Sunday 16 April 2017

"Boss Baby" - Karl Marx, spaghetti coming out of your nose, and commodity fetishism

One thing that we marxists have bang on about is how capitalism is not just an economic system but how it reaches into all parts of society and life. So, the word 'love' is not really some kind of abstract, constant, universal but is expressed through specific ways depending on its time and place. Under capitalism (as we say), there's no part of love that is fully free of how we earn and spend money, how beauty is commodified, (ie bought and sold) and so on and so on. (I'm sure i don't need to go on.)

My cinema-going habits are partly determined by our son (12) who said he wanted to see 'Boss Baby'. It's a bizarre film if only because one of the main characters is a baby who is really a man - unlike Stewie in 'Family Guy' who is a baby who talks like a man. This baby in 'Boss Baby' really is a man. Or at least he's part of an unknown conspiracy called Baby Corp, where babies behave as if they are men. One of the central gags of the film is that this man-baby is here on earth because it's his job to wreck the plans of Puppy Co (another corporation) who want to supplant 'love-for-babies' with 'love-for-puppies'.

As I was watching this I started to feel uneasy and a bit cross. I thought, hell, this is just selling corporate America. The only options on offer here are corporate love for babies, or corporate love for puppies. As it happens, (spoiler alert), the implication at the end is that 'true love' overcomes the needs and desires of the corporations. (sibling love, that is.)

Then on reflection - after the movie - I decided that I had got the film wrong. In fact, it's a marxist satire on the commodification of love - what Marx called 'commodity fetishsm'. It's saying that what we think of as love can be (and has) been taken over by corporations (or capitalism, if you prefer the old term.)

Anyway, nothing's certain in this world. Our son said he liked it but only gave it a a 6 and a half. Some kids down the front liked the bit where the baby swallows some spaghetti and it comes out of his nose. I didn't hear them talk about Marx's theory of commodity fetishism but perhaps I wasn't near enough to them to catch that bit.