Watching Dar on the shoreline the other day got me thinking about Toy Story 4. Spoilers below, so come back after you’ve seen the movie.
For years, in my film classes, whenever Toy Story has arisen as a topic, I’ve mentioned how it’s basically a Biblical allegory in which Andy is God and Woody is a believer trying to convert the heretical Buzz. There’s a lot more to it than that (Andy’s room as Paradise, the other toys as disciples, etc), but…just go with it for now.
My former film students were probably more prepared for Toy Story 4 than most other audiences. One thing I loved about Toy Story 4 was how it leaned into the franchise’s Biblical interpretation with the introduction of the Forky character, who expresses his existential crisis by saying “I’m trash!” and scrambling to the nearest rubbish bin. Forky is not a Lightyear-like heretic on an intergalactic space mission; nor is he a three-eyed alien worshiping a claw. (Woody dismisses the latter as “zealots.”) No, Forky tells Woody that because he’s trash, he wants to be where he’s safe and warm with other trash.
When I saw Toy Story 4, the audience laughed uproariously almost every time Forky said “I’m trash!” and dashed to the nearest trash bin. I laughed too. In the weeks since Dar’s brother and I saw the movie (Dar can’t see movies in theaters; he can’t sit quietly that long), whenever we say “I’m trash!” we crack each other up.
That much laughing tells me that the makers of Toy Story 4 were getting at something true and deep, even if I’m not entirely sure what that is. Is the film saying something about trash, “white trash” (Forky is white), church non-attendance, current agnosticism, current environmental degradation? Maybe. I believe the gag has something to do with feeling like a stranger in a strange land, with the sense that this world wasn’t or isn’t made for you and that you would like to be part of a society that seems closer to who you are.
I wonder how often Dar feels this way. I also wonder if that feeling is part of his attraction to shorelines. Dar loves, loves, loves, being at the beach. If he glimpses the beach from two blocks away, he acts like Forky seeing a garbage can. He wants and needs to scramble to that place, post haste. This can be a problem for us, as sure as it’s a problem for Woody and the gang.
When Dar is actually at a beach, he doesn’t exactly jump in and try to swim to the horizon. If it’s a lake, he’ll jump in and then come back. If it’s an active tide, he’ll just wade for hours. He seems to know his limits. Maybe he wants to be in that liminal space? Or maybe Dar is really Aquaman pining for his lost Atlantis? Really not sure.
I’m not really going anywhere with this one. I just feel badly for Dar. Like Howard the Duck, he’s trapped in this world he never made. He’s stuck with this mouth that can’t express complexity. He can’t tell us about any felt profound dissonance from our world. And even if he doesn’t feel that dissonance, on some level he can never really be part of our society, whether we’re Andy’s room or something less ideal. I’ll never know if he knows that I see him and I see all that. And nothing can stop that from bothering me.
Maybe we’re all trash. Maybe that’s okay.