The arts are an avenue which constantly explores one’s purpose in life. The movie Antz was a pioneering movie of its time. Along with Toy Story, it was one of the first movies to be done fully in 3D animation. Antz is about a worker ant, Z, and his quest for something more meaningful in his life than to be a worker ant. Along with his friend Weaver and his new acquaintance the Princess Bala, they set out to find if there is more to life than the mundane jobs and/or positions they have been given since birth. This whole film centres on Z’s quest to find his individual purpose in life, something more than being a worker ant – and at the same time, liberate a whole ant colony from the authoritarianism of General Mandible.
The Republic, a philosophical dialogue by Plato, can be linked to the movie (Falzon, 2007, p. 144). Plato argued that there are distinct classes in an ‘ideal society’ – the rulers, the soldiers and the workers, and states that to have a just society free of moral conflict and happy, individuals must do the job that they are naturally selected to do in those 3 categories (Falzon, 2007, p. 144). This is the style of government that is reflected in the movie Antz. At the beginning of the movie, we are shown a scene where the new ant larvae are sent to be given a purpose. Although indistinguishable at birth, they are just given a predetermined purpose. No individual would be free enough to explore what is right for them. As a result of this ‘society first, individual second’ ideology, the main character Z constantly struggles to fit into this predetermined purpose – and tries everything he can to get out of it.
What Z is looking for is part of the other side, liberalism – the belief that individuals are first, and members of society are second (Falzon, 2007, p. 148). It is argued that the state should allow individuals to explore what they enjoy, and pursue it (Litch, 2004, p. 173). In Antz, when Z and Weaver swap jobs, Weaver expresses joy in being a worker – which involves digging out rocks, the very job Z hated. Weaver may have well found his real purpose in life – to be a worker! It is this very freedom which is the cornerstone of liberalism, and if the state predetermines an individual’s social role then such an individual will never be able to find out what is really good for them (Litch, 2004, p. 173) – their real purpose in life.
In the end, Z eventually finds his purpose. He states at the end of the movie:
“I finally feel like I found my place, and you know what? It’s right back where I started! But this time, I chose it.”
Z becomes content with the life he had already, because he gave himself the chance to soul search and find his real purpose in life. In the process, Z also frees his ant colony from the strict social structures empowered by General Mandible. John Stuart Mill posed the argument that state interference in allowing what citizens can and can’t do would not bring happiness to society (Litch, 2004, p. 185). This is a reflection of society at hand today – although this kind of argument can bring another philosophical debate into the spotlight.
Falzon, C. (2007). Antz – Social and Political Philosophy. In Philosophy Goes To The Movies. New York: Routledge.
Litch, M. (2004). Political Philosophy. In Philosophy Through Film. New Jersey: Routledge.