This article traces commonalities between the practices of visual animation and modern law through a political and jurisprudential reading of the animated film Ratatouille (2007). It contends that Ratatouille’s treatment of the ontological and anthropological problem of the human soul not only addresses the philosophical complexities inherent to animation, but also the ideological and material conditions that currently govern the practice of égaliberté in contemporary liberal democracies.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
“Things have a life of their own; it’s simply a matter of awakening their souls—the gipsy proclaimed with a harsh accent”. All translations are mine unless noted otherwise.
I emphasize the visual aspect of animation because this term can also be referred: (1) to soundtrack manipulation, musical scoring and sound-image narratology [8: 74 ff]; or (2) to scientific inquiries that attempt to synthesize such biological phenomena as life, evolution, and ecological dynamics within computers and other artificial media .
I understand the term uncanny in the classical Freudian sense (unheimlich), that is, as a terror that does not derive from something externally alien or unknown, but from something strangely familiar which defeats our efforts to separate ourselves from it [22: 219 ff]. In a similar vein, Tzvetan Todorov refers the uncanny as a literary genre to the collapsing of the psychic boundaries of self and other, life and death, reality and unreality [62: 49–57].
This short film was originally released along Ratatouille’s home video.
In Paul Well’s view, this misconception of animated texts obeys to the fact that “the amount of cheaply produced, highly industrialised cel animation made in the USA and Japan has colonised television schedules, and perhaps, more importantly, the imaginations of viewers” [65: 35].
On the notion of abjection as a disturbing breakdown in conventional identity and cultural concepts, see .
The movement between the opposite pulls of justice and law cannot be generated by a set of general preordained principles, but depends on contexts that are determined altogether through social institutions and systems, social agents, and art and symbolic forms in general. See .
This phrase gained wide public attention after Arthur Koestler used it as a title for a book on humanity’s tendency towards self-destruction that was published in 1967. See .
Agamben, Giorgio. . 2005. Homo Sacer: Il Potere Sovrano e la Nuta Vita. Turin: Eiunadi.
Aristotle. [Circa 335–323 BC]. 1986. De Anima (On the Soul). Trans. Hugh-Lawson-Tancred, London: Penguin.
Gellius, Aulus. [Circa 175 AD]. 1946–1952. The Attic nights. Trans. John C. Rolfe, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Balibar, Étienne. 2010. La Proposition de l’Égaliberté. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
Balibar, Étienne. 1991. The nation form: History and ideology. In Race, nation, class: Ambiguous identities, ed. Étienne Balibar, and Immanuel Wallerstein, 86–106. London: Verso.
Biehler, Dawn Day. 2013. Pests in the city: Flies, bedbugs, cockroaches and rats. London: University of Washington Press.
Brandes, Stanley, and Thor Anderson. 2011. Ratatouille: An animated account of cooking, taste, and human evolution. Ethnos 76(3): 277–299.
Brophy, Philip. 1991. “The animation of sound.” In The illusion of life: Essays on animation, ed. Alan Cholodenko, 67–112. Sydney: Power Publications and Australian Film Commission.
Camus, Albert. 1947. La Peste. Paris: Gallimard.
Cholodenko, Alan. 1991. Introduction. In The illusion of life: Essays on animation, ed. Alan Cholodenko, 9–36. Sydney: Power Publications and Australian Film Commission.
Cholodenko, Alan. 1991. Who framed Roger Rabbit, or the framing of animation. In The illusion of life: Essays on animation, ed. Alan Cholodenko, 209–242. Sydney: Power Publications and Australian Film Commission.
Cholodenko, Alan. 2000. The illusion of the beginning: A theory of drawing and animation. Afterimage 28(1): 9–12.
Cover, Robert. 1983. Foreword: Nomos and narrative. Harvard Law Review 97(1): 4–68.
Derrida, Jacques. 1967. De la Grammatologie. Paris: Minuit.
Derrida, Jacques. 1990. Force of law: The mystical foundation of authority. Cardozo Law Review 11(5 and 6): 920–1045.
Descartes, René. 1908. Méditations Metaphysiques. In Discours de la Méthode; suivi des Méditations Metaphysiques, 51–131. Paris: Flammarion.
Edelman, Birgitta. 2002. Rats are people, too! Rat–human relations re-rated. Anthropology Today 18(3): 3–8.
Edelman, Birgitta. 2005. From trap to lap: The changing sociogenic identity of the rat. In Animals in person: Cultural perspectives on human–animal intimacy, ed. John Knight, 119–139. Oxford: Berg.
Eisenstein, Serge. 1986. Eisenstein on Disney. ed. Jay Leyda, Trans. Alan Upchurch. Calcutta: Seagull Books.
Eliade, Mircea. . 2001. Aspects du Mythe. Paris: Gallimard.
Erasmus of Rotterdam. . 1876. In Praise of Folly. Trans. White Kennet. London: Reeves and Turner.
Freud, Sigmund. . 1953. The uncanny. In The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud. ed. and Trans. James Strachey. vol. XVII, 219–252. London: Hogarth.
Fuller, Lon. 1967. Legal fictions. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
García Márquez, Gabriel. . 1994. Cien Años de Soledad. Mexico: Diana.
Geertz, Clifford. . 2000. Local knowledge: Further essays in interpretive anthropology. 3rd ed. New York: Basic Books.
Gómez Romero, Luis. 2014. D.H. Lawrence’s plural jurisprudence: An enquiry into Desmond Manderson’s post-positivist ‘law and literature’. Griffith Law Review 23(2): 232–260.
Greenberg, Raz. 2011. The animated text: Definition. Journal of Film and Video 63(2): 3–10.
Grimm, Jakob and Grimm, Wilhelm. 1816. “Die Kinder zu Hamln.” In Deutsche Sagen, vol. 1, 330–333. Berlin: Nicolai.
Hobbes, Thomas. . 1996. . Leviathan or the matter, forme and power of a common wealth ecclesiastical and civil. ed. J. C. A. Gaskin. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hutchings, Peter. 1991. The work-shop of filthy animation. In The illusion of life: Essays on animation, ed. Alan Cholodenko, 161–236. Sydney: Power Publications and Australian Film Commission.
Jameson, Fredric. 1981. The political unconscious: Narrative as a socially symbolic act. London: Methuen.
Kahn, Paul. 1999. The cultural study of the law: Reconstructing legal scholarship. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
Koestler, Arthur. 1967. The ghost in the machine. London: Hutchinson.
Kristeva, Julia. 1980. Pouvoirs de l’Horreur: Essais sur la Abjection. Paris: Seuil.
Lem, Stanisław. . 1985. The cyberiad: Tales from the cybernetic age. Trans. Michael Kandel. New York: Harcourt.
Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1964. Le Cru et le Cuit. Paris: Plon.
Lindvall, Terrance and Melton, Mathew. 1997. Towards a post-modern animated discourse: Bakhtin, intertextuality and the cartoon carnival. In A Reader in Animation Studies, ed. Jayne Pilling, 203–220. Sydney: John Libbey.
Lucian of Samosata. [Circa 160 AD]. 1915. The Dream or The Cock. In The Downward Journey or The Tyrant. Zeus Catechized. Zeus Rants. The Dream or The Cock. Prometheus. Icaromenippus or The Sky-man. Timon or The Misanthrope. Charon or The Inspectors. Philosophies for Sale. Trans. A. M. Harmon, 171–239. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Manderson, Desmond. 2012. Kangaroo courts and the rule of law: The legacy of modernism. New York: Routledge.
Macdonald, Roderick. 2002. Lessons of everyday law. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
McLuhan, Marshall. . 1994. Understanding media: The extensions of man. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
Melissaris, Emmanuel. 2004. The more the merrier? A new take on legal pluralism. Social & Legal Studies 13(1): 57–79.
Melissaris, Emmanuel. 2009. Ubiquitous law: Legal theory and the space for legal pluralism. Farnham: Ashgate.
Meyrink, Gustav. . 1956. Der Golem: Ein Roman. Zürich: Rascher.
Morris, Brian. 2000. The power of animals. Oxford: Berg.
Newman, Kathy. 2003. ‘Misery chick’: Irony, alienation and animation in MTV’s Daria. In Prime time animation: Television animation and the American culture, ed. Carol A. Stabile, and Mark Harrison, 185–204. London and New York: Routledge.
Orwell, George. . 2000. Nineteen eighty-four. In George Orwell: The complete novels, 741–925. London: Penguin.
Perelman, Chaïm. 1979. The new rhetoric and the humanities: Essays in rhetoric and its applications. Trans. William Kluback. Boston: D. Reidell Publishing Company.
Plato. The Republic. [Circa 380 BC]. 2003. ed. G. R. F. Ferrari. Trans. Tom Griffith. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Plato. [Circa 360 BC]. 2008. Timaeus. In Timaeus and Critias. Trans. Robert Waterfield, 1–99. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Proust, Marcel. . 1988. Du côté de chez Swann. Paris: Gallimard.
Rösing, Lilian Munk. 2011. The Hysteric’s Guide to Pixar: On Voice and Gaze in Toy Story 1-2. International Journal on Žižek’s Studies 5(4): 1–17.
Rösing, Lilian Munk. 2015 [forthcoming]. “Man is Puppet, Soul is Rat: On Pixar’s Ratatouille.” In Pixar with Lacan: The Hysteric’s Guide to Animation, ed. Lilian Munk Rösing, manuscript. New York: Bloomsbury.
Routt, William. 2007. De Anime. In The illusion of life II: More essays on animation, ed. Alan Cholodenko, 172–190. Sydney: Power Publications.
Ryle, Gilbert. . 2009. The concept of mind. 60th anniversary edition. New York: Routledge.
Shelley, Mary. . 1994. Frankenstein or, the Modern Prometheus. London: Penguin.
Small, Edward, and Eugene Levinson. 1989. Toward a theory of animation. The Velvet Light Trap 23: 66–74.
Solomon, Charles. 1987. Animation: Notes on a definition. In The art of the animated image, ed. Charles Solomon, 1–11. Los Angeles: American Film Institute.
Soto Aparicio, Fernando. 1962. La Rebelión de las Ratas. Buenos Aires: Plaza & Janés.
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. 1988. Can the subaltern speak? In Marxism and the interpretation of culture, ed. Cary Nelson, and Lawrence Grossberg, 271–313. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Stobaeus, Joannes. [Circa 5th century CE]. 2014. “Frammenti Estratti da Stobeo.” In Corpus Hermeticum: Testo Greco, Latino e Copto, ed. Ilaria Ramelli, 887–1200. Milano: Bompiani.
Todorov, Tzvetan. . 2005. Introduction à la Littérature Fantastique. Paris: Seuil.
Tu, Xiaoyuan. 1996. Artificial animals for computer animation: Biomechanics, locomotion, perception and behavior. Ph.D. Dissertation. Toronto: University of Toronto.
Viehweg, Theodor. . 1974. Topik und Jurisprudenz. 5th ed., Munich: Beck.
Wells, Paul. 1998. Understanding animation. London: Routledge.
White, James Boyd. 1984. When words lose their meaning: Constitutions and reconstitutions of language, character and community. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
Wrangham, Richard. 2009. Catching fire: How cooking made us human. New York: Basic Books.
Wright, Richard. . 1993. Native son. New York: HarperPerennial.
Zinsser, Hans. 1935. Rats, lice and history: Being a study in biography, which, after twelve preliminary chapters indispensable for the preparation of the Lay Reader, deals with the Life History of Typhus Fever. Boston: Little, Brown.
Destino. 2003. [Animated Short Film] Directed by Dominique Monféry. France: Disney Studios France.
Dinosaur. 2000. [Animated Film] Directed by Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton. United States: Walt Disney Pictures.
Gertie the Dinosaur. 1914. [Animated Short Film] Directed by Winsor McCay: United States: Vitagraph Company of America.
Grave of the Fireflies. 1988 [Animated Film] Directed by Isao Takahata. Japan: Studio Ghibli.
El Héroe. 1994. [Animated Short Film] Directed by Carlos Carrera. Mexico: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes and Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografía.
Metropia. 2009. [Animated Film] Directed by Tarik Saleh. Sweden: Atmo Media Network and Boulder Media Limited.
Pas de Deux. 1968. [Animated Short Film] Directed by Norman McLaren. Canada: National Film Board of Canada.
Persepolis. 2007. [Animated Film] Directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud. France/United States/Iran: The Kennedy/Marshall Company.
Princess. 2006. [Animated Film] Directed by Anders Morgenthaler. Denmark/Germany: Det Danske Filminstitut, Nordisk Film and Tartan Films.
Ratatouille. 2007. [Animated Film] Directed by Brad Bird. USA: Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios.
Shadow Puppets. 1994. [Animated Short Film] Directed by Chuck Gamble. United States: Lucky Radish Studio.
Toy Story. 1995. [Animated Film] Directed by John Lasseter. United States: Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios.
Toy Story 2. 1999. [Animated Film] Directed by John Lasseter. United States: Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios.
Toy Story 3. 2010. [Animated Film] Directed by Lee Unkrich. United States: Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios.
WALL·E. 2008. [Animated Film] Directed by Andrew Stanton. United States: Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios.
Waltz with Bashir. 2008. [Animated Film] Directed by Ari Folman. Israel/Germany/France: Bridgit Folman Film Gang, Les Films d’Ici and Razor Film Produktion.
Your Friend the Rat. 2007. [Animated Short Film] Directed by Jim Capobianco. United States: Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios.
About this article
Cite this article
Gómez Romero, L. The Jurisprudence of Ratatouille: The Rat in the Machine, or, the Equivocal Taste of Égaliberté . Int J Semiot Law 28, 843–866 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11196-015-9425-x
- Cultural legal studies