by Alex Daud Briggs
I remember watching the 2007 DreamWorks production Bee Movie. I didn’t think too much of it back then, but I would never have imagined that ten years later it would have joined the ranks of Shrek and Johnny Test as the pinnacle of internet memes.
It’s kind of understandable though, I mean it’s a movie named ‘Bee Movie’ – something that on the nose about its subject is just kind of asking to be a meme. Beyond that, the script was just odd. The story is about Barry the Bee who literally tries to sue humanity and gain the exclusive rights to consume honey all the while also having a semi romance with a human woman. It’s definitely out there for an animated kid’s movie with that same mixture of cartoon antics and more mature humour that made the Shrek series so popular, which is probably why the two seem to have many anime crossovers together on the internet.
Despite all the memes however, Bee Movie has some pretty interesting themes underneath its dank interspecies romance. The movie tackles themes like individualism and the rights of workers.
Much like Antz and A Bugs Life, Bee Movie uses its insect colony as an analogue for the dehumanising nature of the workforce.
Barry is told that he’ll be a worker bee for the rest of his life, just another body in a literal hivemind where upon death he’ll easily be replaced. The court case against humanity likewise shows how the Bees are exploited by humans using manipulation and torture into creating a commodity of which they see none of the profit.
This is made even more interesting by the ending. The Bees win the court case and seize the rights to honey production. However, they now have such high supply, they don’t even need to work meaning that the flowers are dying from a lack of pollination. The Bees eventually resolve to work with humans to create more honey but on equal terms. This is a good environmental message, explaining the importance of Bees for the planet but is also a nuanced story of class struggle. While the cruel treatment is wrong, both the humans and the worker bees play a part in helping the world around them and that they must be responsible for it. The humans learn to respect those that create for them and the Bees must be willing to share their creations so that they can benefit others. It serves a good middle ground between extreme capitalism and extreme ideals of socialism or communism, and in a way that is pretty easy for kids to understand.
For a family comedy about talking Bees, Bee Movie is surprisingly mature in subject matter. Mature and makes great memes: a true mark of one of the best anime of all time (but still not as good as Cory in The House).