Wall-E: What we want-E

Mv5bmtczota3mzy2n15bml5banbnxkftztcDisney has always been very good at selling us what we want. The dramatic success of the new animated Disney/Pixar movie "Wall-E" demonstrates that the digerati at Steve Jobs' Pixar are the new merchants of desire -- they are now literally running the Disney show. So what does "Wall-E" tell us about what we want?

As Frank Rich suggested yesterday, Wall-E is a nostalgic green remix of the romantic musical Hello Dolly:

“Wall-E” is a robot-meets-robot love story, as simple (and often as silent) as a Keaton or Chaplin fable, set largely in a smoldering and abandoned Earth, circa 2700, where the only remaining signs of life are a cockroach and a single green sprout.

The two main characters in the movie are robots -- both intuitively intelligent and emotionally pure. Imagine them as authentic computers -- without pretense, rooted in themselves, loyal to their mechanical species-being. The human beings, meanwhile, in "Wall-E", have sold out. They are dystopian Star Trek characters who have so lost touch with their own earthly identities that they've become untethered -- floating timelessly around a big spaceship which is itself timelessly floating around the outer-reaches of space.

"Wall-E" tells us that what we want to be is to be computers -- Macs not PCs. Our desire is to become authentic computers. true to human values, but not exactly human in the traditional analog sense. The point of "Wall-E" is that humans have become too flawed to be represented in a human movie. We've fled our species. All we have left now of the human race are computers like the eponymous star of "Wall-E". Rich -- who should know better -- entitles his article "Wall-E for President." But a more accurate title would be "Wall-E for Humanity". This represents Ray Kurzweil's moment of singularity. It's when human beings become indistinguishable from machines.

All this might not be coincidental. It's a climatic moment in a narrative produced, directed and sold to us by Steve Jobs, Remember his 1984 ad for the original Macintosh computer -- when we all realize our humanity through the personal computer. But this didn't work out to plan -- as all the discarded, rusty iPod's in the Pixar movie demonstrate. So "Wall-E" is the next scene in Job's clever production. It's when we have to crawl back into the computer to rediscover both our species-being and our own planet. It's when we become authentic robots. That, it seems, is what we want.