The Message of Ratatouille

Whenever I watched Ratatouille as a kid, I didn’t feel any sense of inspiration or even understanding of the film’s message. I was enamored by its colorful visuals, unique characters, and witty humor, which made me rewatch the film so many times I can’t even count. Now that I’m older, and still watching the film on occasion, I’ve been trying to piece together the meaning of this film. From a distance, it’s a cartoon film about a rat who can cook and pulls on a guy’s hair to control him. People view this film just as insignificant as I did, wide-eyed and young. The film has a resounding message, or quote, “Anyone can cook.” But what does that quote mean and how does it apply to us?

At the film’s beginning, Remy introduces himself and his current setting, living as a rat in the countryside of France. He lives in a large rat colony residing in the attic of an elderly lady. The opening scene introduces his father, the leader of the colony, and his brother, Emile, before swiftly shifting to what would be one of the main conflicts of the film, rat extermination. The film is very quick to describe how the rats perceive humans; the rats treat them as dangerous creatures to stay away from. There is an obvious division between rats and humans, but Remy seems to not be able to perceive it like his family does. We find that Remy acts differently from his fellow rats, walking on his hind legs while the others crawl and that he has the ability to read and cook. We generally believe that all rats simply crawl and eat garbage but Remy shows the capability of performing human tasks. 

Remy and his father frequently argue from conflicts of ideas, Remy’s father stating that humans are dangerous while Remy admires humans, specifically Chef Gusteau, for their ability to not only survive but create. Chef Gusteau was a former five-star chef in Paris, owner of Gusteau’s, who unfortunately passed away after his restaurant moved down from five stars to three stars from famous food critic, Anton Ego. His famous motto is “Anyone can cook.” This saying drove Remy to want to cook, not limited by who he is, what he is, or where he comes from. But amidst one of his experiments with food, the elderly lady of the home they lived in discovered Remy and Emile and shot up her entire house in a panic. The rat colony had to evacuate the house as the woman chased them with poisonous gas, but Remy didn’t run away with the colony. He stayed back to collect Gusteau’s cookbook that the lady owned which resulted in him getting separated from his colony. The film has officially shifted out of its exposition as Remy faces his own turmoil and internal conflict from the consequences of his actions. However, now he was in a completely different world than what he had always known, surrounded by humans and away from the rats; from this point forward Remy considers himself human. 

Remy’s character dramatically shifts after being separated from his colony. He finds himself in Paris and breaks into Gusteau’s. Alfredo Linguini is introduced as a scrawny new boy applying for a job as a plongeur, or garbage boy. He knocks over a pot of soup and messily attempts to fix it by adding random ingredients in place. Remy panics and accidentally goes inside the kitchen. When he finally finds a window to escape from, he runs past the soup which smelled extremely foul after Linguini messed it up. The restaurant already had a horrible reputation from Anton Ego, so serving that wretched soup would only make it worse. Remy has a change of heart, and instead of escaping, he fixes and improves the soup. It turns out the soup was ordered by a food critic who wrote a good review of the restaurant the next day, boosting Gusteau’s reputation. However, Remy is caught in the kitchen and the chefs attempt to kill him but he is saved by Linguini. Linguini, too, nearly killed him but the two came to a compromise after Linguini realized that the rat could cook. Remy would help him cook, and Linguini would hide Remy. This idea of using each other is also shown in the film Scavengers where the explorers use the local organisms to their advantage of seeing a glimpse of home. Linguini and Remy did not have any friendship during the early stage of their relationship since they were only using each other for their desires. 

The plot evolves into a riddled sequence of events, such as the reveal of Linguini being Gusteau’s son, the constant arguing between Linguini and Remy, Remy’s betrayal, and even a blossoming romance between Linguini and another chef, Colette. As their romance deepens, Remy gets left out and eventually abandoned on the streets of Paris. After he succeeds in cooking under Linguini’s hat, he had forgotten what factor made him different from people who could cook; he was a rat. But Remy persists in an attempt to save Gusteau’s and eventually has to face off with Anton Ego who returns to crush Gusteau’s once and for all after the fact that Gusteau had a son caught wind. When they managed to cook a dish that Ego liked, the ratatouille, Ego asked who the chef was so he could give his compliments. When they revealed that Remy was the chef, Ego was shocked and wrote a review the next day describing how the quote “Anyone can cook” finally occurred to him. He stated in the review, “In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: ‘Anyone can cook.’ But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere” (Ratatouille, 2007). 

The quote “Anyone can cook” states that anyone, regardless of who they are, what they are, and where they come from, can do anything. This film circulated around a more racial topic but masked it by featuring rats to get the message across without becoming too political. These messages of racial discrimination are also featured in other animated films like Zootopia. How does this saying apply to us at large? Usually, we assume that a certain genre of people can only do this thing and not this, just like how we believe that rats can’t cook or read. This is similar to how the spirits in Spirited Away treated No Face, as a monster that does nothing but eats other spirits, as well as the slime monster who turned out to be a river spirit. To conclude, Ratatouille summarizes how groups of people are stereotyped through the medium of animation and rats, and the motto “Anyone can cook” goes against generalizing a group of people based on prior beliefs.  

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