Often when the protagonist of a speculative narrative must struggle against an unfeeling world, that world is represented by a faceless conglomerate, a near-governmental corporation which seems to control facets of society wherever the character looks. So in Stock and Trade, our latest genre fiction feature series, we’re looking at fictional corporations. Today, we’re featuring Buy N Large.
Buy N Large is the super conglomerate of the Wall-E story-world. It has been hinted at that this story-world shares canon with several other Pixar properties, but takes place in the far future of that world. The Buy N Large logos are seen everywhere in the film, and Wall-E himself is even a Buy N Large product.
Buy N Large began in the near future when Frozen yogurt maker Buy Yogurt merged with Large Industries, a men’s clothing manufacturer and retailer. Before long, the new corporation was purchasing other companies, and by 2057 had expanded into dozens of industries, including aerospace, agriculture, construction, consumer goods, corporate grooming, earth transport, electronics, energy, engineering, finance, food services, fusion research, government, hydro-power (including watermills), infrastructures, media, medical science, mortgage loans, pet care, pharmaceuticals, psychotherapy, real estate, repairs, retail, robotics, science/health, space, storage, super centers, super grids, shipping, and travel services.
Over the next few decades, Buy N Large obtained over 2 million more wholly owned subsidiaries, including controlling ownership in every world government. The last few remaining businesses not owned by Buy N Large either died out or were absorbed by the turn of the century.
Under the rule of Buy N Large, the Earth became a consumerist Utopia. Every person on the planet (a population upwards of 200 billion, lived, worked, and shopped all within the confines of the mega corporation. It led their lives, educated their children, and ran their governments. There was no aspect of human society which was not run by the corporation. They eliminated currency from the economies of the world, and instituded a kind-of working communism across the entire planet. Fortunately, they were not a malevolent force.
However, they had very little concern for the environmental effects of this communistic consumerism, and while the people may have lived above the surface in towers and arcologies, that surface was becoming overwhelmingly crowded with garbage, and would soon become too toxic even to live far above. Buy N Large, helmed by CEO Shelby Forthright, finally decided that the planet must be salvaged as a home for humanity, and in 2105 initiated Operation Recolonize.
The plan was this: send every person on the planet on a five-year, all-inclusive space cruise in comfortable, robotomated luxury spaceliners. While they would be gone, the Buy N Large automated trash compactors would work to collect and compact all of the garbage, so that it could be moved off world. The company built over 300,000 cruise ships to accommodate the vast population, and people were seemingly happy for the vacation.
When the five years was almost up, however Forthright decided that the Earth was not yet inhabiatble, and gave the order to keep the cruise ships away from Earth until it could be made habitable again. The last few humans left on the planet, the top tier of Buy N Large leadership abandoned Earth then, and the Wall-E trash compactors were left to work without supervision. Years later, as Forthright was on his deathbed, and the last of Buy N Large’s true leadership was fading away, the comapny set up a program by which probes would be sent back to Earth periodically to check for the viability of life. With no more leadership, Buy N Large was essentially dissolved as a corporate entity.
Over the next 700 years, many of the Wall-E units malfunction, and become part of the garbage themselves, eventually resulting in only a single, particularly hardy unit continuing to work in solitude on his original goal of clearing all the waste. This is where the film opens.
By that time Buy N Large is nothing more than a name and a logo spread across the many cruise liners in the galaxy, which still house the descendants of the original cruisers, who spend their days being catered to and entertained, as if still on a luxury cruise. This is the only life they know, and no one is left who even remembers earth or what Buy N Large originally stood for.
Buy N Large is interesting mostly because of their seeming benevolence. It’s rare in speculative fiction to find a mega world-conquering conglomerate which actually seems to have the people’s best interests in mind, even if they might go about it wrongly. It’s the ideals of the ‘happy corporation’ taken to its extreme conclusion.
The corporation itself is a cautionary tale about allowing consumerism take control of one’s life, but it’s told in a way that actually makes it seem not so bad, as the people on the cruise ships were depicted as happy and unconcerned. It really was a utopia if you don’t count that all of them were abysmally overweight, and most of them were terribly under-educated.
Come back tomorrow, when we’ll be taking a look at Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles. If you have an idea for a corporation we could feature in this series, let us know in the comments.