The final project in SOSC 301 was to write an essay about all the material culture in Pixar's Up. This class was so fascinating - you start seeing material culture at work everywhere. It had been a few years since I watched the movie, so I tried to remember what it was about. Then I watched it, madly scribbling notes. Then I watched it again, pausing frequently to inspect the details and backgrounds. I had pages of little notes - now the problem was how to put them all together in an essay 2000-3000 words long. There was way too much information. Curse you, Pixar, and your penchant for deliberate details.
I finally decided on comparing and constrasting the appearance of the characters. One of the concepts that was emphasized in class was that appearance was performative and could also be seen as a sort of "lie", or stand in for some else. Once I started focusing on that, it was easier to get started. I ended up getting 100% on the essay, which you can read here. And below is just a small sampling of my notes.
- Dug's name backwards is "good"
- Dug can tell that Kevin is female, Alpha refers to Kevin as "it"
- Carl makes and breaks a cross your heart promise to Russell; he and Ellie made a similar promise
- Both Ellie and Russell are a friend to nature, especially birds
- ChARLes and RussELL - Russell is like Ellie and Carl has the potential to be like Charles (sacrificing relationships for objects)
- Ellie and Russell wear similar uniforms; when Russell discards his sash, it ends up on Ellie's chair
- Charles Muntz is a jerk instead of a hero
- Kevin is a girl bird, not a boy
- Ellie is a girl, but looks like a boy when she first appears
- The house comes to represent the body of Ellie, while Russell is her kindred spirit (even right down to the poofy hair under their hats)
- Dug is constantly told he is a bad dog, but he is a good dog
- Similarly, Carl is declared a public menace and the policewoman tells him that he doesn't look like one
- Despite being a Wilderness Explorer, Russell isn't good at being out in the wild
- The cloud game Carl and Ellie play, which becomes the rock game
- The majestic Alpha has a squeaky voice
- Dug is mistaken to be a man which turns out to be two rock formations