The Soul is a Plastic Bag

Allison Guy
January 31st 2011

In the film Plastic Bag, the title character spends a lifetime (or more) on a quest for a creator not even aware of his existence.  A stunning short by Ramin Bahrani, director of Man Push Cart and Goodbye Solo, Plastic Bag is both a postmodern spiritual pilgrimage and an ecological fable.   It is strange, wry, and by the end it had my eyes welling up like the Deepwater Horizon.

Plastic Bag makes a fitting companion to Grizzly Man, and not just because the ponderous tones of Werner Herzog give voice to the Bag's 18-minute monologue. Like Timothy Treadwell, the Bag is an artifact of human civilization searching an impassive world for a sublime, and entirely fictional, true connection.

The Bag is 'born' when his human Maker plucks him off a stack of his compatriots in a grocery store. For a short time he loyally accompanies. The Bag is both literally and figuratively fulfilled with food, tennis balls, and a sense of purpose.  His final job is a terrible indignity: picking up dog feces, and then tossed in the trash.

The story moves on to weirder pastures from its Toy Story-esque beginning.   On the search for his Maker, the Bag roams a world empty of humans but resonant with their presence.  He finds love in a red bag, visits the godless eden of the Great Pacific Trash Vortex, and accepts a sort of lonely solace in living nature.

Plastic Bag is pure Next Nature: a man-made artifact is not only given an ecology of its own, but undergoes its own existential crisis. It is a bastard creature, ideally suited for a civilization that created it to dispose it, and just as useless, even poisonous, to the biological organisms it encounters.

The film ends with a plea from the Bag that cunningly reframes the cry of the anti-plastic movement as one of nihilistic despair:  “I wish you had created me so that I could die.”

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Should men be able to give birth to children?


Lisa Mandemaker: Using an artificial womb could lead to more equality between sexes, but also between different family layouts. If men would be able to give birth to children, it would maybe be easier for male same-sex couples to have a child together.

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