More than a year of Ekostories and not a single mention of Wall-E? You must think I hold some sort of vindictive grudge against cute robots. The truth is that I love Wall-E. It is a lovingly crafted tale that hits all the right notes, a rare gem that effortlessly exudes charm to audiences young and old, and represents Pixar at the height of their craft as storytellers.
But Wall-E’s broad appeal makes an analysis tricky. It’s easy to see the film as simply “a kid’s movie” and to dismiss any merits its narrative may contain. It’s also easy to view it as just an “issues movie”, a pointed critique of the obesity epidemic or of consumerist culture. Such a superficial examination reduces the movie to bite-size messages: Don’t trash the world. Technology is bad. People are lazy.
If that was a fair assessment of Wall-E, there would be no point in exploring it. I am not interested in narratives with such shallow roots that they can be summarized into tidy little statements; these types of parables preach to the choir and are dismissed by others. I believe Wall-E is deeper and deserves better. In this entry, I’ll explain how for me, Wall-E is also about fulfilling one’s potential and of finding the middle ground in all things.
I really like TED talks. I not only enjoy being exposed to ideas worth spreading, but I am also rejuvenated by seeing the passion people have in their work. But it takes a lot of skill to do TED talks well. It doesn’t matter how exciting the ideas themselves are: One has to convey them in a way that captures the imagination of the audience. The story is not enough; one needs to also be a good storyteller.
Sunflower growing in a food garden. Image captured from video.
Many deeply affective and moving narratives have their roots in tragedy; there can be no light without the dark. Stories that revel in beauty without exploring the shadow dimension of grief, death, and despair can occasionally come across feeling artificial, shallow, and incomplete. In contrast, those that accept and embrace tragedy can take on dimensions of substance, becoming deeper, rounder, and whole. They linger in our memories, and stay with us for a long time, profoundly shaping our identity and our understanding of the world.
This week’s Reconnect explores three poignant and bittersweet Ekostories. Continue reading
Having recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, the Legend of Zelda is one of the most iconic and celebrated franchises in videogame history. What I love about the series is that it continually incorporates inspiration from various real-life mythologies into its own world. Each mainline iteration is a self-contained story, but they can all be seen as discrete reinterpretations of one central legend, a core narrative that revolves around the hero of Courage, aided by the heroine of Wisdom, embarking on a quest to prevent the villain of Power from acquiring the Triforce, a sacred artifact that grants its wielder’s desires. Two games in the series struck me as being particularly intriguing in the content and delivery of their monomyths from an Ekostories perspective. The first I’ll touch on is The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, released for the Gamecube in 2003.
One of the most well executed aspects of Avatar: The Last Airbender is its depiction of the four elemental nations of its fictional world. The depth and care taken to create the Water Tribes, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Air Nomads contributed enormously to the richness of the show, creating a world of diverse cultures and perspectives. This helps to separate Avatar from many contemporary and more derivative works of fantasy.
Embedded within the fictional world of Avatar is the idea that each society and its people reflect the tendencies of their element. But after a century-long absence of the Avatar, the nations have become stagnant, unbalanced, dysfunctional, and in need of serious reform. In this entry, I’ll explore how the protagonists of Avatar serve as agents of change in the world by embodying the best qualities of their respective elements.
Star Trek: The Next Generation was one of the first western television shows I recalled watching. As a kid, I didn’t understand why people were dressed up in primary colour uniforms or what they talked about, but it all sounded very interesting and important. As my English comprehension skills improved, it grew to become one of my favourite shows and provided my first exposure to science fiction.
Many people who dismiss science fiction tend to think it begins and ends with rocketships and warp drives, along with the implication that to escape from the real world is essentially a childish impulse. But many of the best sci-fi stories are able to utilize the metaphors of the genre as unique vehicles to deliver insight into the human condition:
“Science fiction is metaphor. What sets it apart from older forms of fiction seems to be its use of new metaphors, drawn from certain great dominants of our contemporary life – science, all the sciences, and technology, and the relativistic and the historical outlook, among them.”
(Introduction to the Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin)
The Inner Light, one of the most critically acclaimed episodes of the Trek franchise, weaves ideas of nature, culture, and self into a haunting narrative that has profound implications for both the protagonist of the story and the viewers of the show. It is a wonderful and accessible hour of television, exemplifying the type of thought-provoking story the genre is capable of conveying.