With the recent release of Pixar’s new movie, Inside Out, this past weekend, the internet has been abuzz with praises for the film including its interesting characters, its complex conflict, and its positive message that all feelings (not just happiness) are okay and should be experienced. After watching the movie this past weekend, I can say that I absolutely agree with the critics. This is a great movie that everyone should see.
Also making social media waves is Pixar’s featured short called Lava that premiered before the movie about a volcano looking for love. Here’s a clip.
Throughout social media there were so many that took an emotional hit as Uku, a live volcano, sees all the creatures around him in romantic partnerships — the dolphins, the clouds, the birds — and therefore sings about wanting someone to “love-a” (and love-a him). Spoiler Alert. In the five minute clip, millions of years pass of Uku’s singing for someone to love before a female volcano appears from the depths of the ocean to love him. End scene.
The emotional appeal by Pixar works. They show the audience a lonely volcano who wishes he had someone to love and who watches for millions of years loving couples surround him and pass him by all the while never having anyone to love him. The story ends on a happy note because eventually the Universe (or the earth and sky) sends him someone to love. (It should be noted that although he’s saying something different, he’s not really asking for someone to love. He’s asking for someone to love him.) By the end, the audience feels a sense of satisfaction and emotional awe. See! He wanted someone to love, and he got her! What a beautiful story!
But I didn’t like it.
In fact, I thought the ending was the saddest part of the entire short.
This is an example of our occasional inability to see the forest through the trees. This volcano sits in the middle of the ocean and is surrounded by other creatures and anthropomorphized beings who are in these neat little dyads. It’s part of what makes the beginning of the short so emotionally heart wrenching. The viewer sees the volcano sitting in the ocean alone for millions of years as he constantly cries out wishing for someone to love him. We immediately hope, then, that another volcano will come along soon to rid Uku of his loneliness. There’s only one solution for Uku’s loneliness, we tell ourselves, and that is to find a mate.
Yet, the entire time, there are other creatures who could stop what they’re doing and have a conversation with the lonely volcano, yet instead just keep on their merry way. Perhaps the two dolphins could have stopped and had a conversation with Uku? Perhaps the birds of the air could listen to Uku talk about the ups and downs of being an active volcano? Perhaps the clouds could shield the sun out of Uku’s eyes every once in a while?
The reason why the ending of this short is so sad to me is that it concludes with everyone in this fictional world existing in little romantic dyads and reinforces this idea that the only solution to loneliness is romantic love. It completely disregards any sense of community and discounts any love that’s not romantic love.
You’re just a curmudgeon! You say.
Stop being an anti-Cupid!
You hate love and all it stands for!
It’s just a short! Why are you so critical?!
Movies teach us things. They can either reinforce our pre-existing beliefs about this world or create new schemas for us to understand and to interact with others. Our culture already promotes this idea of existential romantic dyadism where the only place that a person can truly be loved and love another person is within the romantic relationship (that has been provided for them by providence). This belief has had numerous impacts on our social groups by placing undue pressure on our spouses to satisfy our every need, by diminishing other forms of love including friendships and familial relationships, and by promoting this idea that if a person isn’t married by the age of 25 (or at all, for that matter) he or she has less value and worth than a married man or woman.
I’m not saying Uku can’t be in a romantic relationship. That’s not my point. My only thought is how much more beautiful this message could have been if we saw other forms of love expressed.
Could we not have imagined an ending where Uku asked for someone to love and instead of getting a volcano mate, he learned how to love and be loved by the community around him?