Last weekend, it was too cold to go swimming without an ice-pick, so I took my young son to see the Disney Pixar film “Wall-E” (he already had the matching underpants, so what the hey). The cinema presentation was preceded by an interminably long advert for Butlins holiday camps: I found this rather amusing given that (in the film) the people on the spaceship Axiom have spent 700 years laying around a lido sipping drinks while their bones shorten and their muscles atrophy. Kewl.
But anyway, is there any link between Wall-E and the Voynich Manuscript?, I hear you yell. Put down those tomatoes, I’m gettin’ to it, I’m gettin’ to it… There are plenty of ways of reading Pixar’s (actually rather good) film, from a moralistic eco-parable (which some games-industry friends of mine find hilarious, given that they did the programming for a WALL-E plastic toy), to “Robots In Love” (my personal favourite). But given that little WALL-E has amused himself (possibly for centuries?) by kicking off his caterpillar treads at the end of each working day and watching a fading VHS video of Michael Crawford in “Hello Dolly!”, the film is arguably more about a kind of romantic musical cargo cult – how obsessive devotion to a single cultural object taken out of context can produce jarringly odd behaviour.
In those terms, perhaps all traditional Voynich researchers are Wall-E, holed up after work in their suburban dens, overcompensating for existential emptiness with devotion to a practically non-existent cause, where their hunt for meaning in the (also nearly 600-year-old!) Voynich Manuscript is broadly as far-fetched a cargo cult as Wall-E’s hunt for robotic musical love within the reference frame of “Hello Dolly!”
At least humour me, and say that you can see the romance in both quests. 🙂