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The Hidden Message in Pixar’s Films
By Kyle Munkittrick | May 14, 2011 10:53 am
I love Pixar. Who doesn’t? The stories are magnificently crafted, the characters are rich, hilarious, and unique, and the images are lovingly rendered. Without fail, John Ratzenberger’s iconic voice makes a cameo in some boisterous character. Even if you haven’t seen every film they’ve made (I refuse to watch Cars or its preposterous sequel), there is a consistency and quality to Pixar’s productions that is hard to deny.
Popular culture is often dismissed as empty “popcorn” fare. Animated films find themselves doubly-dismissed as “for the kids” and therefore nothing to take too seriously. Pixar has shattered those expectations by producing commercially successful cinematic art about the fishes in our fish tanks and the bugs in our backyards. Pixar films contain a complex, nuanced, philosophical and political essence that, when viewed across the company’s complete corpus, begins to emerge with some clarity.
Buried within that constant and complex goodness is a hidden message.
Now, this is not your standard “Disney movies hide double-entendres and sex imagery in every film” hidden message. “So,” you ask, incredulous, “What could one of the most beloved and respected teams of filmmakers in our generation possibly be hiding from us?” Before you dismiss my claim, consider what is at stake. Hundreds of millions of people have watched Pixar films. Many of those watchers are children who are forming their understanding of the world. The way in which an entire generation sees life and reality is being shaped, in part, by Pixar.
What if I told you they were preparing us for the future? What if I told you Pixar’s films will affect how we define the rights of millions, perhaps billions, in the coming century? Only by analyzing the collection as a whole can we see the subliminal concept being drilled into our collective mind. I have uncovered the skeleton key deciphering the hidden message contained within the Pixar canon. Let’s unlock it.
Before we begin, I ask you to watch the video below. Leandro Copperfield stitched together this seven minute tribute to “The Beauty of Pixar.” Full screen. HD. I dare you to not be moved.
People love these films. They are a part of our lives and of our culture. Pixar has artfully built a universe of beloved critters and beings that populate our popular consciousness. The analysis that follows is in the spirit of reverence and respect for the great contribution Pixar has made to our world.
To understand Pixar films, one must first to go back to Disney before Toy Story was released – to be precise, The Lion King. On top of being my favorite Shakespeare adaptation, The Lion King is the only Disney film to date with zero references to the existence of human beings. Disney and Pixar rarely have humans as the sole intelligent entities in their movies. Excluding plots requiring magic, non-human characters in Disney films are either anthropomorphous animals (e.g. walking upright, wearing clothes, drinkin’ out of cups) that take the place of humans (e.g. Robin Hood or The Rescuers) or are animals with a preternatural awareness of and ability to interact with feral human beings (e.g. The Jungle Book or Tarzan). The Lion King stands out in that the universe is animal only. There is no trash on the Serengeti, no airplanes flying over, no animals in hats or walking unnaturally on hind legs. You can’t even date when the story takes place, because there are no human references from which to calculate an approximation. Save for the fact that Zazu knows “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts,” there is no evidence that the characters within The Lion King even know humans exist.
The Lion King gives us a clean slate. We know what a non-human world looks like. Now we can tackle how Pixar handles people.
The relationship between humans and the non-human characters is critical to understanding Pixar’s movies. There are certain rules in Pixar movies that make things far more interesting than the average Disney fairy tale. The first is that there is no magic. No problems are caused or fixed by the wave of a wand. Second, every Pixar film happens in the world of human beings (see why I excluded Cars? It’s ridiculous and out of character for Pixar). Even in films like a A Bug’s Life and Finding Nemo, in which humans only exist as backdrops for the action, humanity’s presence in the story is essential. The first two rules are pretty direct: the universe Pixar’s characters inhabit is non-magical and co-inhabited by humans.
The third rule is that at least one main character is an intelligent being that isn’t a human. This rule is a bit complex, so let’s flesh it out. There are two types human roles in Pixar films. The first is Human as Villain. In films like the Toy Story 1, 2, & 3, A Bug’s Life, and Finding Nemo, the protagonists are all non-human. Ancillary characters like Sid, the Collector, and Darla are not main characters. A more accurate description would be that they are pieces of the environment and, on occasion, playing the role of supporting antagonist. The second type of Pixar film is Human as Partner. In these films, the main character befriends a human being as part of the hero’s journey: Remy, Colette, and Linguini; WALL-E, EVE, Mary and John; Sully, Mike, and Boo; Russell, Carl, Kevin and Dug. These are the heroic teams of their respective films.
In each Pixar film, at least one member of the team is human and at least one member is not human but possesses human levels of intelligence.
You can see where I’m going here. Particularly in WALL•E,Ratatouille and Up! there is no ambiguity about the reality of intelligence in the non-human characters. Each Pixar film asks us to accept one deviation from our reality. While it seems like the deviation is different in every case (e.g. monsters are real, robots can fall in love, fish have a sense of family, Kevin is a girl, a rat can cook), the simple fact is that Pixar only asks us to accept one idea over and over and over again:
Non-humans are sentient beings. That is the central difference between Pixar’s universe and our current reality.
That idea alone would suffice to show that Pixar films are all but propaganda for the concept of non-human personhood. But that is where the hidden message begins.
What makes these films so astonishing and the message so powerful is the story arc of the Human as Partner narrative. The story begins with a non-human living among a familiar setting. Be it WALL-E alone among the garbage, Remy with his massive extended family, or Sully and Mike Wazowski on their way to work, we are introduced to the hero in relative normalcy. Yet each of these characters deviate from their fellow non-humans. Remy wants to cook. WALL-E falls in love. In each case, the deviant non-human is ostracized. Dug is laughed at for his ineptitude and Sully and Mike are banished to live with the Agreeable Snowman.
In being ostracized, however, the non-human encounters a human. Remy, lost in the kitchen, meets Linguini. Kevin and Dug both partner up with Carl and Russell. The deviant behavior acts as a catalyst for the first interaction. Furthermore, the human is also deviant. Boo is not afraid of monsters. John and Mary (the two people who help WALL-E and EVE) get out of their hover chairs and look away from the screens. Carl escapes the old folks home with a balloon-house airship. A team is formed when the mutual outsiders recognize a shared sense of purpose. Human and non-human rebels alike seek out each other. In combining efforts, however, the team doubles their opposition, with the non-human and human normative majorities rejecting and condemning their behavior. Remy is criticized by his father and alienates his friends while Linguini loses the respect of the entire kitchen and is at risk of having the restaurant closed for health violations. There is a high cost for non-conformity.
The new is seen as dangerous and therefore feared. Pixar’s Human as Partner films emphasize that should a non-human intelligence arise, be it a rat or a robot or a monstrous alien, there will be no welcoming with arms wide open from either side.
Victory in the battle for the rights and respect from both groups will come from an act of exemplary personhood and humaneness by those who dare to break ranks with their kind. Thus, the Human as Partner story arc ends with the capitulation of those who refused to recognize the personhood of the non-human and a huge reward coming to those who accepted the non-humans as fellow persons. In Monsters Inc. Mike and Sully discover that laughter yields far more energy than screams. In Ratatouille Anton Ego has an epiphany and gives one of my favorite speeches of all time in response to a Proustian flashback he experiences after eating Remy’s cooking. In WALL•E none less than the human race is saved from the brink of self-induced-extinction. In short, the benefits for humanity are tremendous in every case where non-human persons are treated with respect.
There is one Pixar film that does not fit either the Humans as Villains or Humans as Partner structure: The Incredibles. Instead of non-human protagonists, we are treated to super-human protagonists and antagonists. Yet the struggle from outcast to redeemer is the same, only this time, it is because the super-humans come together as a family. What enables the Incredible family to succeed is not that they are superhuman but that they are humane; that they love, support, and protect one another. As a result, the society that once feared and banished them sees the supers not as Others, but has fellow members of humanity.
Taken together as a whole narrative, the Pixar canon diagrams what will likely this century’s main rights battle – the rights of personhood – in three stages.
First are the Humans as Villain stories, in which the non-humans discover and develop personhood. I mean, Buzz Lightyear’s character arc is about his becoming self-aware as a toy. These films represent nascent personhood among non-human entities. For the viewer, we begin to see how some animals and items we see as mindless may have inner lives of which we are unaware.
Second are the Humans as Partners stories, in which exceptional non-humans and exceptional humans share a moment of mutual recognition of personhood. The moment when Linguini realizes Remy is answering him is second only to the moment when Remy shows Ego around the kitchen – such beautiful transformations of the Other into the self. These films represent the first forays of non-human persons into seeking parity with human beings.
Third, and finally, there is The Incredibles, which turns the personhood equation on its head. Instead of portraying the struggle for non-humans to be accepted as human, The Incredibles shows how human enhancement, going beyond the human norm, will trigger equally strong reactions of revulsion and otherization. The message, however, is that the human traits we value have nothing to do with our physical powers but are instead based in our moral and emotional bonds. Beneficence and courage require far more humanity than raw might. The Incredibles teaches a striking lesson: human enhancement does not make you inhuman – the choices you make and the way you treat others determines how human you really are.
Pixar has given those who would fight for personhood the narratives necessary to convince the world that non-humans that display characteristics of a person deserve the rights of a person. For every category there is a character: uplifted animals (Dug), naturally intelligent species (Remy and Kevin), A.I robots (WALL-E, EVE), and alien/monsters (Sully & Mike). Then there is the Incredible family, transhumans with superpowers. Through the films, these otherwise strange entities become unmistakably familiar, so clearly akin to us.
The message hidden inside Pixar’s magnificent films is this: humanity does not have a monopoly on personhood. In whatever form non- or super-human intelligence takes, it will need brave souls on both sides to defend what is right. If we can live up to this burden, humanity and the world we live in will be better for it.
An entire generation has been reared with the subconscious seeds of these ideas planted down deep. As history moves forward and technology with it, these issues will no longer be the imaginings of films and fiction, but of politics and policy. But Pixar has settled the personhood debate before it arrives. By watching our favorite films, we have been taught that being human is not the same as being a person. We have been shown that new persons and forms of personhood can come from anywhere. Through Pixar, we have opened ourselves to a better future.
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Image of Dug seeking a squirrel via The Pixar Podcast.com
CATEGORIZED UNDER: Movies, Philosophy, Top Posts, Transhumanism, Utter Nerd
MORE ABOUT: personhood, Pixar, rights
By choosing good topics for an argumentative essay, at first you should find out what an argumentative essay is and what writing tips are necessary to follow. This essay presents the arguments with their supporting and opposing ideas. The writer should persuade the reader to adopt his or her point of view and behavior rules.
The distinctive characteristic of this type of essay is that the author needs to rebut the arguments of the opposite stance. What this means is that you need to elaborate what evidence the opposition has and find facts to refute it. Some students even think that this type of paper is the most difficult.
However, you shouldn’t panic, because each task that is given to you in college or high school can be completed successfully if you have a good strategy. One thing you need to remember is that planning can ease this process a lot. The first step of writing the paper is selecting the topic. Sometimes this step can take even twenty percent of the entire work time. We decided to make this easier for you and have gathered issues in one list which you will see below. Hopefully, our topic ideas inspire you to write an A-level paper. Before moving to the list, we recommend that you get acquainted with these quick and useful tips.
How to Choose an Argumentative Essay Topic
Make sure that the topic is not too broad. Otherwise, you won’t be able to reveal it properly. Try to be specific by focusing on a certain aspect of a general issue.
Take into consideration that good argumentative essay topics should concern a conflict that urges many discussions in society. It should be an important and arguable topic.
When opting for an argumentative essay topic, find out whether you will be able to find proper factual information to support your arguments.
Under the conditions of tight deadlines, you need to make quick, yet well-thought decisions. All essay topics have their advantages and disadvantages. If you can’t select the topic among several choices, compare them by defining the pros and cons of each.
Before presenting a certain argument, make sure it is strong enough to convince the reader. Each argument should be supported with evidence consisting of facts, stats, and so on.
Ask yourself the question: “Do I care about this issue?” That way, you’ll understand whether the subject is truly interesting for you. If it is, you are likely to perform better with your task.
The List of Good Topics for an Argumentative Essay
- Can the death penalty be effective?
- Is buying a lottery ticket a good idea?
- Is competition really good?
- Is religion the cause of war?
- Is fashion really important?
- Are girls too “mean” in their friendship?
- Are feminist women being too harsh on other women who don’t support the movement?
- Can smoking be prevented by making tobacco illegal?
- Is a highly competitive environment good or bad for studying or working?
- Is it true that life 100 years ago was easier?
- What are the drawbacks of a democratic political system?
- What is cultural shock and how does it impact our perception of other people’s cultures?
- Should working moms be given special privileges?
- Should there still be any quotas for accepting people from minorities?
- Is being fired a suitable punishment for cyberbullying?
- Are we too dependent on computers?
- Are cell phones really dangerous?
- Does social media fame impact one’s life?
- Will we ever be able to stop using social media from our own free will?
- Can humanity get rid of the Internet and continue developing?
- Are reading ebooks worse than reading paper books?
- What are the drawbacks of online dating apps such as Tinder?
- Should content on the Internet be more restricted?
- Will paper money be substituted by electronic money?
- Does a constant social media connection make people feel more lonely and stressed?
- Do technologies that ease housekeeping, such as a robotic vacuum cleaner, make people too idle?
- Who is responsible for the excessive amount of abusive language in comments (under blogs and social media posts, videos, etc.) on the Web?
- What is the impact of technology on people’s ability to create?
- What is considered as superfluous usage of the Internet, and can it be counted as a form of addiction?
- Will the creation of artificial intelligence which can regulate itself lead to human extinction?
- Should torture be acceptable?
- Is it ethical to tell someone else’s secret to a person involved in that secret (for example, if you discover that your friend has been cheated on)?
- Do paparazzi violate the private lives of celebrities?
- Is it fair that people with no special skills get famous and rich from social media?
- Is it a good idea to start a diary?
- Is it fair to control the time a teenager dedicates to playing computer games or using the Internet?
- Should people help the poor?
- Can a person whose spouse is in a coma demand a divorce?
- Do beauty pageants influence the moral values of society in the wrong way?
- Do cameras placed in public places infringe on people’s privacy?
- Should women who don’t have enough money for living opt for an abortion?
- Does a person with a physically or mentally disabled significant other have a moral right to cheat?
- Is killing a murderer immoral?
- Should people use animal tested cosmetics and drugs to protect themselves from dangerous consequences?
- Is it moral to refuse to save someone’s life if there’s any risk for your own?
- Is homework helpful?
- At what age should sex education be introduced at schools?
- Does the amount of information we have to learn in school get bigger? Is this good or bad?
- Does home schooling undermine a child’s ability to learn how to socialize?
- If college education is made free, will it be more or less qualitative?
- If compulsory homework is canceled, would children stop learning at all?
- Should children be taught at school about gender nonconformity and various types of sexual orientation?
- Should the grades or attendance for gym impact the GPA of a student?
- Should school teachers and staff members be allowed to socialize with students after school?
- Are standardized tests a good way to evaluate someone’s knowledge?
- Should children be occasionally tested for drugs at school?
- If a child doesn’t like the subject, can a school administration absolve him or her from studying the subject on the parents’ demand?
- Should all subjects be optional?
- Do prof-orientation tests really help students to decide on a profession?
- Should children be taught housekeeping at school?
- Is it useful or harmful to give treats to a child when he or she does well in school?
- If your child doesn’t like studying, is it acceptable to force him or her?
- Should people undergo testing to become parents?
- Is it irresponsible to have many children? (five or more)
- Is it fair to control the time a teenager dedicates to playing computer games or using the Internet?
- At what age should parents allow teenagers to try alcohol?
- Should children be asked by the court who they want to stay with after their parents’ divorce?
- Should siblings of different gender be treated the same way by parents?
- Should adults be responsible for their elderly parents? Should they be obliged to help them financially?
- Do parents have the right to read their children’s personal diaries?
- At what age should gadgets be introduced to children?
- If parents find out their teenage child takes drugs, do they need to apply to specific institutions or settle the problem on their own?
- Should parents allow teenagers to have plastic surgery if they don’t have obvious defects?
- Do parents need to invade their teenage children’s personal relationships?
- Should women and men have different rights and responsibilities in spousal relationships?
- Should healthcare systems be free or paid?
- Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? Why or why not?
- Should fast food come with a warning, like cigarettes and alcohol?
- Would it be better if the world had a universal healthcare system?
- Should people who suffer from incurable diseases be euthanized if it is their wish?
- Is human cloning acceptable?
- Does the time when people go to bed affect their health?
- Should shopping addiction be considered as a real disease on a governmental level?
- Are causes of obesity more physical or mental?
- Should office workers be obliged to follow certain rules, such as washing hands, to reduce the frequency of spreading viruses and infections?
- Should the working day be shortened to six hours for the sake of health?
- Do children of school age need to be provided with free mental therapy?
- Does the lifespan depend on genetics more than on other factors?
- Can people live without meat at all?
- Do all kinds of sports bring benefits to people’s health?
Art, Movie, Literature
- Should bookstores establish age limitations for certain books?
- Are movies of the 21st century much crueler than movies filmed in the 20th century?
- To what extent should movies that depict historical events be accurate?
- Should schools use electronic textbooks to save paper?
- Should paintings that contain nudity be censored?
- Is it acceptable to bring children to exhibitions of a photographer who performs in nude style?
- Do actors take mental risks when playing different characters, including psychopaths and murderers?
- Should people read more books or articles to develop their mental horizons?
- Is watching television series a waste of time?
- Do famous artists have an innate talent, or do they put in great effort to learn how to draw?
Where to Get More Argumentative Essay Topics?
Every now and then finding topics for argumentative essays can be challenging for students. There are many ways to get a topic, such as looking for it on educational websites, asking your teacher for tips, exploring the textbook, looking through argumentative essay examples or reading newspapers to understand which issues are important and controversial nowadays. Also, you should know that EssayShark.com is always ready to provide you with essay help. If you have run out of ideas, just contact us and we’ll do our best to help you. We wish you good luck with your studying and to achieve all your academic goals!