Episode 653: Wa Waa Waaa Waaaah

On the Overthinking It Podcast, we tackle “Soul,” the new animated film from Pixar starring Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey.

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Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather overthink Disney/Pixar’s Soul, available on Disney+, which is an ambitious and fascinating, if slightly muddled, new animated film.

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Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom on Netflix

4 Comments on “Episode 653: Wa Waa Waaa Waaaah”

  1. John C Member #

    I’m not really a Pixar fan, because of the discussed confused worldview, so I don’t have the nostalgia about the company to be annoyed. But the story (as do most Pixar stories) reminded me a lot of the effects of comedians like George Carlin on culture, where we have entire political blocs whose mantras are “both sides are the same, and there’s no way to change it,” even after a year where we SAW what changes political positions (spoiler: Even the most pro-capitalism politicians will go socialist, if it gets people to buy stuff, and they stop caring when people go back to buying stuff). And I wonder if that’s intentional, here, since Tina Fey does have a history of being somewhat tone-deaf, but mostly, I just think that’s how the “set up moral lessons, only to ignore them” process happens in everything from Joe’s lack of interest in his life (doesn’t like his job, have a decent suit, listen to people, or have a real relationship with his mother) to the movie’s lack of interest in 22’s new life.

    But they did hammer the jokes. I stopped counting the number of times when the screen would clear out (and I think they might have even blurred the backgrounds, slightly), so that nobody would overlook a single part of a stumble-to-faceplant cycle. Even the clever jokes, like distracting the accountant to fudge the numbers, needed a jarring cut-scene, to make sure that nobody missed what was happening. Well, except for the mentioned joke about Joe not being able to get a cab, which was arguably the funniest, but they obviously played down.

    I wonder what the deal is, though, with the “secular Christian-substitute afterlife” (that is, it’s definitely Heaven, but with bumbling bureaucracy instead of deity), as if that’s going to somehow retain the Christian audience and bring in the non-Christians who have been clamoring for such a thing? I mean, it feels like the Jerries and Terries and spiritualists were set up to be their own little franchise that’s going to continue on past Joe and 22, to me. But this is not The Good Place, where the apparent bumbling is the whole point that drives you to the mid-season reveal, because it’s not like they’re going to run a short trying to explain to us where the new souls come from; they obviously come from somewhere, since 22 is the only one who has been waiting for so long, and people are still being born…


    • John C Member #

      Oh, and I’m an idiot for forgetting that this is a movie about a Black person, where the Black person doesn’t have authority over his body, dramatically improving all aspects of his life, which…nobody in all the months this was in production thought maybe that could be a problem?


  2. Wren #

    To answer the question of whether the jazz musician should be a teacher, I give a resounding No. It made me a little uncomfortable when I was watching it, and it took a bit of thinking to figure out why I was so off-put.

    It’s not because he didn’t really seem interested in them as people or as musicians, although I could argue that this should be a key component in musical education, but for me the main problem with the jazz musician as a teacher was that he didn’t pay attention to the students he had so much as the students he wished he had. Like he had some sort of platonic ideal music student who loved jazz and would accept his hard-won jazz wisdom and respect his artistic integrity and perhaps would aspire to play in the jazz band with his idol, too, and that ideal student was who he was tailoring his lessons for. Unsurprisingly, all the real students fell short of/failed to fit into the Musical Student role he had assigned them. (I didn’t get the impression that the jazz musician would want to teach his platonic ideal student either, because the guy wasn’t very into teaching, but at least the lessons he would have offered them might have been applicable to their lives.)

    On reflection that might have been one of the problems of the jazz musician in general: he pegged people into roles that he thought he understood and then never noticed if they didn’t fit into the assumptions he’d assigned them. We saw this with his barbershop acquaintances, and I think with his mom? I saw Soul months ago now, so my memory of it is getting a little hazy, but I think Jazz Musician eventually learned that his mom wasn’t as unsupportive of his jazz ambitions as he’d thought but that she also wanted him to have stability for when the music didn’t feed him.


    • Stokes #

      This is smart – I would add that the same basic problem shapes his self-image: he has an idea of himself as a full-time touring jazz artist, and (insofar as it diverges from that image) he has no interest in engaging with his actual life, or who he actually is.


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