This movie was…. a movie. I honestly don’t know how to describe what I watched. I have been aware of Bee Movie for some time, mainly because of the sweet memes, but never knew what the film was actually about. Going in, I had expectations a run-of-the-mill movie for children akin to the many Pixar movies where [any thing that doesn’t talk] talks. I was also expecting it to be bad, but funny bad, or else there wouldn’t be any memes. Instead I got a story with so many twists and turns that I never knew what was going to happen next. The movie could appear to be a metaphor on the expectations we put on college, racism/slavery culture, capitalism vs. communism, or even our conceptions of bestiality. This movie was legitimately captivating, mainly due to it being so fucking absurd. It might have been one of the most unintentionally weirdest movies I’ve ever seen.
The Expectations We Put On Future Generations
The movie starts out with Barry B. Benson, voiced by Jerry Seinfeld, on his graduation day from Bee College. Immediately after his brief graduation ceremony he starts orientation on work at the hive. He has to decide which job he wants, and fast, for this choice will determine his career for the rest of his life. If this sounds familiar, then you probably graduated from college in the real world as well. Children who go to college spend a few years with a career choice in mind and think they will achieve it. Sadly most people in college don’t really know what they want to do in life. A massive number of graduates don’t wind up working in the fields their degrees apply. Many people end up needing to go back to school at an older age or simply are stuck in a job that they cannot get out of. Straight out of school is too young to make that choice.
Barry cracks under the pressure. His best friend Adam, voice by Matthew Broderick, ells him it isn’t a big deal. His parents are “encouraging” Barry into following in their foot steps and be a stirrer, even tho they hated it. Eventually he ends up leaving the hive with the “Pollen Jocks”, a marine style group of bees that go out into the world to collect nectar. The same way many young people, with no clue on what to do with their future, join the military in order to get out of their home-towns. Many events happen, he falls in love, uncovers various evil plots, has a sword fight with a man holding a safety pin who is totally fine with the fact bees can talk, and eventually finds a happy career.
Barry starts out the movie upset with the limited career choices. By the end of the film, he is a lawyer. This wasn’t some random choice he made on a whim, it was something he has passion for, after some real world experiences. Very few people actually get to make this choice and discovery. This section of the movie could be seen as a metaphor for the job market in the United States and the expectations we put on children to figure their shit out, or at least be happy with the choices they make with no real regard in what will make them happy. Unfortunately… the movie gets way weirder.
Systemic Racism and Inter-species Erotica
Just when I thought you figured out the simple coming of age plot in the way of bees, the film turns into a romantic comedy. As mentioned, after Barry leaves the hive, he meets the love of his life. A woman by the name of Vanessa, voiced by Renée Zellweger, rescues him from a violent interaction with her boyfriend Ken, voiced by Patrick Warburton. Barry’s first actual interactions with humans involve upper middle class white people that try to kill him because of the way he looks. Throughout the movie there are jokes about the perception humans have towards bees being dangerous. Vanessa, on the other hand, believes all like is equal and important. After saving his life, Barry talks to her, and she understands him. After a brief moment, she is totally fine having coffee with a talking bee an the two start a courtship.
There are interactions where she must defend Barry after he is attacked in public; he is treated differently do to the way he looks. Although Vanessa is dating Ken, her relationship with Barry grows. This reaches a climax when Ken storms in after Venessa cancelled dinner with him and is eating with Barry. He cannot take how he is losing his woman to a bee. After a quick back and forth about how bees are just harder workers and better at getting jobs, Ken tries to kill Barry; which just pushes Vanessa into Barry’s arms. The comment on how bees have easier time finding work is shown further on the section of the film involving Barry finding honey farms. His “people” are worked hard and taken advantage of. This could be seen as the United States relationship with immigrant workers that do a lot the hard work in the farming industry and make less than minimum wage, while the owners of the companies make millions.
Vanessa helps Barry sue the honey farms for their racial injustice and exploitation. During the trial, the prosecutor Layton T. Mongomery, voiced by John Goodman, uses fear to win the trial. He triggers Adam into to getting angry and attacking Layton; “acting like the animal he is”. This is a tactic used in many racial arguments. I also noticed all of the characters in the movie are white, aside from one black man that is used as the punchline when Jerry Seinfeld says “Living out as honey slaves to the white man!” There are also several jokes throughout the film about different species in the way of being different races. The funniest being from the mosquito Mooseblood, voiced by Chris Rock. He jokes how he is single because mosquito girls always trade up and never want to actually date a mosquito. There have been plenty of movies that used an imaginary creature situation to highlight racism, whether it be as an elf, puppet, or robot. If this was just the point of the film that would be normal…. but it gets weirder.
Capitalism vs Communism: Which is Worse for the Planet
I don’t think it is a giant leap to compare worker bees to the middle class. The film starts off introducing the newly graduated Barry and Adam to the intricate workings of a beehive. Their career choice options are based on the dozens of individual needs of the hive. Each bee representing a separate cog in the machine that keeps their society going. If one job isn’t done right, then the whole machine goes down. The main conflict Barry feels with this choice, shows how he doesn’t really care about the hive. He cares more about his individual feelings. Adam doesn’t care about his job as much and just wants to be a good worker, who also supports the colony. Barry wants personal satisfaction over serving the needs of his community. This is a classic metaphor movies have used to denounce communism. How Barry’s happiness is more important than his individual contributions. However the movie goes back and forth on Barry’s communist and capitalist mindset, much like any millennial out of college.
Later in the film, Barry discovers injustice. The honey bees are making is being used by humans he doesn’t agree with it. He wants the individuals, bees, to get the proper payment for their labors; for them to get their honey. This is when Barry turns communist. After winning a law suit, all honey is given back to the bees. They receive the value of their labor, and have more honey than they know what to do with. Unfortunately while temporarily positive, it makes the hive lazy. This scene came off as commentary on the working man’s desire to get the value of their labor. The age old argument on whether or not a person works for the purpose or for the money. Barry starts out wanting to work for the money. Separate acknowledgment to the fact he didn’t actually do any work, he came out of school but now he now is drowning in honey without working a day in his life. With all the honey there was no reason to work and the machine has stopped. When someone gets “the value of their labor” it seems like they are only working for the money. And if that is the case, isn’t that more a sign of capitalism than communism?
The final movie event, where I can see an argument for communism, is when all the plants have died. The bees, having reached their individual happiness levels, are no longer working. However, bee’s work was never just benefiting themselves. Bees spread pollen, which makes plants grow and reproduce. With all the honey, bees stopped going out to the flowers and so they stopped spreading pollen. Without the pollen, the entire world went into an Apocalypse. This movie ends with the world almost ending and joking about a suicide pact between bees and humans…. what the fuck is with this “kids movie.” The world is ending because bees cared more about themselves then the community outside of their hive. Bee Movie appears to make a point about how people should care more about the planet than finding individual joy or getting paid. It got pretty fucking weird.
Jerry Seinfeld is a Comedian
I don’t actually think this movie is about any of these themes. Our minds likes to create parallels that do not exist to make art political when sometimes it just isn’t. Jerry Seinfeld wrote a movie that was insane. He is a comedian and was trying to be funny. And to be honest some of it really was. Many of the jokes in this movie were not very appropriate. There is a scene that actually made me burst out laughing; Barry is day dreaming about Vanessa and right after flying in the shape of a heart, she crashes into a rock and dies. There are a few of those, like the queen of the honey farm bees being a drag queen image, or when they shoot Winnie the Pooh. There is even a moment where Barry is interviewed by ‘Bee Larry King’ and the joke goes full meta when Barry acknowledges the parody to the real Larry King.
I don’t believe this movie is trying to make a point. A lot of it was just jokes on bee culture. The end of the movie, with the apocalypse, is one of the few things people know about bees. We as a planet need bees to pollinate a lot of our plants, and they are dying. But I think the movie was making a joke more than trying to “get you all woke!” Jerry Seinfeld isn’t a communist, an advocate for college students, or a civil rights fighter. He is an old comedian that took a crack at making a kids movie without any outside interference and did an okay job. Not to mention there apparently are six screen writers so it makes sense how the plot was chaotic. Regardless of you hating it or just tolerating it, we are still talking about the movie twelve years later. How many other movies, released for children, within that time still have articles being written about them? I watched this movie because I was told it was going to be weird, and it definitely was. But a weird movie about a bee stealing a human’s girlfriend and then suing Ray Liotta is something we need every once in a while in an industry full of remakes, sequels, and unoriginal ideas.
Movie watched and film analysis written by: Troy Smith