Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
Home » Humans » Women » Feminism | About me Impressum Contact Sitemap

Gender and Wall-E


This text was originally written in 2013, but went unpublished with the remark “work-in-progress”. It is published with minimal polishing in 2024, to get it out of the way and without any guarantee that the state matches what I had intended with continued work in 2013.

Note that the original writing predates the great controversy about trans-this and trans-that of the last few years, and that I, excepting a tangential addendum, have not made updates to reflect such angles. Also note that a 2024 version of the movie might well have deliberately switched roles around for ideological purposes. (Re-reading, I am struck by how much the climate has been poisoned in the last ten years and how much larger the probability of an irrationally angry or even hateful reaction to this text from, say, some college student is today than back then.)

Re-watching the somewhat juvenile but extraordinarily charming movie “Wall-E”, I found myself contemplating the issue of sex and sexual identity of the robotic protagonists—what feminists and “researchers” in the pseudo-scientific field of gender studies like to refer to as “gender”.

On my previous watching, I had assumed as a matter of course that Wall-E (cf. the male name “Wallie”) was male and Eve was female—a conclusion supported by much of their behaviors and interactions. (The extreme trigger happiness of the “girl” in her early scenes could possibly be seen as a contradiction; however, it is far from unlikely that a real woman would be more trigger happy than a man in the same situation of unknowns and potential threats.)

During the re-watching, I arrived at the scene where Wall-E gives Eve the plant and “she” is over-taken by her programming, inserts the plant in an internal compartment, and goes into “stand-by” awaiting collection by the space ship that had earlier dropped her off. I was jokingly thinking to myself how giving flowers (although the plant was not a flower) to women was dangerous and how female priorities could change completely once they had something growing inside them. (Enjoying, particularly, the joke of the second half and the close parallels between the consequences of the dual meanings.)

Almost immediately, however, I was struck by the question of how I knew which was which (or, for that matter, whether seeing them as romantic interests or of different sexes made sense at all). Obviously, in a literal and reality bound take, it makes little sense to consider robots as either male or female (with reservations for deliberate divisions through corresponding AI programming or, possibly, physically android or gynoid robots, especially hypothetical “sex-bots”; as well as far future robots that have radically different characteristics, e.g. an artificial ability to reproduce in style modeled after humans). Correspondingly, any application of “male” and “female” would be arbitrary.


However, it is a near certainty that my initial estimate (and what more-or-less everyone else will automatically assume) was correct:

Firstly, while the names of the robots were largely incidental from an in-universe perspective, it can safely be assumed that they were deliberately given to match “ordinary” names from a real-world perspective. Further, with very high probability, that the names given were also deliberately chosen to indicate the intentions of the movie makers.

Secondly, the behavior displayed by the robots where also almost certainly deliberately picked in the same manner. Even the “plant pregnancy” could quite conceivably have been a deliberate analogy or joke from the movie makers (as opposed to a coincidence that worked out in humorous manner).

Thirdly, the respective character was voiced by a member of the appropriate sex—despite the minimal dialogue and the electronic distortions of what little was said. (Wall-E, incidentally was voiced by Ben Burtt, best known for the sound effects in Star Wars.)

Combine this with the wish to tell a story that humans (including the many children, who would lack the ability to construct arguments like those on this page) can relate to and use characters that they can to some degree associate with and any other conclusion would be extraordinarily surprising.

In a next step, I contemplated how I would have experienced the preceding and on-going scenes if the roles were reversed. Broadly speaking, the movie did not change in any way. In detail, I saw two differences:

Firstly, my already weak identification with Wall-E would have been reduced further yet. (Wall-E is simply to different from me to make an identification easy, and only “his” role as the main protagonist and the male protagonist helped. With the change one of these two factors would have disappeared. In addition, I tend to identify weakly in general.) However, my sympathies and the “rooting for” factor remained unchanged.

Secondly, much of Wall-E’s (and Eve’s, to a lesser degree) behavior would now be incongruent with expectations in a manner that made the movie seem slightly “off” in some scenes. In effect, while the robots were obviously somewhat anthropomorphic and intended to be seen as quasi- or near-humans, the process seemed incomplete in a weird way, like a painting of a Swedish winter-landscape with an elephant in it (or an African summer-landscape with a moose)—by no means impossible or necessarily wrong, just “off”.

Now, seeing that there was such an easy interchange of roles, is there not something in what feminists and the like claims about sexual roles in general? No: Such a conclusion would miss the point of what they and their typical opponents claim. The feminist stand is not that there could be women acting like (stereotypical) men and vice versa—a claim that their opponents support and which is almost necessarily true. Instead, they differ from the opponents in the attribution of reason for behaviors (and the subsequent conclusions): Biology and in-born traits are near categorically ruled out in favor of “gender as a social construct”, “gender coding”, and variations on the same theme—with consequences like more men than women in the work-force being seen as an injustice and a societal problem. What (real) science proves, however, is that there is a strong biological influence on human behaviors, including many interests and priorities. Adherence ad absurdum to a disproved and gravely flawed model is what makes the feminist stand on “gender” so faulty and dangerous.


When I spoke of “women acting [etc.]”, I had my mind on non-trans issues, e.g. a woman seeing herself as a woman but having some or many specific interests, priorities, etc. more typically associated with men, say, that she prefers sci-fi and a career in engineering over chick-lit and a career in childcare. Ditto a man who prefers chick-lit and childcare over sci-fi and engineering. This is just regular human variation and something easily observable in daily life since long before the explosive rise of gender-dysphoria and whatnot.

An interesting difference between the feminist and trans takes on “gender” is that the former usually insist on “social construct” and the latter on something inborn and inherent (with a mismatch between the inborn “outside” and “inside”).