There is no ethical or moral reason why somebody should work tirelessly to support a bunch of bureaucrats, and the 1998 Pixar hit seems to grasp this.
If you haven’t seen A Bug’s Life, I assure you that you have missed one of the best movies ever. Indeed, that animated classic produced by Pixar that saw the light of day in 1998, and that probably doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, is probably one of the most libertarian productions ever seen.
Nowadays it is difficult to find a film that represents good ideals and lays bare the practices of totalitarianism; in recent decades, the major film producers have left aside in good proportion the stories of heroes and role models to focus on the victims and their suffering at the hands of the oppressors, without really offering any positive or hopeful message, other than to enhance the culture of victimhood.
However, in A Bug’s Life this did not happen, although the film also has in Hopper—a grasshopper represented by Kevin Spacey—one of the greatest cartoon villains, it also presents in Flik an innovator who never gives up, who constantly explores new ideas, and who finally decides to confront Hopper’s totalitarianism to free his colony from the exploitation of grasshoppers.
Various media have published articles erroneously claiming that the film presents a criticism of “capitalism,” because according to them, it is about a class struggle of exploited workers. But this has little relation with reality. In capitalist and free market systems, people collaborate mutually without coercion; private property is respected, contrary to what is represented in the film, as the ants are fighting to protect their production (private) from the hands of some grasshoppers (militarists) who through force try to take away (expropriate) the fruit of their labor.
Curiously, Flik, who only thinks of liberating his community from oppression, is constantly repudiated and rejected by other ants due to his lack of obedience and respect for the grasshoppers’ authority; in this, we can find great parallels with today’s societies, increasingly servile before the inclement power of the States on steroids and their refined bureaucrats. However, Flik is convinced that he will be able to save his colony from slavery and he will not rest until he achieves it.
Hopper: The Ultimate Representation of Socialism
Hopper, the villain of this story, is the closest thing to the collectivist dictators we have known in the last 100 years. Stalin, Castro, Chavez, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler, anyone could be identified with Hopper, because in his conception of the world the ants are scum that must work to sustain the grasshoppers. It is basically the same logic followed by socialist regimes: the people must work to feed the bureaucrats. The supposed “redistribution of wealth” is nothing more than an excuse to appropriate the production of “the people” so that the bureaucrats can dispose of it, leaving only crumbs for its producers.
In one of his impassioned dialogues Hopper addresses the princess of the colony: “It’s a bug-eat-bug world out there, princess. One of those Circle of Life kind of things. Now let me tell you how things are supposed to work: The sun grows the food, the ants pick the food, the grasshoppers eat the food…”
The ant princess is completely intimidated by Hopper’s threats, and he exerts his control over the little insects through fear of violence and demands absolute obedience, in the purest Castro style.
In another part of the film, the grasshoppers closest to the leader stand up to him when he says they have to go and exert more pressure on the ants to get their food, so Hopper responds with some anger: “You let one ant stand up to us, then they all might stand up! Those puny little ants outnumber us a hundred to one and if they ever figure that out there goes our way of life! It’s not about food, it’s about keeping those ants in line.”
Clearly, Hopper understands that it is necessary to keep the collective fear of the ants at bay, for if they were to think they could be free, the grasshoppers’ lives of privilege and idleness would end immediately, and they would have to work for their food themselves.
Flik’s Hope and Yearning for Freedom
Flik, like the rest of the colony, is just a little ant who is not strong enough to take on Hopper and the grasshoppers, but he has big ideas and a lot of courage.
After traveling long distances trying to find help for his colony and recruiting a band of circus bugs, Flik returns to the colony to end Hopper’s plans to keep them enslaved until the last of their days. Unfortunately, Flik’s plan fails; however, his courage remains intact, and that manages to inspire the rest of the ants.
In the last part of the film, as a confrontation approaches, Hopper shouts at Flik: “You piece of dirt! No, I’m wrong. You’re lower than dirt. You’re an ant! Let this be a lesson to all you ants! Ideas are very dangerous things! You are mindless, soil-shoving losers, put on this Earth to serve us!”
Then Flik replies, “You’re wrong, Hopper. Ants are not made to serve grasshoppers. I’ve seen these ants do great things. And year after year, they somehow manage to pick food for themselves and you. So who is the weaker species? The ants are of no use to the grasshoppers. It is you who need us. We are much stronger than you say we are. And you know that, don’t you?
After Flik’s words the grasshoppers start to get restless, the ants start to advance against their slavers, Hopper stands his ground, but his army starts to disperse. The leader of the grasshoppers gives the order to counterattack, but the ants have already realized that they are more and that they don’t need the grasshoppers. Finally the ants overwhelm their captors, and the princess says to the villain: “You see, Hopper, nature has a certain order. The ants gather the food, the ants keep the food, and the grasshoppers leave!”
In the end, all the ants needed was a little courage to break free from their captors, and Flik gave them the inspiration to defeat the grasshopper army.
The message that A Bug’s Life leaves us with is quite hopeful, and we should all follow the example of Flik and his colony; there is no ethical or moral reason why somebody should work tirelessly to support a bunch of bureaucrats.
The wealth created should belong to its creators, not to those who dictate the laws of unjust societies and intimidate citizens with the use of force.
Emmanuel Rincón is a lawyer, writer, novelist and essayist. He has won several international literary awards. He is Editor-at-large at El American
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