The movie “A Bug’s Life” is personally one of my favorite childhood animated films of all time. This computer-animated comedy film was written by John Lasseter and co-written by Andrew Stanton and debuted on the big screen in 1998. To the average person, this film may just appear to be another animated film to attract kids, hence why it would be a great ideal movie for family movie nights. On the contrary, to sociologists, this movie contains a deeper message to prove the different viewpoints of each of the different sociologists of all time, which will be addressed throughout this paper. To the average person, this storyline seems to be pretty simple. We have a colony of ants who work diligently in collecting food for the grasshopper’s year after year.
The exchange the food and in return the grasshoppers are “guaranteeing” their safety from predators or other dangers that could hurt or destroy the entire colony. To the sociologist, we see this storyline from a completely different viewpoint. Throughout the entire movie, we will gain a greater understanding of the Conflict Theory as well as the Functionalist Theory. These theories as well as the understanding of the following sociologists: Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Auguste Comte and analyze each one of their outlooks on sociology as it relates to the film. At the beginning of the film, we are immediately introduced to the two main characters in the entire film, here we have a colony of ants and the powerful gang of grasshoppers. We also learn that the ants must work hard and diligently to provide food for the grasshoppers that will last them the entire summer.
In this agreement, the grasshoppers have made a “promise” to protect the colony of ants from any threats and/or dangers that could affect the colony. Social structure is defined as an organized pattern of behavior that governs people’s relationships. (Smelser, 1988) The colony of ants is a great example of a social structure, they must abide by the guidelines of the grasshoppers “promise” so they could remain protected and safe throughout the year. Master status is defined, as provides other statuses and forms an important part of a person’s social identity. (Hughes, 1945; Becker, 1963) Flik demonstrates this master status as he realizes that the way the grasshoppers are treating the colony is unfair. After this realization, Flik decides to set out on a journey to seek justice for the unfairly, overworked and poorly treated ants. The climax of the movie “A Bug’s Life”, is a perfect example of Conflict Theory. This event will be the basis of the entire paper will be founded upon the whole climax. “Conflict theorists maintain that many cultural values and norms benefit some members of society more than others.” In the textbook, a profound statement is made that we’re taught at an early age to work hard but who benefits from the average worker’s efforts? The same concept can apply to the movie.
Hopper, the main leader of the grasshoppers, in one of his speeches to his minions, he reminisces about the only any that has ever stood up to him. Afterward, Hopper explains to his minions that if they allow just one ant to stand up to them, then they might all stand up. The minions are reminded that they are outnumbered and the ratio is 100:1. If the entire colony realizes and figures that out, then there is an entire way of life goes out the window. It’s not necessarily about the food but it’s about keeping the ants in their place so they can’t stand up for themselves. Auguste Comte, who is often referred to as the “father of sociology.” Comte was a French philosopher who wrote and developed the doctrine of Positivism. Comte divided sociology into two main aspects, which are social statics and social dynamics. Comte defines social statics as the forces that hold society together and social dynamics as the study that causes a social change. Flix has had a realization that the way the grasshoppers are treating the colony is unfair and unjust.
However, the rest of the colony haven’t seen it that way because they’re so accustomed to harvesting food for the grasshoppers’ year after year to secure their safety and protection. So, this event gives them a reason to exile or alienate him from the rest of the colony as he goes to search for “warrior bugs” to help fight off Hopper and his minions. Comte would most likely argue that if the ants worked together and understood that there was power in numbers they could overthrow Hopper and his minions and restore the rights that they have in the society. Karl Marx, who was a German social philosopher. Marx is often described as the most influential social scientist who ever lived. Marx strongly believed that economic issues produced more divisiveness rather than social solidarity. Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of property and the means of production. The movie shows a prime example of class conflict. Class conflict is believed by Marx, that society is divided into the haves which is the capitalists and the have-nots which are the proletariat. In the movie, we see that the grasshoppers are now the capitalists and the ants are the proletariat.
Marx also believed that there is a close relationship bond between inequality, social conflict, and social class. In the movie, the grasshoppers are portrayed to be the powerful or upper class and the ants are the weaker or lower class. Hopper’s character is seen to show that he would like to retain and keep the order that he enforced the ants to abide and govern by. This event is crucial because it could jeopardize the entire grasshopper’s role in society if the ants were to stand up and retaliate against them. Emile Durkheim, who was also a French sociologist and writer had agreed with Comte. They both agreed “that societies are characterized by unity and cohesion because their members are bound together by common interests and attitudes.” Functionalism which is also referred to as structural functionalism is defined; “maintains that society is a complex system of interdependent parts that work together to ensure a society’s survival.” The idea behind functionalism is that all aspects of a society must be consistent for survival. It’s evident in the movie that the grasshoppers laid out a particular guideline that the ants must follow for them to keep their safety.
The ants must harvest food for the grasshoppers for them to survive in the summer months. This event isn’t just a one-time business transaction, this event is ongoing and in a never-ending cycle. However, the only ones benefiting from this theory would be the grasshoppers. They needed the ants to do all the manual labor work in getting their food, so they couldn’t survive without the ants. Then, we’re left to guess what the ants are getting from this? We understand that they don’t need the grasshoppers to protect them because there is power in numbers if the ants just came together and realized what they have. In conclusion, the whole theme behind this movie has to deal with the Conflict Theory, Functionalist Theory. It all revolves around the fact that the powerful dictator wants to suppress the weak. The whole reason behind the conflict in the first place is the amount of food that’s left. The grasshoppers need food and so do the ants. If the grasshoppers take all the food then what is left for the ants? That goes back and ties with the Functionalist Theory, the only ones benefiting from this would be the grasshoppers. Since the grasshoppers are powerful and dominant, they’re the ones with the voice and say so in the end, which is leaving the ants to be voiceless and unable to voice their opinion and stand up for themselves. Hopper’s words, actions and the way he belittles the ants show great quality of inequality. He leaves the ants with no choice but to retaliate and fight to protect and restore the rights they have in the society.