Wall-E, Economics, Nationality, and Androgynous Love

https://i1.wp.com/images.rottentomatoes.com/images/features/wall_e/wall-e_3.jpgI wrote a pretty glowing review of Wall-E over at Pushback, but I had a few more thoughts to add about the film. And that’s really all these are, completely incoherent thoughts, so I apologize for the stream of conscious style babble.

I was a little bothered by a few complete absences or blind spots in the film, like any seemingly non-Americans carrying on the human race on the space station, and the impossible economics of the movie. Right, right, it’s a kids’ movie. I know. But like, didn’t those people lounging around for 800 years in space have to pay for their ride? So, where were the poor people? Did they all die amid that garbage dump? Was that just too harsh a reality to show us alongside the rusted up Wall-E’s scattering the trash filled landscape? If that wasn’t it, how was that space endeavor being funded?

Now back to the nationality weirdness. Everyone on the space station was apparently American. Where was everyone else? Did they die out like the poor people?

So like, were we supposed to notice these gaps and then think the portrayed dystopia was even more disastrous because survival was so selective, or were the writers just completely blind to class issues — make that, money — and massively ethnocentric? Perplexing.

And so as not to go bizarrely from praise worthy post to condemnatory post, I’ll add one more thing I loved about it: how fabulously ungendered Eve and Wall-E were! I know, they had vaguely feminine and vaguely masculine names, but the animators so easily could’ve given them masculine and feminine secondary sex characteristics. Eve could’ve been a pink robot or worn a bow. As it was, she didn’t do anything particularly feminine. She did hardcore work and even carried a weapon. Wall-E was the twitter pated character and a dreamer, even though he was also a traditional blue-collar worker. I can’t even remember if they referred to each other as him or her or she and he at all during the film. They were like this close to being completely unsexed characters, and therefore, so close to being potentially interpreted as a queer couple. For a kids’ movie, this couple felt kinda radical…

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Dora the Explorer and the global economy

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Check out this wonderfully enlightening piece from Bitch Magazine about the socioeconomic realities of U.S. consumer relationships with Latina labor, in contrast to the unreality American parents love about the hit children’s cartoon Dora the Explorer. Here’s just a sample:

Throughout her adventures, Dora enjoys an unusual geographic mobility, crossing landscapes but never distinct borders, always returning home rather than staying somewhere new. Her animated domain is devoid of references to social class, labor, or a currency-based economy.

But in reality, Dora is less a global citizen than a global commodity, a marketing dream of multicultural merchandise that simultaneously appeals to Anglo and Latino parents and children. Ultimately, Dora is the product of a global television market and serves the transnational capital interests of Viacom, which owns Nickelodeon, and Mattel, whose subsidiary Fisher-Price makes Dora toys that are sold worldwide. As the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood documents, the Dora franchise has earned over $3.6 billion dollars in retail sales since debuting in 2000.

Dora’s starring role in the lucrative global television market stands in sharp contrast to the role real Latinas have played in a more literal form of television production, in which maquiladora trumps exploradora. First created in the 1960s, maquiladoras are foreign-owned Mexican factories in which imported raw materials and components are assembled into products that are exported for sale. Women constitute about 80 percent of the maquiladora workforce; according to Maquilapolis, a documentary by Vicky Funari and Sergio De La Torre, women are recruited because factory owners consider them docile low-wage laborers.

Ah, I just love hard-hitting, pop cultural criticism.

Retro Recap: Millionaire Matchmaker

While I recognize that last winter’s reality tv doesn’t sound terribly retro, it is the material of a season already ended, which in show biz, is pretty out of fashion. And as there is a bit of a lull between reality tv’s spring cycle and the summer cycle (and therefore, I’m bored), I thought I’d take us back with a series on some of yesterday’s best and worst creations:

While trying to catch episodes of my Bravo-network favorite, Project Runway, last winter, I frequently stumbled upon something called The Millionaire Matchmaker, which follows entrepreneur Patti Stanger’s Millionaire’s Club, a dating service for – you guessed it – millionaires. Sounds simple enough and right on par with TV execs’ obsession with showing us the privileged but dramatic lives of rich people, right? But the show quickly reminds us there is no materialism like gendered materialism!

I was surprised to find that this Millionaire’s Club, is not, it turns out, simply a service for rich and powerful men and women to meet and search for the sparks of romance. Should I really have expected any gender neutrality when it came to a show about dating and money? What Stanger means by “millionaires,” is “millionaire men,” and when she says it’s her job to find them “love,” what she means is to find them hot women who are neither wealthy nor particularly successful. In fact, as I learned watching her interview potential matches for her millionaire clients, the opposite is desired. Stanger told one woman who introduced herself as a doctor to lose the doctor bit because “men don’t want to compete in the bedroom.” Wait, what does being a doctor have to do with competition or the bedroom? Kinky, Patti. Very kinky.

In addition to telling us what it is men want and don’t want, Stanger breaks down what women want, informing one client that no woman will want to date him because he lives in a modest home rather than a flashy apartment.

Are men really so put off by dating intelligent women? Are women really so vain? Why is the expected counterpart to a wealthy man a beautiful woman, rather than a wealthy woman? These stereotypes could be obliterated if people like Stanger didn’t insist on policing the gendered standards of success like it’s her job – even though, I guess technically it is.