The difference between humans and robots?

I was especially interested in the ways the film managed to create such immediate audience investment in a robot character who has little discernible “dialogue” in the classical understanding of that term. From the outset, Wall-E collects and consumes recognizable artifacts from our current world’s near past. Particularly his viewing and mimicry of Hello Dolly positions his character, regardless of exterior shell or linguistic ability, as a “person” or at least “personality” like us. After all, in that moment, we too are watching a film. These early moves establish Wall-E’s “humanity” and later the film underscores it by placing him in direct contrast to the humans on the Axiom. Whereas Wall-E seeks interaction, communication, and new experiences–all traits we recognize and value–the humans seem interested in none of these. Mary and John are both visibly gobsmacked when Wall-E’s interruption opens their eyes to the world around them, in its infinite possibilities. The scene when Eve and Wall-E dance exemplifies this; while Mary gawks at the stars and the Captain researches what dancing is, the robots are already out there, doing it. Indeed, the narrative arc of the film traces Wall-E’s journey as he not only imbues those around him with the same kind of zest for life that marks him as a lovable protagonist, but also as he pursues that perpetually human desire, love (and, perhaps, home as well). The human characters only become characters we seem to care about when they adopt these characteristics and desires as well, which the film makes clear by leaving all the human characters beyond John and Mary (and the Captain, to some extent) nameless and still indistinct. I wonder, then, what this films tells us about what it means to be human. Is it more than biology? Can nonhuman animals and objects be human in other ways?


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