90 Colonization, Post-colonialism, and Grasshoppers

Avery Bouthiette

Post-colonialism is a nebulous concept. Post-colonialism is the study of the effects that
colonization has on a country or people group, such as economic and cultural effects. The
colonization of a country happens when a larger or wealthier country asserts its power over a
smaller one, whether for resources, land use, power, or another reason, and it usually involves
the establishment of colonies within the country. Perhaps the most famous example is the
colonization of North America and the effects it had on the Native Americans: introduction of
new diseases, learning new language and culture practices, and most notably violence between
the colonists and natives.

However, to apply the concepts of post-colonialism to literature is a different concept
entirely and it involves a consideration of the interactions between people, groups, and the
commentary that the piece of literature might imply. For this example, I chose Pixar’s A Bug’s
Life because it is a well-known piece of media and because it involves non-humans.

First, the concept of A Bug’s Life is that a group of ants must gather enough food for
the yearly visit of a group of grasshoppers. When the grasshoppers arrive and learn that the food
isn’t ready for them, they physically bully the ants and threaten them with their destruction if
they don’t meet the demands of the grasshoppers. This perfectly exemplifies the concept of
colonization, where the colonizers push their way into the lives, structure, and culture of a people
group and use resources with almost nothing in return. The relationship between the ants and
grasshoppers has transcended a symbiotic relationship and is now a hunter-prey situation that is
harmful to both the ants’ environment with the rampant destruction and over-usage of their food
crops as well as to the well-being and security of the ants as a whole, as they fear for the safety
of their families and homes under the threat of the grasshoppers. The lead grasshopper, aptly
named Hopper, when questioned about going back to collect food from the ants, he admits that
the ants are a threat to the grasshoppers. Hopper wants to keep the ants oppressed and scared of
the grasshoppers because they might rise up against the grasshoppers and overpower them.

The concept of postcolonialism is represented in the final minutes of the movie. The ants
realize their self worth, and in a scene not unlike a revolutionary war, they drive the grasshoppers
away. The ants’ culture is changed: they use greater technologies to increase their harvest, the
way of life which had been stuck in traditional and obsolete ways has been revolutionized
because of the cultural shift that took place defending their land and ways of life from oppressive
outside forces. Even though we don’t fully see the effects this cultural shift has, we can
understand a sense of relief that the ants experience in the months immediately following their
freedom.

The term “postcolonial” has gained some criticism because the term itself (specifically
the post- prefix) implies that the country has returned to a state before the colonization; that the
country has fully healed from the effects. In the case of the ants in A Bug’s Life, a full recovery
appears to be the case because it is a children’s movie and with its short run time, the movie can’t
fully explore the themes of a healing country. However, the truth is that no country or people is
ever fully recovered from the effects of colonization. The culture is changed. The economy might
be devastated in the aftermath of a war for independence. There might be large casualties,
famines, and worse long-term cultural effects that linger and shape the nation for better or worse,
even decades after the colonization has ended. Most importantly, the language is changed. The
stories that the adults tell their children is changed. The importance of post-colonization in
literature is a study of how their language adapts to a cultural shift, whether they are people – or ants.

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Colonization, Post-colonialism, and Grasshoppers by Avery Bouthiette is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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