Saturday, July 19, 2008

WALL-E's Starship Axiom is from Northern Minnesota

WALL-E's starship Axiom must have launched from Duluth.

No, scratch that, there are more non-white folk in Duluth than we see on the Axiom. Maybe International Falls?

It's a bit creepy. Fat and melanin deficient.


Anonymous said...

Gordon, after 700 years without sunshine, everyone would be pretty pale, don;t you think?

level-head said...

I was looking for something else when I happened across this.

Did you ever actually see the film after making the comment? Your remark above appears to be based on ... someone else's thought, perhaps.

Blacks are well-represented on the Axiom -- from the couple in the Axiom commercial who look rather like the Obamas, to the second human we actually see on the ship, who is a black man. Roughly half of the individuals who get camera focus are black or various shades of brown (some appear Asian, some Polynesian), and it appears that broadly around 50% of the passengers are people of color.

Does that change your thinking about the issue?

===|==============/ Level Head

John Gordon said...


I did see the film -- and didn't remember it that way. I don't think I was the only one to remember the characters as being rather pale.

So if you're right (and I tend to believe you are, I doubt you'd be so specific if you hadn't checked), this is kind of interesting from a perception perspective.

Were the non-pale characters basically background, or is my memory of seeing only pale types a consequence of my own melanin deficiencies?

level-head said...

I put together a much larger response, and foolishly hit "Preview" without saving a copy.

Let's try this in pieces:

Captain Fee actually wore glasses; they're visible in her picture. She was also apparently of Asian background.

The ship is not traveling at relativistic speeds; it's puttering along slowly near a protoplanetary nebula in the outer solar system (in the Kuiper Belt area). They really do live that long.

A significant portion of the Axiom's passengers are of a variety of ethic groups. When we see the very first two, one of them is black; they are talking to each other on screen, not realizing that they're side by side. The cluster we see over the next minute or two have lots of different races, with closeups on many of them. When it's time for lunch, the first person on that straw is a black woman, who is large on the screen. (In fact, they're all large.)

Of the 16 children shown in the class, only four are clearly of European ancestry.

Captain McCrea's immediate predecessor was black. A number of apparently Polynesian folks are shown, too.

===|==============/ Level Head

level-head said...

(And my original tone sounds harsher in retrospect than I intended; I apologize.)

Even the big crowd scene at the film's crisis is a mixture from the beginning: When the holodetector button is first pushed and the green mode activates, hoods pop over the passengers. We see hoods pop over white, black, white, black, black, white, then we go into the cabin. The cabin passengers coming out are white, black, white, black, and too far to see clearly. (Some identified as "black" are perhaps merely very dark brown as in a Polynesian or perhaps Latino ancestry.)

The sleeping woman that the camera focuses on for many seconds is black. The person behind her is white, but the two ahead of her are black.

We see John and Mary coming to a stop on the Lido deck. The next persons behind each of them are black.

When the crowd looks up at "This is your captain speaking," there are about thirty faces distinguishable. Only four are clearly white.

The first three people that we see slide out of their chairs are a black person, then Mary, then John. The camera starts at the black person.

When a sliding white person carries off the boot, the next sliders are brown, brown, black, brown, white.

When about a dozen people hit the glass, only half are white, and several of those look like they were intended to be Latino or Polynesian (but because of shadowing, this isn't clear).

The children caught by John and Mary included several black children.

A variety of skin tones are visible in every shot that shows crowds; even distant streams of hoverchairs show a spectrum of skins on arms or faces.

While a generic "white" may be the largest single color group on the Axiom, it does not appear to be a simple majority.

===|==============/ Level Head

level-head said...

As to your perceptions, that was certainly common enough. Many people made the same suggestion. You raise an interesting point, and I will check with some black friends to see what they remember seeing. (They'll need to not be readers of my own blog, which talked about the movie a lot.)

Plus, I cheated, in a sense. I've written about this film a great deal -- in the amount of a sequel novel and a non-fiction book on the science of Wall•E which might see publication someday -- and thus I've had occasion to view the film far more closely than most.

From my first viewing, I saw that the second live human shown was black, and that a scan along the previous captains showed a black captain, but I wasn't focusing on this.

We each have mindsets, and it can be very difficult to perceive through them. There's a research topic in there somewhere. ];-)

(Hah! And this time it's "fooles" -- your captcha has a definited opinion of me.)

===|==============/ Level Head

John Gordon said...

To be clear - I believe you. I'm wrong!

I'm just curious as to why I got it wrong. I'm not the only on e...

level-head said...

Something got cut off in your comment, but it appeared to be along the lines of "I'm not the only one [to have the perception that the Axiom passengers were all white?]."

Indeed, you're not, and it was so very common an observation as to be its own sort of phenomenon. A few folks that I saw on this topic -- wow, almost two years ago -- had been repeating something from someone else, and assumed it was true but hadn't seen the film yet. I thought this might have been your case as well, but truly the number who have seen it, and have seen it that way, is also significant.

Obviously, the storytelling going on was not focused on that; the action was elsewhere. So it's no shame not to have noticed the racial makeup of the passengers. And I recall a much talked about study of observation: google[gorilla basketball] to turn it up.

Thanks for your gracious response! It was indeed reviving an old topic; which some frown upon.

I enjoyed UP, and am looking forward to Toy Story 3, but as an SF enthusiast and writer (and eternal romantic) it was WALL•E that had a magical appear for me.

Feel free to drop me a note; my will get to me.

And best wishes.

===|==============/ Level Head

John Gordon said...

Yes, you interpreted my truncated comment correctly. My wife and I saw the movie together and had the same wrong impression.

The gorilla basketball (I remember when that came out) meme is probably appropriate. I do wonder what non-white audiences noticed. Two of my kids are ethnic Korean, I'll have to test it on them.

Thanks for the comments! I don't mind getting comments on old posts at all. I'm just a hobby blogger, most of my comments are from chance encounters.

I've subscribed to your livejournal blog. It's way to the right of me, but I figure I could use some input from the other side.

level-head said...

Here's a video (about three minutes) recreating that experiment on observation.

===|==============/ Level Head

level-head said...

Thank you. I looked last night at your political postings, and I think your analysis is probably fair. ];-)

Nevertheless, I strive to be both civil, and careful in my facts. You seem the same way -- so if we disagree on points, it may be possible to get to the underlying data and work it out.

Of course, the "what it means" can still be contentious, but most folks don't get to that level; they're still debating the facts.

I need to get my RSS feed setup working a little more conveniently. I look forward to conversations.

===|==============/ Level Head

level-head said...

"Magical appear" indeed.
The typos are ... unappealing.

Here's a link that addresses your question about the perception of non-white audiences. It doesn't seem to matter much; people are people. The key issue is where one's attention is focused.

===|==============/ Level Head