What if WALL*E and EVE lived in a future populated by transgender queer robots? A (p)review of WALL*E

“700 years into the future mankind will leave our planet,” announces the husky voiced narrator of the WALL*E preview. Oh, so does that mean womankind and transkind will be sticking around on old mother earth? Apparently not, according to the imagery in the video. The only ‘life’ left appears to be WALL*E HIMSELF – yeah, because didn’t you know robots have to subscribe to the gender binary, too?

Early in the preview, WALL*E purviews the trash-filled landscape of earth and a bra blows into his face, covering his eyes. Ah, what a nice metaphor for the boobified view of the male-gaze. If this image doesn’t scream “poor WALL*E needs him some sexually objectified female-bot to satisfy HIS HETERO NEEDS,” I don’t know what does.

Poor WALL*E is lonely (we learn as he glimpses some heteronormative scene on TV) but “At last my love” EVE arrives. (YES, she is flipping named EVE for goddessake!) Looking like a large white tampon with blue eyes, or perhaps a roboticized white penguin, Eve has a female voice and, as the preview hints, she and WALL*E fall in love. They are seen sitting on a bench holding hands with a heart that reads “WALL*E + EVE” lasered into a nearby trash can. Sigh. Gotta love the originality of heteronormative gender socialization pixar-style.

If this film involves WALL*E somehow ‘saving’ EVE I am going to toss my popcorn. Or, if EVE brings about the ‘fall’ of humankind I may just have to altogether renounce my soft spot for Pixar films. Woody – I love you – but you never treated Bo Peep that well anyhow!

I am far from knowledgeable on sci-fi and robot representation, but I am wondering, any cyber readers out there know of robotic representations that are gender variant and/or queer? Don’t know about you, but I think C3PEO and R2-D2 would make a cute couple. Better yet, how about some robot loving that defies the gendered/hetero/coupledom set up altogether? Doubt we will see it anytime soon at the Cineplex, certainly not when viewing WALL*E by the looks of it.

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27 thoughts on “What if WALL*E and EVE lived in a future populated by transgender queer robots? A (p)review of WALL*E”

  1. The gendering of robots confuses me. I mean, they’re machines for crap’s sake.

    I remember people complaining about the same thing regarding Transformers…but only when they introduced a female. A male robot is just a robot, you see…totally not gendered at all…

  2. i really want to see this movie… because i had already started obsessing on how excited i was before i found out that wall*e and eve were heteronormative. somehow i had missed eve’s name. and yeah.

    siiiiiiiiiigh.

  3. I felt the EXACT way about this ridiculous movie i took my little nephew to see “CARS”. umm…when the hell did cars begin to form GENITALIA and where was I? I don’t know about you but I’m pretty sure my 06 ranger has neither a xx or an xy chromosome. But who knows Im no expert at these things.

    Furthermore! I don’t know if any of you have seen the classic Beauty & the Beast anytime lately but I watched it recently with my little nephew also & can you please repeat something with me slowly. STOCKHOLM SYNDROME. This poor girl was kidnapped, abused, locked up… and underfed (but don’t mind that one… remember women do not eat, thats something only males do). & then after suffering all she has she finds pity on the beast and grows to love him. WHAT THE FUCK. The funny thing is the same parents who are proclaiming homosexual or bisexual or any “non-heteronormative” relation may be dangerous for there young children to watch and may “confuse them”, but they will allow them to watch this crap. are you effing serious!

  4. My car is male, I know it is because I want it to be male, if my car ever decides not to be male, Then thats fine.

    If youve seen the movie you would know that the robots are more intellectually gifted then they are made out to be.

    More like AI machines, would a AI not choose its own gender.

    I mean I get your point and what not, but in alot of ways its like your the parent saying to your kid NO YOU ARE so and so gender, when the kid is like NO im not.

    I just think you making a big deal out of nothing.

    and you havent really even seen the movie.

    It was really good.

  5. Thanks for the comments everyone.

    Lorelei, if you do go see it, I hope you will come back and leave your review!

    Great points about Beauty and the Beast, Jesse. The “wonderful” world of Disney sure puts out some not-so-great messages. And Cars? Yup, another heteronormative script focussed on males that also was classist! Redneck Jeeter, anyone?

    Mara, your car is male because you “want it to be male.” Hmmm, sounds like your forcing a normative gender role onto your poor automobile to me.

    Whether or not the robots are intellectually gifted has nothing to do if they are hetero-gendered. And, as it’s a movie, they did not ‘choose’ their gender but it was scripted for them. While this one movie may not be a “big deal,” the constant representation in children’s movies that the only way to be is a heterosexually masculine or heterosexually feminine IS problematic. If you were a transgender, gender varient, or non-hetero child, how would it feel to not see your reflection ANYWHERE in the media?

    And, the post was (as the title indicated) a review of the preview — not of the entire movie.

    I am glad you liked the movie and felt passionate enough about it to write in — I do plan to see the entire film soon. Thanks again for your comment.

  6. Hey I did say my if my car ever chooses to let me know that it wants to be different It can.

    And secondly the characters were “scripted” as intelligent entity’s capable of making their own choices, Eve choice to be female, and Wall-e chose to be semi male, although more masculine than not.

    There are robots in the movie that could be considered to go either way.

    FYI i am transgender, and I do not want transgendered robots running around in pixars movies, so that after the movie I can hear teenagers talking badly about the different transgender robot, so I can go home and feel worse about what I am. No i dont.

    and I know there will be a certain type of rebuttal to that answer, but thats what it is, its my feelings.

    I would rather not engrain into childrens minds an image of Transgendered people, than to do it.

    It is better for them to learn of us later in life when they are more prone to making a educated, intelligent consensus about GLBT people.

    Nuff said.

    I think the writer of this article should back off the hormones and step off the high horse.

  7. Mara,

    Thanks for sharing your perspective about issues of representing trangendered robots and characters in films.

    We obviously differ on our opinions about this, but I think think the media currently ingrains all sorts of images into children’s minds — one of the key ones being the ‘right’ way to do gender and sexuality. I suppose I was particularly disappointed with the WALL-E preview because, as a film about robots, there is no need for what seems like an over-determined focus on gender and hetero romance. But, again, I have not seen the whole film yet.

  8. Just stumbled across this blog entry myself googling and I thought I’d throw my two cents in. I saw Wall•E tonight, and I didn’t expect to be as struck by the gender aspects of it as I was. Wall•E is still a wonderful film, and the relationship between the two robots is at the heart of it and is very lovingly treated. The curious part is that though the robots’ designs, tones, and names seem to suggest a gender, robots themselves are really genderless in any scenario, aren’t they? There’s no reason to think a robot built to serve a specific function needs a gender in order to do it. I left with the impression that a thin veneer of male and female was put on top of a truly innocent, genderless romance for the audience’s sake. It’s done subtly- at no time are you completely overpowered by this robot’s male-ness, or this robot’s female-ness;, and they never seem to really fall into gender roles- so I didn’t mind it particularly, but I did think it was curious if only because it doesn’t really seem necessary. The androgyny the robots do maintain to a certain degree makes their relationship seem a little bit more innocent and honest that way.

    In any case, I’d recommend the movie. Wall•E is purely innocent and the thin painting of genders overtop of the characters is unnecessary but mild. Eve kicks ass, and its worth enjoying. 🙂

  9. You come across as an angry gay rights advocate. “The straight people are picking on me(the gays)”. Why dont you just get over yourself. Nobody is picking on you! Im sure there are alot of gay love story’s you can get into, just so long as staight people dont start crying about being left out…right?

  10. While I agree with some of the points made in your article(mainly pertaining to assigning genders to the robots) I hope when you go see the movie, you can see the good in it to. Like issues such as the enviroment and how we must stop destroying it now so we do not end up in a future similar to that of in WALL E. It also does not encourage gender stereotypes as Eve is not a stereotypical female but rather a strong empowered one and it shows men in a non stereotypical way showing that they do not need to be brute and forceful but rather gentle and kind. It also touches on the conjoining of human to robot which we are already beginning to see with programs such as facebook and human consumerism and how to much of it can ultimately be a bad thing. Overall I personally saw more good then bad in this movie. Sure the robots may have been given genders but who is to say that in the future this sort of thing isn’t going to happen. The future is unpredictable and I’m assuming that if people had it their way when they are inventing the robots they would model them based on whatever society deems as “normal”. And who knows whether or not WALL E is gay or straight or or if EVE is a female or a male, they are robots, they have no gender. Its like saying the EVE was white because the color of her machinery was white and WALL E was clearly some sort of mixed race because he had hues of yellow and brown. If we are against the idea that the robots are male and female lets go against the idea that they can fall in love and then you have no script.

  11. Alexa,
    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I am glad to hear Eve “kicks ass” and look forward to seeing the film tomorrow. From comments shared by you and others, it sounds like the gendering/heteronormativiy in the film is not as blatant as it is in the preview.

    Nunnya,
    In terms of “lots of gay love stories,” can you point me to a Pixar (or Disney or any other major producer of children’s films) that offers a non-heteronormative story?
    As far as being an “angry gay rights activist” — well, firstly you assume all people who care about LGBTQ issues are ‘gay.’ Do you also think whites can’t be anti-racist? Secondly, I get the comment that I seem “angry” a lot — would it be better to be a mindless consumer singing along to my ipod while ignoring all that’s going on in the world?

    Waking Life,
    I appreciate your points about gender/normality/futurity. Thanks. I am glad to hear Eve and Wall-e go against normative gender scripts.
    I plan to see the film soon. I have heard from others it has a good anti-corporate, pro-environment message. I imagine I will write another review after seeing the movie…

  12. I dont assume that you are gay, but seriously,, who gives a sh*t if there are more straight movies than gay movies?!! There are more striaght people than gay people.. When 90% of the population is hetro., and 90% of the movies are hetro., thats not prejudice its the law of averages!

  13. Hi,

    I just stumbled across this blog while Googling “Wall-E.” I actually thought the movie was quite progressive, gender-wise. You know that stereotypical scene you always get in action movies where the guy has the girl on his arm while he shoots the bad guys? You get it in reverse here. In fact, EVE is by far the tougher of the two, and saves Wall-E repeatedly throughout the movie. I thought it was quite remarkable.

  14. Alex,
    Glad you stumbled across the blog. Welcome! I agree with you about the representation of gender. I wrote the above post according to the preview, which I found to be non-progressive gender-wise. But, after seeing the entire film, I agree the it was breaking gender norms in a positive way. I wrote another post commenting on this, as well as on what I saw as a unfortunate reification of the fat=bad notion…

  15. Nunnya,

    Where are you even pulling these statistics from? Studies I have seen have been much less extreme in their estimates, so I can only assume that you *personally* like thinking of these “weirdo gays” as being amongst a small, nonthreatening minority.

    As for “who gives a shit?” — Apparently a significant number of people, both hetero and nonhetero. Just not you, who very clearly does not represent the entirety of humanity.

  16. Nunnya,
    I am unclear as what your “I do” comment refers to… Does this mean you do “give a shit” or you do “represent the entirety of humanity”?

  17. Just to comment on the article…
    The magazine editor in me wants to point out that “mankind” is non-gender specific, and any sentient being can be refered to as “he” (regardless of birth or identification) and still be grammatically correct. Similarly, any vessel, force of nature, or empathetic animal is reffered to as “she”. Not a subtle hetero-normative jab, just proper english.
    The film student in me wants to point out that at no time are either Wall-E or Eve given a specific gender. In fact both defy conventional gender roles of either side. Any gender roles assigned to the characters inherently comes from the roles you as the viewer expect them to fulfil. The way you view their relationship and genders says a lot more about your own mindset and biases than the creators of the movie.

    I personally saw the relationship as friendship undercut with early-stage sexual tension. No gender required, none given.

    1. Matt,
      I am dismayed a magazine editor would not be aware of the gender bias in language. Humankind if far less gender specific than mankind. The concept of ‘man’ being the non-marked or neutral category is completely bogus and relates to the fact we live in a patriarchal society.

      As for Wall*E and Eve being non-gendered, how about their names?

      Your own mindset seems one that wishes to believe male privilege does not exist either in language or in the way films depict gender.

  18. Matt:

    As a former editor (book publishing) who now works as a communications professional, I would like to point out that the use of “mankind” or “humankind” and the gendered/non-gendered use of “he” as a pronoun is a matter of one’s style guide, house style and editorial decisions. Grammar must be both prescriptive and descriptive, and as social norms change, our language must shift to reflect that.

    Many respected style guides reflect this shift and suggest finding inclusive language when possible. The Chicago Manual of Style, for example, urges editors to consider issues of gender bias.

    I would argue that your choice of “mankind” and “he” to refer to persons of any gender reflects an editorial choice on your part that favours an extremely prescriptive view of grammar and language.

    For an excellent analysis of the issue, see this post from the always-fascinating Language Log blog:
    http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/005423.html

    I often find myself wondering why rabid defenders of the neutral “he” and “mankind” do not also rage that we no longer use “thee” and “thou” as second-person singular pronouns. After all, if we are going to be traditionalists, we should at least be consistent. Or shall we return to the Old English of Beowulf for true purity?

    Also, in the very appearances of Wall*E and Eve there are gendered signifiers. Eve, particularly, is very feminine in shape as interpreted by the average person. We tend to associate hard, square shapes with the masculine and curved or rounded shapes with the feminine. As a student of film studies, surely you are familiar with how shape can be a signifier of a larger concept. As the Professor points out, even the characters names are gendered. It takes some pretty strong denial of common cultural signifiers to pretend that there is no gender association for the robot characters.

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