The Movie Antz
The movie Antz (1998) depicts a totalitarian ant society that has undergone a revolution owing to the unwillingness of one little worker to unquestionably follow orders and be a perfect member of the community. The movie is exemplary and symbolic in many respects as it shows how one person or, in this case, the ant can go against the long-established social order despite various obstacles and find happiness, as well as enormously benefiting his community. The current paper is aimed at critically analyzing the movie Antz with account for some prominent Plato’s and Aristotle’s ideas in relation to the tension between the individual and the community. It turns out that the movie depicts a society contrary to the one idealized by Plato and has little in common with the one described by Aristotle in his work entitled The Politics and the Constitution of Athens.
Prior to analyzing the aforementioned aspect of the movie from the perspective of Aristotle and Plato, it seems reasonable to say a few words about the ant society depicted in Antz. Hence, this society is totalitarian and segregated into three groups: the royal family, soldiers ruled by generals, and workers. Each ant is assigned a definite role based on inborn qualities and appearance almost immediately after birth and has no chance of social mobility afterwards. Workers are the most underprivileged group of the society even though they are the ones who provide the community with food, housing, and, in a nutshell, do all the work. The royal family is tasked with ensuring the survival of the colony by giving birth to new ants. According to Princess Bala, her role in life after marriage will be to give birth to a new ant every ten seconds. Workers, like Z, work their entire lives for the sake of the colony and sometimes enjoy nights out in a bar where their dances are strictly regulated and should comply with the set norms. Soldiers, like Weaver, are traditionally tasked with protecting the colony from external hazards like termites, i.e. they are all muscles and usually follow orders without questioning. However, there is a group of higher ranked soldiers who raise to the positions of colonels and generals, for instance, General Mandible. This character is devious and cunning as he has almost managed to destroy the community because of his convictions that the new colony should be purebred and strong, which means that it had to consist only of soldiers. The story would end tragically if Z were not different from other colony members. Since childhood, he has been dissatisfied with his role in the community and felt that something is terribly wrong with the existing social order even though he cannot identify that for sure. Besides, prior to meeting Princess Bala and falling in love with her, he is afraid to go against the community and meekly complies with orders. Nonetheless, his subsequent rebellion, even though initially it can hardly be deemed intentional, has made other ants reconsider their roles and the social order, which is why they have managed to organize protests and finally rebuild an even stronger community after a tragic accident arranged by General Mandible. Withal, one small ant conducts a revolution and changes the social order that has existed since the times the colony was founded, which exemplifies the fact that any person is capable of altering an unjust society if he/she dedicates enough efforts to that cause and believes in the righteousness of this with all his/her heart.
However, the above situation contradicts the postulates of an ideal society and a just state given by Aristotle and Plato who would be more likely to approve the state of the ant society at the beginning of the movie before Z changes the very foundations that the community has been based on. According to Aristotle, the ideal community is the place where the happiness of an individual “is the same as that of the state”. The same concerns the well-being of an individual that can be ensured only in the community where all work is for the sake of the well-being of the society, in general, rather than caring about their personal interests. This is the first way how the society in Antz differs from the one idealized by Aristotle if to consider it from the perspective of social tension between an individual and the community. The Aristotle’s definition of tyranny is suitable for describing the role General Mandible has envisioned for himself. According to the philosopher, tyranny “is just that arbitrary power of an individual which is responsible to no one, and governs all alike, whether equals or betters, with a view to its own advantage”. Such social order is unthinkable for any sensible personality like Z who has always wanted to choose his place in the community rather than being assigned it without account for his merits and capabilities. Aristotle supposed that community was better off than any individual separately because the latter was liable to being wrong and subjective, while the community was a collective body, therefore it could make collective decisions aimed at the good of the whole group without erring a lot. Nonetheless, Z has proved otherwise as his views, which other ants thought to be wrong, have turned out to be correct and benefited the well-being of the community despite the existing tension.
Plato’s views about the community and an individual were even more drastically different from the ones promoted by the movie Antz at the end. Plato supposed that each person had their own duties that they had to fulfill without overstepping existing boundaries as only such cooperation of the community would result in the lack of tension and its harmonious existence (Wright). According to Plato, the ideal society had to consist of three classes, including guardians, auxiliaries, and producers (Wright). Such stratification corresponds with the one present in the movie, but in the Plato’s society no one like Z could have used upward social mobility to move from the class of producers to the highest one. Plato’s views of an ideal society were largely totalitarian and resembled somewhat the philosophy General Mandible had as he denied society members an opportunity to assume roles that had not been assigned to them at birth. Besides, Plato supposed that should all conditions of his ideal society be met, then no social tension could exist as individuals would regard themselves as parts of a harmonious whole, thereby being totally satisfied with their position. However, the example of Z from the movie has proved that such an ideal state cannot exist for a long period of time, especially if someone from the upper classes attempts to seize power in an already totalitarian community.
All things considered, the issue of social tension between an individual and the community is brightly illuminated in the movie under consideration. Z has managed to instill rebellious thoughts among his co-workers even without much effort, which implies that such moods have already existed, but just have lacked coherent manifestation. Plato’s and Aristotle’s views relating to this issue were in some respects similar as both of them supposed that social tension was highly undesirable and had to be suppressed for the sake of the community as a harmonious unity. Besides, the philosophers seemed to think that social tension could not arise in an ideal society as all individuals had a role ideal for them, which would deprive them of any reason to be dissatisfied. Nevertheless, the movie Antz proves that such views are inherently wrong since there are always individuals who are dissatisfied with an unjust state of affairs and strive for the better even though they may not realize what they seek exactly. Besides, the movie shows that when there is tension between one individual and the community, it is highly likely to result in the spread of tension until it erupts in the form of some rebellion that changes the social order.