Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

August 7, 2008

Pooh on Pixar

Filed under: The Fat's in the Fire — Francesca @ 4:54 pm

Francesca is very late to the party on this one, but wants to share with you, in case you have missed it, the Slate article about Wall-E, the movie by Pixar:

 Wall-E is an innovative and visually stunning film, but the “satire” it draws is simple-minded. It plays off the easy analogy between obesity and ecological catastrophe, pushing the notion that Western culture has sickened both our bodies and our planet with the same disease of affluence. According to this lazy logic, a fat body stands in for a distended culture: We gain weight and the Earth suffers. If only society could get off its big, fat ass and go on a diet!

But the metaphor only works if you believe familiar myths about the overweight: They’re weak-willed, indolent, and stupid. Sure enough, that’s how Pixar depicts the future of humanity. The people in Wall-E drink “cupcakes-in-a-cup,” they never exercise, and if they happen to fall off their hovering chairs, they thrash around like babies until a robot helps them up. They watch TV all day long and can barely read.

It ought to go without saying that this stereotype of the “obese lifestyle” is simply false. How fat you are has a lot more to do with your genes than with your behavior. As much as 80 percent of the variation in human body weight can be explained by differences in our DNA. (Your height is similarly heritable.) That is to say, it may not matter that much whether you eat salads or drink “cupcakes-in-a-cup,” whether you bike everywhere or fly around in a Barcalounger. If you have a propensity to become obese, there’s only so much that can be done about it.


Despite all this, there’s an endless appetite for stories linking obesity and environmental collapse. Pounds of fat and pounds of carbon are routinely made to seem interchangeable. Two months ago, the Washington Post compared childhood obesity to global warming. Last year, an AP story called “Fighting Fat and Climate Change” claimed that we could cut annual CO2-emissions by 64 million tons if every American just got out of his car to walk for half an hour a day. (The nation would also burn 10.5 trillion calories!) The New York Times has reported that obese Americans make air travel less efficient, and that our extra pounds cost us 1 billion gallons of gasoline per year. And we didn’t just figure this out, either: During the oil crisis of the 1970s, a pair of economists calculated that we could save 1.3 billion gallons by getting all overweight Americans to “optimum body weight.”

These calculations show the obesity-ecology metaphor run amok. Like other spurious estimates of the “cost of obesity,” they leave out important, mitigating variables. (Fat people tend to have shorter life spans, for example, thus reducing their lifetime carbon footprint.) It’s pure fantasy to say that overweight Americans are causing global warming and misleading even to suggest that the two phenomena are related. After all, obesity is most prevalent among the poorest Americans, who almost by definition consume less than the skinny elite. Many live in dense neighborhoods and rely on public transportation. And the fattest people in the nation are not, as a group, the same folks you’d find driving Hummers or jetting back and forth between New York and L.A.

Once again, Francesca notes the correlation between weight and class – the real reason that fat people suffer discrimination in Western society. :-(

Thank you to our internet friend Leah for sending us the link!


  1. For what it’s worth, the depiction of body types in WALL*E is partially based on what happens during extended periods of reduced gravity. I heard Andrew Stanton interviewed (I want to say it was on Fresh Air, but I’m not positive), and he said they considered a lot of different ways to depict the way humans changed. The final version was chosen because they wanted the people to be like giant babies.

    Personally, I think the negative point the film was making was more about the herd mentality than fat. Fat Bridesmaid said it better here:

    I loved the film. One of the best I’ve seen in years. And if it contained scenes reminding me that I should get off my ass and exercise once in awhile, so much the better.

    Comment by AmyK — August 7, 2008 @ 5:49 pm

  2. Without disputing most of the points in the article, I think it’s a bit of an unwarranted slam on Pixar and WALL-E. I don’t think the film blamed the future humans for their condition. Rather, their size, shape and diet were attributed to many, many generations in low gravity, and their general vapidity was a logical extension of their society’s having evolved for that many generations on a cruise ship. In fact, some of them showed themselves to be courageous and honorable when given the chance, and at the end they embraced, if timidly, their new and far more challenging world. I think those who only saw fat stereotypes in the film are guilty of a little narrowmindedness themselves.

    Comment by Less — August 7, 2008 @ 5:50 pm

  3. Whoopsie, I liked the wrong article. The gawker one is interesting, too. but I meant to give you:


    Comment by AmyK — August 7, 2008 @ 5:51 pm

  4. ITA with AmyK.

    Also, as one poster noted on BFB – isn’t interesting that the thin people ruin the Earth and the fat people come back to save it?

    I also liked the scrappy captain who just “wanted to do something”.

    But mostly I go around cooing “Wall-E” at my husband, who goes “EVA” back.

    Comment by dowdydiva — August 8, 2008 @ 7:53 am

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