The character Wall-E has become a modern icon. His eponymous film, released in 2008, immediately cemented him as a family favorite. His charm and bravery drew millions of people to the theaters, and he has stuck with them ever since. It seems a travesty, then, to label this beloved character a monster and – more specifically – a member of the “walking dead.” It is true, however, that Wall-E meets the criteria of the walking dead and many of the classic definitions of a monster.
Wall-E is a small robot tasked with cleaning up the garbage that mankind left behind when they deserted the planet. Earth became uninhabitable because of the pollution that mankind created, so the humans created many robots like Wall-E to clean up the waste and then they flew off in giant spaceships. Most of these robots fell into disrepair, to the point that Wall-E became the last remaining robot on the planet. Wall-E expresses an intelligence greater than that of other robots, which can be surmised to be connected to his solitude. Wall-E learned from his environment, gaining more and more intelligence, until he was no longer just a robot whose sole purpose was to clean up rubbish. It is never explicitly stated how Wall-E gained his conscience. Late in the film, Wall-E is reactivated and immediately reverts to a brainless robot. It can be assumed that this is how Wall-E originally was before he gained his intelligence. Wall-E’s transition makes him one of the “walking dead.” With his intelligence, Wall-E gained a soul, and thus a life. Wall-E has developed a sentience that elevates him above other robots in a way that is directly tied to the living’s position in relation to the dead. When reactivated, Wall-E – in a way – dies, because he is losing what made him a being of complex thought, emotion, and ability. Wall-E possess human emotion, and seems human in his compassion. He has so much in common with mankind that it is he who reminds the people in the film what it means to be human. It cannot be denied that Wall-E’s sentience makes him a “living” being. He may not have a beating heart, but he is able to. Unlike many human-like robots or androids, Wall-E does not possess Artificial Intelligence (AI). He has not been programmed with AI, rather he developed it on his own accord, through his experiences. He possesses true emotions and thoughts, indistinguishable from those of a human.
One classic definition of a monster is “matter out of place.” Wall-E’s entire purpose in life is to take matter that is out of place (garbage) and organize it. Wall-E cleans up all of the trash that litters the desolate Earth he inhabits, and uses this trash to create massive mountains that are monstrous in their own right. Furthermore, Wall-E is fascinated by objects that he finds in this trash that he feels have important meaning. These objects, with respect to the trash that they are found in, are cases of matter out of place. His occupation aside, Wall-E is a robot with a soul in a completely dead world. He is a complete anomaly, or, in other words, a monster. The only being in on a planet devoid of life is, by definition, a monster.
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