theodore Roosevelt famously stated. Just as it was of utmost importance for those in the scene to wear the new, fashionable blue, this is arguably a simple allegory of how quick we are to compare ourselves to others who have or not have certain articles of clothing or grades. While it is different to simply want what someone else owns and want to obtain it through ethical means, we are to not covet what our neighbors have. This can extend to social media use and instant gratification, knowing what a danger it is to our self-concept to compare ourselves to others.
Use technology in moderation.
Over 162,000 viewers watched a minute-and-a-half YouTube video called “Culture on the Axiom,” a futuristic, but somehow dismal expression of the future. The people in the scene appear content as they use their screens.
In this scene, the Axiom is almost depicted as if it is one giant social media app in which everyone is physically immersed. Every which way is something vying for everybody’s attention, as everyone already lives an extravagant lifestyle. Our instantly gratifying society has a great power to keep us looking at our smartphone screens, but this boost of dopamine, the feel-good hormone, works similarly to addictive drugs.
According to Healthline, the brain can become accustomed to the increased level of dopamine, making it the new “normal” level of happiness. Thus, when we wean ourselves off our screens, the brain would then emit suboptimal levels of satisfaction, forming a self-made sadness that attempts to be fulfilled with more screen time. This discontentment can lead to compulsive behavior, as the phone begins to feel more like a necessity than a luxury.
Society thrives on social interaction, and the economy thrives on convenience. It is important to keep each other company in person and remember the quality time we give to others.
There is no such thing as a pointless job.
“WALL-E” is a robot built to perform seemingly menial work: Pick up the trash. Compact the trash. Place the compacted trash cube with the other ones. Collect cool treasures along the way to show your pet roach. It may not sound like an impressive job description at first, but certainly the most laborious.
Even if work is seemingly pointless, there’s likely a greater good attached to the job description. WALL-E compacted and organized trash, but helped save the earth one block at a time. Those whose jobs are to clean are creating a sanitary, presentable space to prepare the way for people of great authority. Those whose jobs are to take orders for students’ food are helping to feed hundreds, if not thousands, of college students, some of whom will be the first in their families to graduate from a university.
According to a Hart Research study in 2014 called “Falling Short? College Learning and Career Success,” 96 percent of employers agree that all students, regardless of their majors, should have real world experience that teaches them problem solving with people whose views are unlike their own. Having experience is an advantage, employers say.
Where does society go from here?
Disney’s “WALL-E’ reminds us of practical, manageable changes we can all make for a happier society. Take care of the environment one step at a time, but also take care of yourself one step at a time. Remember to be strong, power down, and think optimistically.
“My mission in life is not to merely survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” -Maya Angelou