Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The price of Wall-E, gas, frappacino and matching clothes

My thoughts are scattered. There's too much to think about and I'm tired. I just got back from a trip to Princeton, New Jersey, and I'm left wondering whether I am now in the real world or I have just left it. Perhaps the question is wrong. The world I live in; poor, rural and isolated, is as real (or fake) as any other, just as the rarefied world of Princeton is (or not).

My mind is rather stuck on the film I saw, Wall-E. First, I haven't been to a movie theater in years. We got there early and I watched folks fill up the seats, wondering what made them look different than the people I see on a regular basis. Some impressions: Everyone had a decent haircut. They were mostly thin and tanned (but not too much). Their clothes looked new, freshly laundered and pressed. And lastly, their clothes matched. Oh, not to each other's (though that may be true, now that I think of it) but if they wore khaki, they had brown shoes or if they wore white, they didn't have black shoes on.

The theater was air conditioned, which would be true anywhere in the country, I'd imagine, but it was cold, cold enough to have wished I brought a sweater. Isn't there an energy crisis? You wouldn't have guessed it from sitting in this theater. Nor would you have guessed it from the amount of people on the road. The cars looked as new as the clothes (not that that has anything to do with oil prices, or does it?)

Dick and I had been bemoaning the lack of beater cars in Maine. When I drove over the border into Maine, I noticed that we had been mistaken. The laws may have become more stringent, and so the rusted out pick-up trucks are a thing of the past (or a thing of the most off the beaten path roads), but suddenly, I no longer saw such waxed, clean, and shiny cars. After I crossed the bridge from New Hampshire into Maine, I never saw another Prius (which is a shame, for us poor folks need 'em even more).

But back to the movie, Wall-E. This movie cost over 100 million dollars to make. All that for a film with the thinnest of messages. All that for some entertainment (and not even that much entertainment, at that). Think of all the money wasted each year on films. What if that money were put to some humanitarian use? Would it be enough to feed all the hungry? I'm guessing the answer is yes.

Don't get me wrong - I am not against entertainment. I love to be entertained. I watched an hour of dumb entertainment tonight, an episode of NCIS (which provides not a whit of thought provocation). Yet, while watching the highly lauded Wall-E, a film that 97% of all film critics thought was outstanding (and that is a bit scary), I felt the wretched feeling of knowing that there is just so much wealth in our nation, and a good amount of people aren't getting it who deserve it. People like teachers, in particular.

What did this 100 million dollar movie tell us? Hmmm. I ponder. Number one: robots can fall in love! Isn't that lovely? Some critic said that my heart would melt. It did not. In fact, my heart hardened up a bit. I don't respond well to such blatant manipulation of my emotions. The swelling music! The cute little robot hands that held each other! The robot voices that tried - oh, how they tried - to connect, to speak each other's names!

Meanwhile, humans had covered the earth with garbage, became too fat to stand up and drank slurpies all day on a spaceship. Two little lovebird robots woke them from their dreaming life! They went back to earth and planted seeds and everything was a-okay again. The end.

Sorry. This person, who happens not to be all that cynical, doesn't buy any of it. What is the moral of the story? We can pollute and destroy without consequences and that robot love will save the day?

Someone said "It's for kids". If it is, it's still a lousy lesson. And if I were a kid, I would have been bored after ten minutes. Oh wait - I was bored after ten minutes.

Maybe they just needed 100 million dollars more for a thinking person to write a better script.

Okay. Let's move on.

I stopped in Massachusetts, needing a cold cup of coffee. I went to Starbucks, which, believe it or not, does not have a store anywhere in normal driving distance of my home. I bought a "tall" frappucino, which cost me $4.37. If I consider it to be akin to fuel for my body, then I suppose it was a fair price, seeing that gas for my car at this rest area was $4.29.

My entire trip seemed like a hallucination of sorts. I took a short stroll on the grounds of Princeton University, where it is beautiful, bordering on awe-inspiring. But that was but a short respite. The rest of my stay was a blur of malls and roads. They could have been in Anywhere, USA. I've been aware of the de-regionalism of this country for a long time, but the gravity of the situation truly struck me on this visit.

If it wasn't for the company, I could have been an hour from my home. What did I see? Walmart. Target. Borders. Best Buy. And all the rest of them. . .the same food and the same products.

I only hope that the education at Princeton hasn't become as generic as the community that surrounds it. I fear that it may have become so. If we educate our young to appreciate what is outside the box, wlll they accept the boxes that they will live in and shop in?

I'm all over the map tonight. I'll stop here. I want to give every tidbit of reportage above more thought. I may need some prodding. After all, the garden I came home to needs attending to, or at least more viewing. And today, I saw a fledging rose breasted grosbeak near the bird feeders.

I ought to publicly thank the big chain stores for making bird seed affordable to me. Thanks, Ocean State Job Lot!

Photo note: Wall-E and Eve
Yes, they are cute.


Websafe said...

Saw "Wall-e," as it had robots and was by Pixar. Paid full price, too. Left feeling as you did.

If you want actual art on the same theme, try Roger Zelazny's 1966 sci-fi fable, which haunts me to this day:

patrick said...

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

Websafe said...

In the current New Yorker, David Denby gave "WALL-E" a great review. Huh? Bet Anthony Lane would've skewered it!