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Banging Your Head Against a Wall-E

Wall_e_3 Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Stack.

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Stack.

A sad, lonely robot in a desolate wasteland meticulously repeats his tedious chore.

On an abandoned future Earth where excessive human consumption has resulted in a catastrophic transformation of the planet into a giant garbage dump, Wall-E is the only functioning trash compacting robot left.  As he dutifully crunches and stacks his way through his workday, his big pleading binocular eyes yearn for a life of meaning and humanity. Then, at night, he goes home to watch a scratchy old videotape of, oh my God, a classic musical. Scenes from “Hello, Dolly” teach him about song, dance, and human connection.

As I sit in the crisply air-conditioned theater, I suddenly think about what I had mechanically accomplished earlier that same day: I had stapled a hundred headshots and resumes together. For future auditions, submissions, whatever. Like Wall-E, I am detail-oriented. I staple all four corners before stacking them next to my laptop.

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Stack.

And, like Wall-E, I execute most of my repetitious activity in solitary. For most working-stiff actors, the bulk of our time is not spent on a set collaborating with other actors and discussing our character with a director. It is spent in a seemingly static vacuum, where empty chores make us feel like we’re at least doing something. As Wall-E accomplishes his tasks, I jokingly wonder if I might see a few discarded headshots amongst the piles of urban trash. No matter what city that is supposed to be, it would be pretty accurate. Actors are frickin' everywhere.

One day, out of nowhere, a thrilling thing happens. A giant rocketship lands on Earth and ejects a beautiful, glamorous robot that arrives with a mission. To find signs of vegetation on Earth so that it may enable human beings to return to their home again. Instantly, Wall-E’s many evenings of study and rehearsal are called to action. He reaches out to Eve, the gorgeous, self-assured superstar, and tries his best to hit his mark and get the right lines out (for this little guy, his “dialogue” is just weird croaking and rattling noises, but what do you want, he’s a robot). The excitement of this fabulous unprecedented event is addictive. Wall-E desperately wants to follow Eve and coast on the thrill of being on stage, sharing his spirit and soul with another being, interacting for once instead of tending to the machine job alone.

By sheer force of will, Wall-E holds on to Eve’s rocketship when it retrieves her and sends her back to the Axiom, a massive spacecraft that houses millions of fat, lazy humans. It is there that Wall-E graduates from being the sporadically booking co-star to a full-fledged, Oscar-worthy movie star.

You see, Wall-E’s role of a lifetime is to save all of humanity. While being chased crazily by Axiom’s security guards, this creaky little darling must preserve the tiny seedling that will restore life on Earth. Chaos and insanity ensue, and Wall-E’s skills and passion are put to the ultimate test. Will he be able to pull it off? Will he win Eve’s shiny heart and finally live the life he’s dreamed of via the repeated viewings of “Hello, Dolly?” From now on, will he be able to perform his dream role every day, or will he be demoted back to an exhaustingly boring life of Crunch, Crunch, Crunch, Stack?

I wipe my tears away as the credits roll, and think of my pile of headshots next to my laptop. Maybe I’ll never get my outerspace adventure with a mega-watt starring role. Maybe I’ll always be the bit-part co-star who greets Alec Baldwin and hands him a file folder. Maybe, 700 years from now, a machine like Wall-E will be sweeping up all 100 of today’s headshots. But because of this teeny robot with giant dreams, I’m going to hang on a little bit longer.

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. STACK!

(Photo Courtesy Disney/Pixar)

-- Miki Yamashita


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Wall-E actually appreciates his life as a trash compactor. That is his nature, his unselfish directive, his meeting a need. In addition to trash compacting all day, doing what needs be done, he spends his nights watching the stars and his video collection.

In other words, he isn't an arrogant robot blinded by some illusive stardom. He represents a true humanity, instead of a caricature of grandeur.

Hello Shard of Acid,

Thank you for reading my review. May I say, however, that you misunderstood my use of the headshot stapling metaphor. I tend to this chore on a constant basis not because I'm "an arrogant robot blinded by some illusive stardom," as you put it, but because I recognize that my accomplishment of this task is one step closer to my achieving the larger goal of pursuing my passion to perform, and to be an artist. Like Wall-E, I appreciate my nature (to be an artist). And like Wall-E, I yearn for more meaning beyond the repetitive chore, even if I understand it to be "something that needs to be done." Wall-E's desire for human connection is like an actor's desire to do the work that brings us joy. Whether any actor's pursuit of a career results in stardom or not, Wall-E's adventure teaches us that everyone can hope and dream.

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