The Splendid 'ANTZ'
Antz, a little libertarian-like gem of a movie, is a video that is worthy of one-and-a-half hours on the couch, and the one or two dollars that one needs to put out to enjoy this surprisingly anti-collectivist, Hollywood flick.
"Antz" is a splendid movie: a kick in the collectivist butt. In fact, the writers seem to have been inspired by Ayn Rand's Anthem. The lead ant (Woody Allen as "Z") is the film's answer to Rand's "Equality 7-2521," the rugged individualist caught up in a statist system. Except that Z is a whining nebbish of an insect, encumbered with Woody Allen's neurotic personality instead of Equality 7-2521's strong, silent resourcefulness. However, Z does embody one worthy personality trait—he refuses to conform to the "ideal" of the worker who is "not to think, but rather, to sacrifice for the good of the colony."
The ant heap where Z lives is sort of a North Korean communist monarchy. The Queen is the supreme ruler over two rigidly stratified tiers of ants. Soldiers come first, and workers second. Communist propaganda abounds throughout the colony. Posters hang in the dark, forlorn tunnels, for example, exhorting the workers to "conquer idleness," and reminding them that "freetime is for training."
Every ant's place in society is determined at birth, when they are still larvae. The strong are sent off to train as soldiers and fight wars for "the good of the colony," while the weaker are given numbers instead of names, and ordered to a mindless life in the tunnels, pickaxe in hand. Again, this is reminiscent of Rand's Anthem, where the totalitarian leaders determine, when the children are very young, exactly how they will serve the state as adults.
Z was sentenced to a life in the tunnels. But he feels he's not cut out to be a worker, and muses of a better place, a world where individual lives matter. Then he discovers that there is indeed a libertarian paradise for bugs known as Insectopia, where they can live in peaceful harmony without war or oppression, and where individual sovereignty reigns. Meanwhile, Z has fallen in love with the restless Princess Bala, who has some doubts about her own future as inheriting ruler of the colony.
When Z escapes with the uncooperative princess by his side, he is pursued by the colony's military leader, General Mandible. As Z and the princess finally reach the wonders of Insectopia, actually a quiet park nestled in the bosom of the big city, it is reminiscent of Rand's Equality 7-2521 entering the Uncharted Forest and discovering the House of the Unmentionable Times and with it, the intellectual wonders of times past.
Gene Hackman does a brilliant voiceover as the blood-and-guts general and future husband of the princess. He declares war against a neighboring termite colony after convincing the queen that the termites — who have no such plans — want to destroy the ants and are about to attack. In reality, he wants to use an unjust war as cover to kill all the worker ants, take power, and build a thoroughly militarist colony. But when it dawns upon the worker ants that they control the means of production — the soldiers being non-producers — they rally against the oppressive power of the state and, led by Z, mount a successful revolution to squash the general.
All in all, "Antz" is a wonderful celebration of individual triumph. It honors nonconformity, freedom of choice, and the courage of one individual to lead a revolt against oppressive rulers. One of the stellar lines from the movie is delivered by Z as he sits at a bar watching his fellow workers in a regimented line dance. He calls them "a bunch of mindless zombies capitulating to an oppressive society." This film, like Anthem, shows why we mustn't be ants either.
August 18, 2000
Karen De Coster is a politically incorrect CPA, and an MA student in economics at Walsh College in Michigan.
Copyright © 2000 Karen De Coster