Silver Linings III: “Bee Movie” as Capitalist Dystopia

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Image via youtube.com

I’m sure many if not all of you are somewhat familiar with Jerry Seinfeld’s magnum opus “Bee Movie,” universally recognized as one of the most baffling Triple­A animated pictures of all time. From beginning to end, the audience is left with innumerable questions. “Did that lady just leave her husband because of a bee?” “What is Sting doing in this movie?” “Did I just watch an entire court case between a bee and a grown man?” All of these are great questions, to be sure, but they fail to reach the heart of the matter. Unbeknownst to many, “Bee Movie” may very well be Jerry Seinfeld’s most vital cautionary tale. Like Fritz Lang’s 1927 classic “Metropolis,” the film constructs an all­ too­ realistic narrative landscape about our society’s future. Seinfeld dares to ask: will we ever bee free from our senseless capitalistic drive or will we forever feel the sting of our consistent mistakes?

“Bee Movie” begins with Barry Benson introducing us to his supposedly fictional world, a fully functioning bee society that is frighteningly similar to our own. Bees move rapidly from place to place across the screen, never ceasing their labor. Barry finds himself at the job assigning station, awaiting his ultimate fate that decides the course of every bees life. He finds that the positions he is interested in are dropping in and out of availability. Barry ponders this phenomenon, only to find that the empty positions are indications of death. Suddenly, one of Seinfeld’s crucial morals becomes apparent. In true Marxist fashion, “Bee Movie” reveals three undeniable truths of its universe: we’re born, we work, we die. A haunting reality this may be, but it is a reality that Barry’s associates readily adopt. They are conditioned into their labor, operate as cogs of the machine, and never escape the machine itself. They are only replaced.

Like some of us would be, Barry is deeply troubled by the reality of the world he lives in and desperately tries to make an escape. He integrates himself into a world outside the hive, and unwittingly happens upon more concerning information. The very fruits of the labor that his fellow bees have worked so hard to produce, working even until death, are being used by the entire human population. Desperate for revolution, Barry confronts the humans in court in an effort to free his bee companions from their work. He eventually proves to be successful, but at an unprecedented cost. The ecological structure of the entire world has been affected by Barry’s actions. Plants across the globe slowly begin to die because the bees have broken free of their capitalistic binds. Herein lies Seinfeld’s greatest message in the entire film: no matter how power is distributed in a profit­-centric culture, there are always going to be winners and losers.

Let it be known that these opinions are not my own, but simply the messages conveyed by the movie. Seinfeld manages to convey that where there is success, there is suffering. Where there is toil, there is reward. Moreover, this is an inevitable cycle in the “Bee Movie” universe. The entire ecosystem is built around labor and profit, eventually establishing a dependence to this sequence of events. The “Bee Movie” ends with a utopic future between the human and animal kind that seems way too good to be true. In the final moments of the piece, Seinfeld exhibits a future that despite its peace is just out of reach in today’s economy. As much as it pains me to say it, this reality is simply unbeelievable.

Michael Dellapi is a staff columnist for the Highlighter.

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