The animated feature Up (Pete Docter, 2009) tells the story of wilderness explorer Charles Muntz in search of a rare species of bird in the South American valley of Paradise Falls and widower Carl Frederickson hoping to mend the pain of losing his wife by fulfilling their lifelong
dream of traveling to the same valley. Both men pursue their fantasies of adventure in South America. I situate this narrative within discourses of imperialism and the Monroe Doctrine. Whereas Charles has usurped Paradise Falls in his zealous decades-long hunt the film offers an alternative
to his imperial fixation by portraying the redemptive experience of Carl during his travels. As the latter learns to define adventure as a spiritual endeavor, Carl sheds his imperial obsession and rescues his South American friends from Charles. I argue that Up attempts to critique
the damaging effects of imperialism ‐ and by extension the ‘War on Terror’ ‐ through the figure of the fallen hero Charles but disavows the ‘informal’ qualities of U.S. empire embodied by Carl. This disavowal of the informal features of (U.S.) imperialism
in Up allows me to explore the persistence of the ‘tenacious grasp’ of U.S. exceptionalism, while the imagery of a queer, transnational community also suggests alteration in the tropes of U.S. imperialism.
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Document Type: Research Article
PhD candidate at the Graduate School of North American Studies at Freie Universität Berlin in Germany.
March 1, 2014
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