One of the silver linings of being a mum or dad is getting to watch kids’ movies, especially animated ones, with impunity.
And one of my favourites is Wall-E.
Wall-E is old-school robot consigned to clean up a heavily polluted, uninhabitable urban Earth that humans have deserted for their intergalactic cruise liners hundreds of years ago. Wall-E just keeps going. Cleaning up. Watching musicals. (So far we have a lot of in common). But Wall-E is also a historian, a curator of an quirky trash ‘n treasure collection, and a custodian, not just of memories , but of life itself.
When the super-sleek latest model EVE lands on Earth for a regular search for signs of life, she comes upon Wall-E and is introduced to his most treasured find – an improbable seedling, green and alive in a brown landscape of towering junk. Seedling and Wall-E end up on the massive Axiom, where humans have settled into a sofa-bound life of mindless comfort and consumerism (all served by the trusty crew of robots – but that’s another story).
Even in the face of a (literally) crushing defeat by the Axiom’s sinister Auto Pilot, Wall-E does not opt out and leave the fledgling little seedling to be flushed out the airlock.
The little robot is more alive than the Axiom’s human passengers.
But then Captain, learning about Earth – home – for the first time, glimpses this. The centuries-long cruise has become a permanent exodus. Despite Auto’s evidence of an uninhabitable brown planet (that is almost unrecognisable to us), Wall-E’s little seedling fills him with the courage to declare – “I don’t want to survive . . . I want to live”.
[Of course, it ends happily and they all go home and grow a new Garden of Eden to the Peter Gabriel soundtrack (it is a kids’ movie after all). And now my almost-14 year old sage is telling me I have to read The Fault in Our Stars for a little intertextual Wall-E brilliance.]
I want to live. I want people to be alive, not surviving in miserable poverty or slaving away producing cheap crap that ends up polluting the land and sea and sky, nor simply, thoughtlessly consuming day by day. I want us to see Earth as home – really. Take it under our wing and nurture it. Put ourselves on the line for it. Be custodians – for Earth, for each other.
Otherwise, we’re just surviving.