Monday, April 28, 2014

The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars

About four and a half months ago I wrote an essay on The Brave Little Toaster.  Much of what I have to say about the characters and essence of the series was contained therein but I’ve decided to give an analysis of its sequel The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars and see what aspects there is to speak on.  The first being phobia to change.
There is a worthwhile distinction between the villains in the first film being representative of consumerism and obsession with always having the “latest thing” rather than appreciation with what one has.  However, the microwave is a legitimately different and improved invention to its predecessors, and the dislike of change in this way seems Reactionary and xenophobic.  This expresses the Conservative mentality which is one of the aspects of their psychology that actually disapproves of and will fight to prevent progress.  We see this with racists against the Civil Rights struggle, with religious fundamentalists in numerous ways and in those who dislike modern technology simply because it is foreign to them.  A key example of course is seen in the rat (I can’t recall the name) recommending newer music and everyone essentially disapproving of his suggestion instead preferring the pop hits of “the Golden Oldies.”
The next rather excellently portrayed themes in the movie – arguably the main one – is the discussion of Prime Directives, or rather what one’s function and purpose in life is.  Now of course this is a brilliant representation of both an existentialist version of Virtue Ethics and more specifically the main Existentialist notion of Sartre.  For Sartre, each appliance or tool has its own purpose written into its very nature:  knives were made for cutting and light bulbs were made to illuminate.  All of these things fulfill human needs or desires “written into” nature or human circumstance that either requires the device or makes it a material inevitability based on human nature and the nature of mankind’s surrounding.  However, mankind is not something that exists to service any other being’s needs or desires; Man is the thing which all other things become an object of utility to him but he is a being that Sartre would call “radically free.”  That is we serve no function to any other higher order other than our own happiness and fulfillment.  Now it is natural to bring Natural Law or Naturalism into this discussion and say that we have natural traits, and that it is reasonable to assume we exist to use these traits to some use presumably of some benefit at-least when used correctly or when governed by reason; but Sartre would tell us that this is to live in Bad Faith. 
To me this film is a rebuttal against Sartre in the sense of each appliance has their purpose through their talents and nature and they are being completely existentially genuine with their nature; rather than dealing with angst through insincerity.  Though Man is the “creator of values” as Nietzsche put it, these values are not arbitrary or based on the individual’s mere whims or preference but by the nature of the individual in various regards and the nature and interest of the species in numerous others.  We do not have the “radical freedom” from material, biological, human or our own nature that Sartre shoves upon us and says we suffer from fear of freedom when we deny it. Much like Christians who claim there is something wrong with Atheists and Freethinkers who do not “accept” Jesus as their “savior.”  Just as a savior is not required in human affairs, the same applies to the radical freedom that gives little if any alternative to the conscriptions of Utilitarianism and Existentialist Ethics being derivative of Materialism and Determinism.  It could be argued through the first that the Brave Little Toaster argues a type of “Christian Ethic” in viewing sentimentalism and emotion higher than functionality, (or rather life being precious no matter how degraded it is and no matter how much suffering these creatures endure which would be unbearable if a loving God had the slightest ounce of pity) with the Master keeping the appliances even when they serve no purpose.  However, we see in the second film that the appliances do still have a purpose and are durable unlike the new appliances that wear-out easily due-to planned obsolescence.
Some may find certain elements of the plot far-fetched, but I believe this is an example of the unimaginative being unable to distinguish a far-fetched plot with an imaginative one.  We all know that the appliances have to get to Mars.  What would be a “realistic” way of getting there?  Not to mention we’re discussing a movie with talking toasters.  An imaginative film is one that pushes the envelope of our suspension of disbelief and creates avenues of possibilities not thought of before.  Far-fetched is creating a convenient “buy out” to being original and convincing and tying everything together in a nice neat package out of laziness or a number of motives.  This is what we see in most children’s films.  The bomb that is unprimed a moment before detonation is far-fetched for example.  Finding an unconventional way that makes sense (within the laws of possibility for the fictional universe) that has us surprised and holds are attention is using imagination.  But then of course there are examples that perhaps would be categorized as far-fetched but are necessary for the furtherance of the plot.  The repairman in the first film finding and retrieving the appliances just as they were about to spend an eternity under quicksand would be an example.  It is a great deal like the Eagles from Lord of the Rings, but it’s excusable due-to it creating new material that is interesting and relevant to the plot.  The repairman saving Toaster and his friends is actually better writing than the Eagles (why am I capitalizing Eagles?) from LotR, because while the repairman becomes another obstacle that they must thwart, the eagles become totally irrelevant to the plot after they are saved to the point that they might as-well have been rescued by giant many-breasted mole women who burrow under the Earth – excuse me, the Middle-Earth – to save them.  One of the greatest things about children’s films as well-as Sci-fi in their own distinct ways is that they create worlds for us to fully utilize our imagination and intellects outside our current realm of material possibility to delve into worlds and stories that are well-written, containing brilliant analogies and allegories to our modern world and allow us to explore intellectual conundrums and avenues of human potential that are alien in other genres.  But needing cheddar cheese flavoring for space travel?  That’s just fucking ridiculous and far-fetched to the extreme.  Everyone knows that Pepper-Jack has the most kick to it.
This is an obvious point that I’ve made in more-than one essay before, so I’ll keep it short, but I enjoy that this children’s film mocks the idea of “I just did as I was told” as a justification for one’s actions keeping in-line with the ideals of Existential independence and us aiding each other through our own natures rather through a writ of Holy Doctrine or sense of duty.  In a rational society, no conception of duty would be necessary and all creatures would follow their own individual characteristics to pursue their good and the good of society – showing that Existentialism of us defining our own purpose in life through our strengths and ambitions to be far-more in-line with Marxism than the Kantianism of Deontology and sense of duty which has always been used as a justification for bloodshed, nationalistic wars, religious crimes and abuse to one’s children to bring them up in the horrid and psychologically and intellectually stultifying way the parent was raised in out of the impulse to follow tradition and religious duty.  However, a moral compulsion that Hume, Kant and Schopenhauer talk about are necessary to bring that rational society to others that one is not involved with or rather to a society outside of one’s own interests.  Many throughout the globe know that injustice is being committed systematically everyday and have the reason to know a rough solution and yet they remain apathetic and fail to act.  Though reason can give us the correct action in all scenarios; in regards to motivation reason can only govern man in the realms of self-interest; if there is no chance of any form of compensation whether in social gain, happiness or the Ego, than compassion or some sense of duty is required.
Also I think it’s rather brilliant than in a few seconds a rather crucial distinction in reasoning is given when Ratso (that’s his name! – and yes I’m watching the movie while I’m writing this fuck you I wanted it to seem as if I remembered through my own mental might)  that he distinguishes between a “good reason” and a sufficient reason why he cannot go.  A good reason would be a moral argument that would make it just for why he shouldn’t go, when a “simple” reason is simply a material reality.  This of course is similar to the division of causes that Aristotle and Schopenhauer are known for.  Of course all of reality seems to be bound to the ultimate cause of cause-and-effect but a distinction between reasoning between moral and rational ideals and material circumstance is a worthwhile one to have.  It is material reasons that prevent Man from going into space; it is moral reason that prevents a drunk from entering the driver’s seat in a car.  Now of course there are two different definitions at-work here, but they both involve facts and logic that would remain so even in a mind-independent Universe though of course morality in the human sense requires agents with minds to exist in the sense of having any moral agents to act correctly or shamefully in-regards to – but this does not change the fact that murder would remain a moral crime even if there were no people to kill.  Some may give another distinction mentioning human passions and motivations, but ultimately these are not “objective” and are little more than highly complicated versions of the passions of beasts which operate under the laws of cause-and-effect and don’t require a separate line of reasoning only a separate science.  The Logic of Right Action however does require the distinction of a different form of logic because it is not a particular form of phenomena to study but the reasonable or faulty interpretation of said phenomena.  Logic and intellect only exists in the human mind because of the material nature of neurological cause-and-effect but this does not change the ability for humans as sentient creatures to reason a course of action that is right and therefore radically different than reason in simplistic terms of explanation and description, not justification.
And as a quick note I think found the “you’ve clearly never read the ingredients” in reference to an “organic” bag of popcorn amusing and quite risky in a children’s film though the fact that such a tame joke appears scandalous shows how much corporations control public opinion and perception.  Also I enjoy the song “Now We’re Floating” and find the reference to Woodstock to be fairly intelligent.  This is another attribute to an intelligent children’s film and is radically different than the references to pop-culture one finds in the Scary Movie franchise for example.  One is purposive though not attached to the plot and the other is well… the Scary Movie franchise.  I can actually recall my father mentioning Woodstock to me as a child when I first watched this (or on one of my first viewings, one of my adolescent viewings of the film with him nonetheless) and he seemed impressed that what would seem like simplistic children’s entertainment would have such a strong portrayal of Pacifism and Humanist values.  This is one of the films that I’m glad that we could share with each other, and is one of the few films that easily brings about a sentimental feeling of gratitude for not only being able to witness it, but witness it with a loved one at a small and formative age.
The film quite effectively satirizes military aggression and the mentality of retribution against innocent groups of people whose rulers are the ones who enslave them and cause the suffering of foreign nations.  This is seen in the Wonder Luxe appliances wishing to destroy Earth because of the greed of the Capitalists who designed them to be destroyed easily, fail to function quickly and be quickly replaced by slightly upgraded models who in-turn are shoddily made in many aspects; this criticism of modern Capitalism not making the best products but ones that make the most money for the Capitalists and wastefully consume the most resources is another thing I must commend in any film let alone a children’s one.  Of course a children’s film is the only one that could criticize Capitalism or consumerism from the angle of their products being sentient beings as a “natural” or not-unique or extraordinary occurrence – another unique aspect of children’s films much like Environmentalism being ingeniously portrayed through sentient raccoons in Pom Poko.
Also the film quite accurately depicts a false “retribution against God” rather than a reasonable or correct one.  God of course does not exist, but what I mean is that the appliances wish to rebel (though it is not a rebellion in a sustainable political sense, only a quick lashing out of vengeance) against their creators by harming and destroying them for their sins which you could argue the humans place upon the appliances (“piece of shit microwave, why won’t you work!”).  A proper retribution against the Gods however would be punishing the ones who consciously out of selfish motivation or a motivation where we suffer to aid some other entity (ies) but focusing on repairing their poor doing.  What I mean is I’m not the type of Atheist who would blame God for Man being mortal, for I see death as a natural end of living which is not to be feared or disparaged against; and in general I wholeheartedly agree with the vacuum’s statement that there is nothing wrong with wearing out if one has lived a life of utility.  I would not even necessarily blame any God for the flawed hardware that we humans have that allow us to do incredibly unjust things or allow us to fail to recognize our wonderful life is or to act on this recognition.  What I would blame a God for however is the material circumstance that Man was born in that created many of the awful aspects of Man’s personality and consequently his history.  Much like the appliances could rightfully blame Man for assembling them on a conveyor belt leading to a trash compactor where they would be crushed and their parts which “naturally” (that is when allowed to function properly) would harm no one and serve a purpose instead do nothing but grind against their fellow damned appliances in a meaningless and idiotic fashion.
At-first glance the villain seems to be a criticism of Existentialism by claiming that the appliances have no masters but themselves.  However if he is the Supreme Commander in all-regards then all other appliances do have a master they are obliged to obey or give homage to in one respect or another.  And of course his façade for Nietzscheanism and Existentialism falls away when he confesses that he couldn’t reveal his true self – only a muscle bound façade of it.  The quick reference to an appliance’s brand is clearly a reference to an individual’s race or nationality.  Instead what matters is one does what one is “designed for” or what one can do well and is of some benefit to humanity as a whole.  The Supreme Commander however exhibits a type of Nietzschean, Sartrean psychology of glorifying being “self-designed” a type of non-materialist, non-deterministic ideal that I’ve already rebuked.  Though if he was truly “self-designed” to be the ruler of a nation than to have an election of popular opinion for a leader of the appliances would be either superfluous or contradictory to the ideals of the ideal and correct leader being chosen or rather being the most exhibiting of certain qualities, rather than either one that is chosen by popular consent or one that acts in the public’s interest.  However of course if those qualities on exhibits is those that will allow one to best act in the public’s best interest we see a mergence between the ideal of the Philosopher King in the Republic and a far-more Liberal or even Socialist leader we would see in perhaps Mill or even Marx though Marx of course doesn’t focus on the might of leaders for affecting change or properly running government like Plato, Hobbes or Machiavelli but instead focuses on the revolutionary potential of the people to govern their own affairs. 
Nonetheless this villain functions as a critique of Sartre in the sense that if one is “radically free” or a “Ubermensch” than why not arbitrarily value Aristocratic governing rather than Government meant to effect the greatest positive change for the greatest number of people or to simplify Government that will act according to reason rather than sentiment or ideology.  If one does not have Natural Laws or Universal Reason (as universal as is allowed to human beings of some same, some similar and some differing aspects of their condition, character and personality) to go by, then what prevents momentary self-interest or even the folly pursuit of self-interest to govern all of one’s actions and to give way to Hedonism and Nihilism?  Nietzsche would contend that great men do not have it in their nature to follow such base pleasures, which may be true but then the only reason why they should be noble (if the concept of nobility could even be retained) is out of personal preference or one’s personal nature – not out of objective reason.  And in such a world we would see the base petty Nihilists overwhelm the great men of intrinsic virtue; therefore the great men would need to defend themselves against such savages and would never be able to pursue greatness if basic moral principles of natural law and utility were not enforced.  We see here a sort of Hobbsian view that results not from a “State of Nature” as Hobbes contends, but when we leave Natural Ethics and reason to pursue the grandiose ethics of flamboyant rulers, profit-seeking corporations, cultish religions and self-obsessed and unwell individuals.
The song that is song by Toaster, Supreme Commander and the appliances is great both in its sound and substance.  I particularly found wisdom in sentiment, “Are humans good?  Are humans bad?  Depends on who you know.”  The Supreme Commander and his in the end non-existent following show the Fascist mentality of “strength” through lack of feeling for suffering or remorse in creating it.  And of course militarism is shown in his legitimacy for office not being public consent, propagator of the public good or even Virtue Ethics (though of course in reality Virtue Ethics in a collective sense would not differ from the public interest) but simply his pure physicality.  The movie also seems to equate “brainy” intellect with intellect of what some people call “the heart.”  That is, reasoning that is related to ethics and one’s treatment of others rather than ability to comprehend Quantum Indeterminacy.  Though Fascist regimes are overall anti-intellectual of course, it should be recognized that the second type of intelligence is necessary for an effective and expansive military regime until the logical end and knowledge of weapons and human manipulation is understood.  That is until the Inner-Party really can read everyone’s thoughts such is a major tasks of the scientists of Oceania.  However the second form of reason is not only not needed, and not even a detriment, but essentially the detriment or rather opposing factor to the power and conquest without resilience of such regimes and forces corporate, national and otherwise.  This is made clear better than I could possibly envision or conjure with the statement by radio:  Hard to argue with brute force.  This perfectly expresses that one cannot morally argue with brute power which dominates our material world though of course in regards to reason the “might-makes-right” argument doesn’t have any basis in the reasoning of what is right through our observation of said material order.
It’s ultimately the touch or sentiment of a small child that undoes the urge for vengeance, Fascist hardness and Sartrean notion of escaping naturalistic ethics and has the other hearing-aid come to terms with his natural “humanity” or impulse to act rationally in-regards to ethics through the compulsion of sentiment.  These films in-general seem to heavily express what I would call an acceptable form of “Sentimentalism.”  That is not cheesy Hallmark cards bought by dull people unable to express any sentiment articulately themselves, but both the sentiment of nostalgia, fondness for the articles of childhood and the attachments we have towards them seen in the first movie and an argument for morality being derived from sentiment, or rather emotion or “caring” in the second.  This film seems to highly agree with Hume and Schopenhauer in-regards to ethics and does make its case rather well though it does forget the efficacy of reason to plan the proper course and design the tools necessary for many moral acts and reforms on human civilization to take place.  And also of course moral sentiment or pure feeling is inadequate with many moral questions that require reason and in-general the laws of society could be derivative of some kind of Utilitarian Calculus which of course would require reason – or a supercomputer which would require reason to create – to calculate.  And though it would require great organization, resources and technological prowess to establish this Socialist goal, we must also remember that “you don’t have to be bigger to be better,” in that even the average citizen can effect positive change in the world and in that the ability to effect material change in the world speaks nothing of your likelihood to act according to moral reason – the opposite almost seems to be true at-times.
It is humorous that the fan says that she enjoys looking up instead of down, and then when flipped upside down utters the pessimistic remark:  Nothing lasts forever.  Also the Christmas Doll who at-first is a caricature of vanity sacrifices her beauty to “save” Toaster, which is a depiction of ethical solidarity by overcoming superficiality I find quite brilliant, though I know I’ve already used that word several times so it might lost its potency at this point.
We humans are blessed in that we have our childhoods before all other stages in our lives (asides from infancy of course), so that if our lives are cut short, or tragedy falls upon us (as it ever-likely is) we still had some of the best moments of our lives, when experiences and life itself was still fresh, unfamiliar and new.  For as Schopenhauer brilliantly posited, when we live more than one generation, it is if life has become a stale magician’s trick, and we have become too familiar and acquainted with that which before we needed to learn and apply our best capacities towards.  Much like we try with all our being to first learn to walk, something which becomes an everyday occurrence we perform without thought.
To end I’d like to express fond appreciation that this film was a part of my childhood and euphoria for all the beautiful potential there is in reality and most-importantly and wonderful of all we human beings have to create and share with one another.

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