Journsplit: Ratatouille

In one of two episodes in our CCA-wide Nostalgia newsletter, we discuss the Pixar film Ratatouille! Themes, thigh-slapper jokes, and TikTok musical all included!

Skylar: Hello and welcome back to another episode of Journsplit! As part of our club-wide newsletter, ‘nostalgia’, we are releasing two episodes, one on Phineas and Ferb and this one, where we will be talking about an iconic Pixar animated film from the early 2000s.

Aditi: As some of you may recognise from the soundtrack, this episode will be about “Ratatouille”! While this movie may have been released over 15 years ago, I’m sure quite a few of us have had memories of watching such movies through DVDs or streaming platforms.

Skylar: Definitely! Just thinking about it is enough to bring back memories of entertaining myself while my parents were away at work; There’s definitely a sense of nostalgia attached to this film.

Aditi: That’s right~ we should probably start by running through a quick summary of the plot to refresh our audience’s memories. And on the off-chance that this is your first time hearing about the story, we highly recommend searching up and watching the movie first before listening to this podcast.

Skylar: The premise of the movie is simple: Remy is a street rat forced to survive all alone in the city of Paris, and he chooses to pursue his dreams of becoming a master chef, all while navigating around the biggest occupational hurdle being his physical existence as a rat. As a work around, Remy forms an unlikely duo with the hapless garbage boy Linguini, piloting him through tugging at strands of hair under his chef’s hat, with hilarious consequences. In the end, Remy is given the chance to prove his culinary abilities to a well-renowned food critic, but will the food be enough to impress?

Aditi: Wait a second, the food isn’t the problem here! This is a serious violation of health codes! Can you even imagine your food being handled by a rat?

Skylar: Hold that thought! With that snap judgement, you’ve immediately discerned a running theme of the movie, that being how Remy’s background affects the opportunities afforded for him to display his creative talent.

Aditi: Ah! I know where you’re getting at! As the main conflict of the film, this can be seen through Remy only being able to work in the kitchen under the guise of controlling Linguini. While he is strictly the reason behind their success, only Linguini can achieve recognition in Remy’s place as rats would never be allowed in the kitchen.

Skylar: Approaching the climax of the film, Remy has a falling out with Linguini due to his work being attributed to someone else, and like with any other creative, feels burnt out and unappreciated for his talents and effort. This is paralleled with the misgivings brought up by Colette, a fellow chef, who feels that Linguini’s success in the kitchen has simply been due to the help received from others such as herself and his inheritance as Gusteau’s son, as opposed to the hardships she has faced through being a woman in her occupation.

Aditi: Wow. You’ve clearly thought through this with careful consideration. Yes. To add onto this point, we can see this in the way Remy’s dreams are discussed between himself and his family. When Remy has a disagreement with his brother and his father in the beginning of the film, he claims that they’re only stealing and eating garbage—not at all interested in exploring the kitchen like himself, however, they are insistent that they are only taking stuff that no one wants anyways. And this is all true, you know; Rats are scavengers — they eat the stuff that others leave behind, so this is all usual for rats. Remy just has a more sophisticated palate, I suppose.

Skylar: Having family disagree with your own dreams and aspirations? This sounds quite familiar… I’m sure that there is some relatability in Remy’s situation where he is pressured to give up any hopes of undertaking culinary exploits in order to prioritise stability and survival.

Aditi: Ahem! Moving on, we also see Remy developing insecurities in continuing to cook in the kitchen despite clearly not being welcome there. When he is presented with the unforgiving truth that rats face extermination at the hands of humans, he further loses faith in achieving success in an environment where rats would have all the more reason to be prohibited from.

Skylar: This realisation is followed by him understandably losing trust in Linguini who is beginning to let his ego get to his head, and revert back to conducting a raid of the kitchen with the rat colony.

Aditi: Even after supposedly abandoning his ambitions in the kitchen and returning to life as a regular rat, Remy confesses later in the movie that his life was a living hell because he could neither pretend to be a human nor a rat. That struck me profoundly as another testament to Remy’s distinct humanness. Isn’t this feeling something we have all found ourselves experiencing? A craving for belonging? For acceptance and for affirmation? This breakdown is also representative of how draining it can be to pursue your dreams when everybody in the field will be judgemental of your identity.

Skylar: If anything, Remy’s story has taught us that even if your dreams don’t work out compared to others, it’s always possible to find a supportive group that will accept your efforts and be happy following your aspirations over defaulting to unfulfilling work. Remy realised that he belonged with both Linguini and his family by the end of the movie. Sometimes you don’t have to choose. Sometimes the answer to ‘which one?’  is ‘both’.

Aditi: That’s deep. It’s probably thanks to the guidance of famous chef Gusteau, and Remy’s idol appearing as an imaginary vision to push him as well. Throughout the movie, he is constantly offering sage advice like ‘What I say is true—anyone can cook. But only the fearless can be great.”

Skylar: I mean… That sounds more worrying than encouraging. Are we sure he’s not delusional and hallucinating over this parasocial relationship?

Aditi: Hey! Don’t judge the rat’s coping mechanisms! It’s irrelevant anyways.

Skylar: Sure, let’s move on. Can we also talk about how amazing the animation is then? I guess it’s part of what made the movie with such a simple message click with so many of the small and not-so-small.

Aditi: The little details like the dramatically loud thud when Ego dropped his pen and all else fell silent right down to Remy’s humanlike facial expressions and movements around the kitchen were perfectly executed!

Skylar: The other characters too! One thing I absolutely adore about pixar movies are how human their characters are! They aren’t the perfect protagonists or the evil antagonists that children would usually read about in children’s books or fairytales — they all have flaws!

Aditi: Take Linguini for example, the only reason he was even able to keep his job was Remy’s talent, and he took it for granted, but he was quick to realise that and apologise.

Skylar: Do you remember that ending scene with Ego where he flashbacks to his childhood days? It involves arguably the most important theme of the movie: Nostalgia.

Aditi: Wow what a coincidence! that’s also the theme of our Journ newsletter.

Skylar: What are you talking about? We definitely planned this. Anyways, the uptight and broody critic was transported back to his childhood, when he would eat his mom’s cooking to feel better after a sad sad day when eating Remy’s ratatouille!

Aditi: When Remy suggested making Ratatouille for Ego, Colette did say that it was peasant food, so it was an absolute surprise that Ego loved it.

Skylar: You’re right, but I guess this tells us two things. One, that what we relegate as “lower-class stuff” may not necessarily be the inferior option when compared with “higher-class stuff”, and two, the powerful effect of nostalgia on evoking strong senses of familiarity and comfort within us.

Aditi: NOSTALGIA! Humans are emotionally-driven beings. That’s why it’s the happiest memories that stick with you the most!

Skylar: Speaking of happy, although Linguini still ends up losing his restaurant, he opens a nice little bistro that has booming business with Colette and Remy. it’s still a happy ending, just not the one you’d expect, although Pixar fans might be less surprised – Pixar films are usually bittersweet instead of sugary happy. Also, it looks like Linguini no longer pretends to be a chef. He leaves the cooking to Colette and Remy and does what he does best, serving the customers and putting a smile on their faces.

Aditi: Before we end, here’s a fun fact! Did you know during the pandemic, avid Ratatouille fans, including composers and dancers, came together on TikTok to create a musical based on the movie?

Skylar: We’ll leave the link down below for those who are interested!

Aditi: And that’s all we have for you today! If you’d like to see more episodes like this or ones where we do a deeper dive, you can check out our website and vote for shows or books we haven’t covered yet in our survey!

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