By Lianna Avanessian
Edited by Kathleen Khorn
Bee Movie is an animated Dreamworks movie starring Jerry Seinfeld, a comedian with a $950 million net worth. Although it is categorized a comedy, Bee Movie has a lot to teach the American public about economic theory with the not-so-subtle hints of neoliberalism, capitalism, and the hypocrisy of Seinfeld, writing a screenplay while voicing a bee suffering from the selfish desires that come from the current secondary-effect system. The Bee Movie is a great analogy on the real-life struggles of the working-class.
What is Capitalism?
Many global economies use a capitalist system. Capitalism is considered a political ideology; it is defined as “...an economic, and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state...”
Capitalism drives a competitive notion. The idea that everyone is replaceable until their death has been ongoing since the beginning. That is why people tend to gravitate towards this ideology, by stating that without a competitive system, there is no gain. However, there are people all over the world that protest against capitalism, with the common response that there should be collective ownership of the means of production, which is also the definition of socialism.
What is Socialism/Marxism?
There has never been a true example of a communist country. The countries that are thought to be communist are just socialist and still haven’t displayed true socialism. Both socialism and communism share the same ideology which is “...the desire to limit worker exploitation and lower/eliminate the working class.” There are many adaptations of both socialism and communism, all of which stem from Marxism. Marxism was created by Karl Marx, who is considered the father of modern communism. The Marxist theory is that as Europe began to transition from royalty to capitalism, workers were being exploited by those who owned the center to the production. So when you work, whoever you work for would be getting more than what you got from putting in your hard work; this creates an obvious inequality and gives the owners — also known as the bourgeoisie — power over the workers, known as the proletariat. In Marxism, the best way to fix this is to give power to the proletariat.
Barry B. Benson, a bee, is the main protagonist of Bee Movie.
How Does This Relate to a 2007 Computer-Animated Movie about Bees?
Bee Movie starts with the protagonist, a bee by the name of Barry B. Benson, learning that he’s expected to work for the rest of his life, which triggers an existential crisis. He represents the alienated youth that questions the legitimacy of capitalist production with the purpose of spending every day working simply for the use of stock. He recognizes that within this system, there is a lack of individuality, and his life is sorted with many other bees with no worth. This mirrors capitalism.
Barry believes that bee society would be enriched and the general population would be happier as well as more educated if it wasn’t for the forced notion that they must be stuck in the system of the other bees. Even the bee business’ tour guide says, “You would be happy to know that Bees as a species, haven’t had one day off in 27 million years!” Essentially, the individual would have the choice of what to do with their lives, which is a more accurate fulfillment of the Marxist ideology.
In the middle of the movie, during the scene of the court trial, Barry successfully sues the human race for exploiting the bees for the free labor of honey. Barry argues in favor of offering a Socialist criticism on the industrial system; he argues that, because their honey is taken by bee farmers and then sold for profit, bees as a species are being alienated by the product of their labor. This drives into the Marxist ideology that although labor will happen regardless, it is important to appreciate the laborer and the objects of that labor. This argues against capitalism, as it distances its people from the results of their hard work, leaving them without a sense of purpose or accomplishment. Barry extends this argument by stating that when the farmers take the honey, they are doing harm by taking more from the bees than just material goods. He essentially analogized the relationship with humans to bees to that of the exploited proletariat and the owners of capital. Due to the bees being alienated from their “bee-ness”, they have become less special.
The movie finishes with a happy ending, as the bees now have control over their “bee-ness” and work with the humans to produce honey. The bees now have a say in their business, and influence over the honey production. Of course, the creators of Bee Movie most likely didn’t have the intention to create an allegory illustrating worker exploitation within capitalism, but it certainly does give our society a better look at different political and economic ideologies. In the end, The Bee Movie ends up saying something subversive with a lot of unintentional political implications that are best seen with deeper analysis.