Wednesday, July 9, 2008


I went to see Wall-E (with the family that visited us last week) and found myself thinking of several lovely, pertinent points made about men and women.

It's strange that two robots could illustrate something about humans, but these did. Wall-E, a robot designed to be an (as his acronym explains)"Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth Class" works all day long compacting human trash. When he goes home he's got a robotic cockroach buddy (that he regularly accidentally runs over).

Wall-E is alone on earth (all humans have left because the trash and pollution have made earth unliveable), but even his cockroach pal doesn't help his loneliness. Wall-E is the only one left, alive, of his kind. And he longs for someone like him. It made me think of Genesis after Man is done naming all the animals, how he realizes he's sort of a lonely guy, no one around like him (Gen 2:20). Wall-E's so lonely that he practices holding hands with himself and watched "Hello Dolly" ceaselessly. There is no companion for Wall-E either.

Until EVE arrives. EVE (Extra-Terrestial Vegetation Evaluator) is a green-hunting robot from the humans' space station checking out to see if earth's inhabitable. Several things strike me about EVE. First she's strong, very sophisticated (she's just a WOW! piece of machinery, next to her Wall-E looks clunky, but we find he's got quite a resilience and prowess that get easily overlooked next to EVE), she's a bit of a mystery and puzzle to Wall-E and sort of intense. I thought, "BRILLIANT! A strong female lead, hope she doesn't do what many over-powering women of the movies do (I'm thinking of Catwoman types) stifle, one-up, belittle the males in the plot." At first you're sort of worried she's going to blow-up Wall-E with her space-age blaster. But interestingly enough, despite quite a few painfully awkward moments for Wall-E, EVE brings out Wall-E strength, boldness and love.

EVE makes Wall-E stronger. And Wall-E changes EVE, too. But you have to see the movie to discover how.

I love it when I see movies pair a strong female (even if it's a robot) with a male who is not lessened by her strength. My soul gives a sigh of delight.

A final fascinating point about EVE. She, like her Biblical counterpart (Gen 3:20), is holding life within her body. And this life, given to her by Wall-E, is the linchpin that solves the earth's and human's problems. Reminded me of another Woman who held life inside her, a Life that was the linchpin for all our problems (see Romans 8:20-23).


catherine Illian said...

I can't wait to see the movie-- I was looking forward to it before-- but you've made me even more eager--
Thanks for your faithful presence and thoughtful contribution to my life and many others.
our little man turns one tomorrow-- I can't believe he is almost a year old.

Chris said...

Now I can't wait to see it! Thanks.

Paula said...

Yay! I was hoping this was a good one! How's it's entertainment value?

patrick said...

Wall-E totally looks like the robot from "Short Circuit"... minus the cheesy 80's style of course

Becky said...

I just saw the movie last night, and I love your analysis--right on! I must admit I was a little embarrassed by the fact that I almost cried over two robots in a movie. But I suppose the themes are real even if the characters are not. :)

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Entertainment value is superb, enjoyable, funny, profound, unexpected, hopeful....

Yes Johnny-5 from "Short Circuit". I think he must have been Wall-E's inspiration!

It made me tear up, too

orangewave said...

beautifully stated. i saw the movie but definitely didn't get this out of it. thanks for offering your perspective. very insightful.

Andrea said...

Thank you for your poetic column on your experience with that movie. I just saw it yesterday with my husband and I actually cried at the end! I felt pretty silly, but of course the story isn't simply about robots going about their directives - it's a love story. And the search for love and completeness is never-ending, universal and timeless. I also appreciate the parallels you draw with scripture - I hadn't considered them, and your words enrich my experience with the movie all the more. Guess I'll have to buy it in the fall!

Steve said...

I just found your blog and love your heart, perspective and passion - as illustrated by this post. If you haven't yet read the interview with WALL-E director Andrew Stanton, you'll love it.

God Bless you Jonalyn

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Hi Steve,
Glad you found me! Yes that is a good article, it helped inspire me to see Wall-E and write this.
Hope you post often!

I forgot to write and tell you how often we enjoy looking at Jack's screamingly happy face on our refridgerator (the one you sent for Valentine's). I'm glad you visit and read me here. :)

mike said...

great to see a movie tackle an epic theme and not sell-out (ala Caspian). Too often we see movies with what we expect to be great heart, lose the heart of what would make the movie great!

Interestingly - the screen duo pairs great design (EVE) with great character (WALL-E). least that's on the surface! We find that ultimately WALL-E is perfectly designed for his purpose, and EVE has equally profound character - they are just not their most obvious attributes. Not a bad illustration for our human co-founders there either! :)

Anonymous said...

Wall-E and Eve...Every feminists dream.

Your insights hold as long we overlook the media version of masculinity: an outdated, clunking, incompetent buffoon who needs to be rescued by the powerful female. In fact, the whole operation needs to be female run because men are blundering idiots who only do good by accident. They are more like puppy dogs than men.

Every major network and nearly every cable network carries at least one show, or some instances several, that have male characters of this sort.

If Wall-E had anywhere near the competence, intelligence and strength Eve possessed, the story would evaporate...

...and perhaps become the animated Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

A wonderful comment that I think responds (though I know you didn't meant it to) to Anonymous' comment below. Yes, they are uniquely built for their purposes, in ways we don't see right away.

Anonymous, let me level with you
1- I agree that many TV and movies portray men as buffoons, but I'm afraid you're mistaken with Wall-E. He is not a buffoon!

2- Why are you upset to see his silly attempts to win EVE? I think it both endearing and beautiful. A true sacrificing of self, real agape love.

3- Does Wall-E's silly tries make you worried that his masculinity is threatened? But, all human are silly, men and women.

Do you see Wall-E in any way as a failure? If so then, do you see how EVE failed, too?

You failed to mention all the ways EVE was portrayed as the stereotypical woman, with tons of problems. In fact, I found her less likeable than Wall-E, because she was not vulnerable.

For instance, EVE was easily disturbed aka overly-sensitive (with that taser blasting every which way) distant, closed (literally closed off from Wall-e once mission accomplished), icy, demanding, unrelenting, impossible mysterious and distant where she should have been warm.

I did not think Wall-e was outdated or a buffoon. He was necessary in that model and that size to do a very significant job (see Mike's comment above). And he did it well. Perhaps what you did not see was that what you call his buffoonery was actually his love for EVE. Love does that to every one of us. It makes EVE disobey orders, sacrifice her world to join Wall-E's in his.

That's not a secular feminist's dream, but it is a Christian feminists duty, namely, to submit to those we love.