Wall-E: Life on Auto-pilot

Posted: October 9, 2012 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Drama, Family
Tags: , , , , , ,

When the Disney-Pixar classic WALL-E came out in the Summer of 2008, I remember hearing how boring it was from many disappointed children and teenagers.  After all, there was hardly any dialogue for almost two-thirds of the movie!  Sure, the robot romance was cute, as well as Wall-E’s bumbling antics, but how can we be expected to enjoy a movie without a bunch of funny lines to parrot to our friends?

If this was your general impression, then it’s high time to rent the DVD and watch Wall-E again.  There are just too many discussion starters for your family, and that’s even including small children who just enjoy watching robots fall in love.  For example, you can talk about the excesses of consumerism and how it leads to waste and slothfulness.  Or, you can discuss how it’s not too far-fetched to believe that sinful human beings can literally trash our planet rather than care for it.  And, you can use the film to think more deeply about the gift of life itself, and how God is the source of life by His goodness and grace.  Finally, if you have older children, you can even talk a bit about politics and the “green” movement.

But the one theme that certainly deserves exploring is the tendency of people, even Christians, to live their lives on “auto-pilot.”  In the movie, the inhabitants of earth have been forced to leave after ruining the planet, embarking on the huge spaceship Axiom in order to allow robots to clean up all the garbage.  The original plan was for this to only take five years; but, it’s now almost seven hundred years in the future and only one robot, Wall-E, is still doing his job.  The spaceship (owned by the evil large corporation Buy and Large, of course) has been on auto-pilot for all of these centuries, aimlessly traveling through space.  This provides a vivid backdrop for what’s going on in the inside of the ship: Men and women just aimlessly living their lives on auto-pilot.

There are many humorous, and poignant, aspects of life on the starship Axiom.  The residents are all extremely overweight because they have been confined to mobile recliners.  They are often talking to other people in their chairs rather than the persons right next to them.  The denizens constantly consume everything Buy and Large sells them.  Manipulative advertising surrounds them, even convincing them to change their outfits to new colors because “red is the new blue.”  Is all of this getting pretty close to home?  Should we see ourselves in the inhabitants of Axiom?

The climax of the movie surrounds the actions of not just the robots (Wall-E and Eve) but the captain.  Since a sliver of life was found by Wall-E and Eve on earth, it’s time to return and reinhabit.  Unfortunately, the “auto-pilot” of the Buy and Large corporation ship doesn’t want this to happen.  Only captivated consumers are wanted, not free inhabitants of a renewed planet!  Enter the enlightened captain, who awakens from his own slothful stupor to say this classic line: “I don’t want to survive…I want to live!”  He then fights the auto-pilot in order to return the people back to earth to begin life again.

All those outside of Christ are truly living their lives on auto-pilot, whether they know it or not.  As Jesus preaches in Matthew 6, pagans are just living for the basic things of this world–food, drink, clothes, etc.  They are just existing here, consuming their lives away until they either die or Christ returns.  Their lives are meaningless, even if they happen to be producing things that we can enjoy.

But what about Christians?  Can we live on auto-pilot too?  Again in Matthew 6, Jesus infers that Christians can and often do spend their days just pursuing the elemental things of life.  We can act just like pagans–drifting through life as consumers, becoming “obese” as we feast on the abundant goodness of the LORD.  Whether we recognize or not, many Christians can just put it on mindless auto-pilot, blissfully waiting for heaven on recliners of ease.  Instead of fighting as soldiers of Christ, working as laborers in His field, we can be lulled to sleep by the cares and products of this world.  We can just “let life happen,” tuning out, slothfully refusing to really work out our salvation.  After all, we get heaven however we live this life, right?  Unfortunately that’s one of the greatest manipulations of Satan, as he loves to make Christians into inactive players in this spiritual battle.

So get the whole family together and watch Wall-E.  Challenge each other with these simple questions: Are you living your life on auto-pilot?  Do you want to live, or just survive?

  1. Clark says:

    Great post, Josh. A further aspect of this same theme is born out in the robot romance. Wall-E, who has known real isolation, wants to connect so badly that he cares for the disabled Eve though he has just met her. The inhabitants of Axiom are so plugged in that they have no real connections at all, though they are surrounded by people. Plus, Fred Willard is in it.

    • John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. says:

      Great observation, Clark! This movie definitely deserves three or four posts with so much to talk about from beginning to end. Even the robot romance! Oh, and by the way, this is John Kwasny, not Josh Kwasny–and I wrote the post. Hard to tell those Kwasny boys apart!

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