Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Robots are far too advanced for traditional gender roles.

After reading so many extremely positive and enthusiastic reviews, I expected Wall-E to be fantastic. And it did not disappoint. But not only was it great in all the ways I expected, it was also great in other, unexpected ways! The most pleasant surprise of all was the romantic relationship between the two robots, Wall-E and EVE.

Granted, they are robots with no apparent sexual characteristics. But they are very clearly characterized as masculine and feminine, if not technically male and female. Their names, "voices," general appearances, and of course, the fact that EVE's body is designed to house, protect, and nurture a plant all indicate and reinforce the idea that Wall-E is the boy robot and EVE is the girl robot.

And yet Wall-E and EVE's relationship dynamic totally flies in the face of traditional gender roles! Wall-E is totally the trailing spouse! He follows EVE all the way to outer space, where he supports her and encourages her in accomplishing her "directive." EVE is smarter, stronger, more aggressive and assertive, and more skilled than Wall-E. She flies and has a gun-arm! But is Wall-E, a humble trash compacter, threatened by any of this? Never. In fact, it seems to be a major source of his attraction to her. Wall-E further subverts gender stereotypes by being the more emotional, nurturing partner. Initially, EVE is cold and emotionless, because, you know, she's a robot. But Wall-E has developed emotions and a personality after being stranded alone on Earth for 700 years, hanging out with a friendly cockroach and watching
Hello Dolly! He woos EVE and, to put it in excruciatingly sappy terms, he teaches her how to feel. She gradually responds by developing an emotional attachment to him. Once this mutual emotional attachment has developed, they are both endlessly loyal and patient with one another. I don't want to give away the ending, but suffice it to say that while both robots behave heroically, I found EVE's heroics to be a particularly refreshing departure from the expected.

And yet Wall-E's overall masculinity and EVE's femininity never come into question. In addition to all its other progressive and valuable messages, Wall-E depicts an extremely positive example of a healthy relationship unhindered by sexist and unreasonable gender roles. Of course, this idyllically modern relationship occurs between two robots, who are unencumbered by the issue of sex or actual biological differences. But nevertheless, I consider it a welcome step in the right direction.


Brad said...

Great interpretation Caitlin I completely agree. I saw the movie and enjoyed the entire thing all of the underlying messages completely played into the "Show, don't tell" style this movie used for it's main portion. Also not to be over critical when you talk about eve being emotionless, your next sentence leads one to believe that eve had been on earth for 700 years with the cockroach, in my opinion

Caitlin said...

Good call, Brad. I tried to fix it...hopefully it's more clear now. And thanks for the comment!

Hodge said...

Good read, I always enjoy reading what others think the real meaning behind movies is, like for instance this odd view of what Toy Story is really all about.

Anonymous said...

Well I'm sorry I passed it up for Wanted. I'm for anything that pushes the female/male relationship thing in a new direction