A really late in the day review of Bee Movie (2007)

Bee movie, co-produced by Jerry Seinfeld, gave me ample amount of thinking over the weekend. As much as I enjoyed the cracks, the usual Seinfeld pessimism, the feeling an adult gets when they are watching a film 60% designed for kids, but identify a joke aimed at entirely at adults (that feeling is usual humour, plus the shiver of wisdom and age), for example the joke at the end where the mosquito (voiced by Chris Rock) claims that being lawyer will come easy to him since he is already a blood-sucking parasite, and another joke where on guessing who Barry is in love with, a friend enquires ‘its not a wasp is it, what will your Mother say (one can hardly deny that this sounds to me like a typical Jewish Mother’s concern that her Jewish son has fallen in love with a wasp, that is to say a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant)’.

What struck me also, obviously, was the explicit political message of the honey stealing and the corporate lobby. Barry, the bee, on realising that humans are sucking the labour from bees in order to gain profits, exploiting those bees to boot, he takes the local honey firm to court, and after some glorious ups, and far fewer downs, wins the case against the fat-cats (and bears). A platform for anti-capitalist Dreamworks? Hardly likely, consider what Philip French of the Observer wrote about the film at the time;

Winning the case leads to the imminent destruction of the world’s ecology, so Barry must become a hero by putting the bees back to work spreading pollen around the globe 24/7. The message is the old one that ‘the rich man in his castle, the poor man at the gate, He made them high and lowly and ordered their estate’. With its call to restore the old order and respect the self-sacrificing Stakhanovite, Bee Movie should go down well in Putin’s Russia.

True that what was to follow the court case did little to vindicate Barry’s excellent performance, in fact it brought harm to the eco-system. Not very progressive at all. That is if what goes for progressive these days is a realignment with the old situationist-esque mantra destroy work!

In actual fact what the bee community finds out over the period of the court case is that the value of their labour has only been amassing a surplus for the corporate thief. But what happens when the bees stop working altogether is the same as what would happen if workers of all stripes (not just bee stripes!) stopped working; the stasis of the economy would suffer and go stagnant – haven’t all good economists warned the capitalists of this fact, and is this not why they create what Marx called ‘a reserve army of labour’?

Well luckily in the bee world there is full employment, which means there is a perfect situation, you screw us over, we destroy ecology, the ball is in our court. Of course, being bees, and obviously nice, they don’t leave ecology to become destroyed, they resume work. Perhaps the bees become unionised, perhaps conditions are improved, perhaps there is a colony takeover where the bees run and divide the profits of the honey, we will never know, but in the strictest observance of the analogy, the workers realise the power they have over natural resources, realise that bastards are ripping them off for profit, but that the solution is not to suffer everybody.

And suffer everybody bees can certainly do. On a recent arrival of a mysterious disease, it was starkly remembered that bees help maintain about a third of the human diet by way of insect-pollinated plants. For the bee, providing for the human diet comes at a dark price for the bee’s sexual dignity in that the bee has to perform what is called pseudocopulation, which in basic terms is the attempt at copulation by a male insect (in this case the bee) with a female flower. The bee, attracted to the scent or sight of the flower, may well try to have his end away with it, knowing little or nothing about its being a flower at all. The flower is involved in a matter of deception.

The bee himself is wooed, in the case of the orchid, by the release of osmophores which are identical to the pheromones let-off by the species. Common, too, is the occurrence of visual mimicry in plants where a flower might appear like a sexually receptive female, in the case of the orchid it might appear as female Hymenoptera so as to be inseminated by an unlucky male of this order, only for him to find that he has been duped, probably humiliated and will, no less, carry a stigma (!).

The premise of the film, for kids, is not to be unkind to bees and to respect the lives of all creatures, like Vanessa does. The wider structure of the film surely points out that taking for granted the sum of the workforce may one day come back to haunt those who do.

But about Dreamworks’ intentions, what was it that Nick Cohen said about his rich friends, that they own books by John Pilger, Naomi Klein, Michael Moore etc etc, lets not forget that its fashionable to hold humanitarian views now because they tend not to disturb the true functioning of the economy (see Zizek’s analysis on violence for further details). This could provide some explanation as to why we hate the honey company’s CEO throughout. Or Philip French could be right, the film incidentally did screen better in Russia than it did the UK, but it is a tad bigger in size.

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