Consumerism at the Cost of the Environment
by Jack Wang
A major theme of the first movie, greed, is continued in the second installment of the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2013). In this second film, the theme is expressed through the main antagonist Chester, innovator and owner of LiveCorp. He plots to steal Flint’s Flint Lockwood’s Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator (FLDSMDFR) and make better tasting Foodbar out of foodimals, animals made out of food. Chester’s willingness to sacrifice the foodimals for higher Foodbar sells is a poignant critique of real life situations where the environment has been compromised by material greed.
Although a heavy subject, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 chose to discuss it in a light-hearted manner. In short, the film is fun. Instead of having real animals, cute and puny food substitutes are used. The big screen is saturated with vibrant creatures like shrimpanzees, cantelopes, and tacodile; it is impossible not get caught up trying to guessing the name of the next creature to pop up on screen. Within this happy food paradise, strong overtones of consumerism is found aplenty. Chester is first introduced to the audience through a commercial Flint sees on TV, selling his iconic Foodbar. Chester’s LiveCorp lightbulb logo is ubiquitous, found on helicopters, his clothing, and even in the shape of the headquarter building itself. The branding goes as far as to include his own body—Chester rarely appears in the flesh, instead preferring to have holograms, a proud invention of LiveCorp, take his place.
Chester and LiveCorp are modeled after modern tech giants. Decked out in a trendy orange vest and sleek green glasses, the tall, thin man antagonist is a chiseled statue of the late Steve Jobs. LiveCorp headquarter, on the other hand, more resembles Google. A 21st century work paradise for young twenty somethings: the place offers unlimited coffee, space tubes for transportation, and no objectives other than to “innovate”. Chester and LiveCorp’s entire purpose is to create new, must-have consumer goods.
In order to fulfill its purpose, LiveCorp have to use unethical methods. Chester falsely informs Flint of the dangerous nature of foodimals. He shows Flint a misleading video of a cheespider attack. Through the shaky camera and spotty tape, it really did seem like a violent threat. However, we later learn that cheespiders are actually dog-like cheeseburgers who like belly rubs. In another instance, a tacodile protecting its young is mislabeled as being naturally aggressive. These scenes illustrate our common misconceptions of wild animals. Rather than trying to understand lion attacks on humans as a sign of habitat encroachment, we tend to chalk it up to lions having man-eating tendencies. In our greed for exotic things like pelts and ivory, many majestic animals are no more. Chester’s actions are not too different from advertisement schemes by big corporations.
By incorporating food into all of the lifeforms, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 offers a level of separation from real life. On the surface, it remains a kid-friendly film about a team of friends fighting bad guys in an exciting environment of favorite foods come-to-life. To the more mature audience, one can still certainly enjoy the movie without feeling any guilt. Dig just a little deeper; however, the world of flamangos and LiveCorp suddenly feels a little more real. The foodimals offer a very digestible commentary, raising awareness on the modern crisis of habitat destruction and overconsumption happening all around us.