I watched Pixar’s A Bug’s Life last night and was struck by the similarities in the story to what is happening in Egypt and all around the Middle East. The film is a powerful statement of “there are more of us than there are of them.”
Whenever a ruthless dictator and a few brutal henchmen seize power and squander the resources of the community, they rely on fear, intimidation and violence to keep and maintain the repressive status quo. Once the community wakes up and realizes its own inherent power, it can’t be stopped in its demands for freedom and autonomy. It is usually the young who lead the way.
In the real world, the community may have to take several runs at the oppressive regime over an extended period of time but “you cannot stop an idea whose time has come.” In the Middle East we see a surging hunger for democracy and a desire to end the repressive exploitation that has kept so many people poor, overworked and paralyzed by fear.
Here is my commentary on this wonderful Pixar film released in 1998 and well worth another look today.
In A Bug’s Life, an island colony of hard-working ants is exploited by a dictatorial grasshopper thug, Hopper (voiced by Kevin Spacey). Hopper and his vicious henchmen extort most of the colony’s food each summer. The ants are left with very little time to gather what meager provisions that are left.
Flik (voiced by Dave Foley), is young ant who rebels against the traditional conformity of ant society. He is an individual thinker and an odd-ball eccentric. Flik is a Power of Idealism character. These characters want to find their special place in the world, be extraordinary in what they do and are often called to some great destiny (usually as a freedom-fighting warrior/leader). They are misfits, mavericks and rebels. These characters reject popular opinion or the demands of authority to maintain and assert their own unique individuality and break through the accepted conventions of society.
All the other ants in the film march in lock-step following exactly the ant that went before. They panic when the “line” is broken by a randomly fallen leaf. Flik wants to do things differently. He’s invented a threshing machine to make grain collection faster and easier. He goes off on his own to do his own thing. None of the other ants want anything to do with him. Because he’s young and still learning, Flik’s inventions tend to end in disaster.
When Flik adds his pile of food to the offering for the grasshoppers, he accidentally dumps everything into the stream. The grasshoppers arrive and are furious to find that their tribute booty is gone. They double the extortion price and the colony will most likely have to work themselves to death and starve when their last food reserves are taken.
Flik offers a radical idea. He will leave the colony, find a band of warrior insects and lead a rebellion against the evil grasshopper regime. Everyone thinks he is crazy but they send him off on what they see as a suicide mission, mostly to get rid of him. They don’t want any problems or delays in their desperate attempts to gather more food for the grasshoppers. The only ant who believes in Flik is Dot, a youngster who is the littlest member of the ant royal family.
Dot (voiced by Hayden Panettiere) is a Power of Imagination character. Like all of these kinds of characters, she is innocent and naive. Power of Imagination characters are childlike in their beliefs. They are often overlooked small and gentle souls who believe against all odds, trust against all conventional wisdom and have faith against all experience or reason. Dot has absolute unwavering conviction in Flik’s abilities. She watches for him and when he returns she says: “Flik you came back. I knew you could do it!”
Any rebellion against the status quo requires true believers in the impossible. In the recent rebellions, it has been the women (the mothers, grandmothers and daughters) who have quietly been providing food, water and medical attention to the protesters, believing with simple unwavering conviction in what here-to-fore has seemed impossible to achieve. I am sure some women probably fought but the pictures mostly have demonstrated the quiet resistance of the women who believe in the fight their sons, brothers and fathers are waging.
Princess Atta (voiced by Julia Louis-Drefuss) is a Power of Truth character. She is nervous and slightly neurotic, always doubting and second-guessing herself. She hems and haws until Flik is beaten badly by the grasshopper overlord, Hopper. When Flik refuses to back down, even in the face of certain death, she finally finds her courage and helps rally the ants. The community’s powerfully linked arms, realization of their own inherent power and superior numbers overwhelms the grasshoppers.
As we are seeing in the rebellions unfolding in the Middle East, you can’t stop the power of a united community. When people link arms and keep coming, eventually, and often at great cost, a repressive regime topples. The simple truth is always: “There are more of us than there are of them.” The following clips expresses the philosophy of despotic thug regimes everywhere and how the community, when powerfully called to action, eventually triumphs.
Enjoy and watch some simple entertainment that contains a potent message and lesson we all need to learn over and over again. Find the clips here: