18 Jan Anton Ego, the Villain of Pixar’s Ratatouille, Is My Hero
ANTON EGO, the villain in the Pixar movie Ratatouille, is my hero. When I need something to grab me by the soul and say: Hey, it’s still you in there. Be easy — I throw on Ratatouille, my favorite movie.
Yes I’m twenty-six and yes, it’s a movie about a rat but I don’t care!
The main character Remi defies his humble origins by slicing and dicing his way to becoming the undisclosed greatest chef in Paris, thus France and the world, according to the movie’s logic.
If that’s not an inspiring theme, I don’t know what is.
I work at a restaurant and on New Year’s Eve, I had a conversation with a man who was visiting where I live in San Diego with his family.
I asked where they were visiting from and he told me, Paris. Ah yes, Paris; I told them of my affinity for the ancient city.
I’m very fortunate to have visited a few times, and maybe it’s just my imagination and the books I’ve read and these dang movies — but I love Paris, OKAY? I let them know it.
He wasn’t as enthusiastic: “It’s all smog and overcrowded,” he replied with a smirk.
Of course, Paris is more than that, just as my hometown of Los Angeles is, although it could be described in exactly the same way. It’s also more than my limited perspective — but does that mean either of us is wrong?
I used to be timid of writing about places I was visiting, particularly those as complex and nuanced as Paris. There’s so much I don’t know, and to write about a place when I’d only scratched the surface as a traveler felt intimidating.
But what’s the alternative?
There’s always more to learn, and when traveling I think it’s important to try and look at disparate perspectives of a place to create a bigger picture.
It’s my dream to make that learning process of discovery my career, my life, my contribution. Our perspectives will change over time, however we mustn’t be afraid to share what makes sense to us now — what we love and why we love it, now.
Put the words out in the world. In the words of Anton Ego:
“Very well. Since you’re all out of perspective and no one else seems to have it in this BLOODY TOWN, I’ll make you a deal. You provide the food, I’ll provide the perspective, which would go nicely with a bottle of Cheval Blanc 1947.”
This is my perspective.
What makes a great story compelling?
What makes us leave the theater with tears in our eyes or waking up in the middle of the night three days later to think we’ve finally cracked the plotahhHAHHH WHOA. I GOT IT.
We see ourselves in the characters — in their complexities and dark sides, in their courage and their ability to change. This makes us question our own character.
The greatest chef in the world, Gusteau, has died from heartbreak after receiving a negative review from my man Anton Ego: “That is where I left it. That was my last word — THE last word,” he says about his scathing review.
Ego took pleasure in decimating Gusteau’s reputation and portrays the epitome of the stuffy French food scene, of the hierarchy which the movie’s protagonists, Collette, Linguini, and Remi challenge.
A story arc is nothing without change, and the most important change in the movie comes from big bad Ego himself.
He’s a villain with a heart, and at the end of the movie, he represents the core message of the film: change is nature, as philosophized by Remi when expressing his dream to his father, Django, a rat stuck in his ways.
Django represents tradition in the rat colony, faithfully upholding the status quo, like Ego.
The magic of a peasant dish
When the final credits roll with Ego’s final “Surprise me!” he’s wearing a beret, he’s smiling and seems to have gotten some color and all is well, even though all is seemingly lost.
Like the Grinch, Ego gave away his reputation for a beating, feeling, warm and fuzzy heart.
In my eyes his shift symbolizes the essence of Paris, the vibe that I love so much, and it’s beautiful.
After Remi serves Ego ratatouille, “a peasant dish,” Ego remembers who he truly is. He’s just a boy, a young boy in the countryside who’s been hurt in life (perhaps he didn’t make it as a chef?) and has never let go.
But when he bites into ratatouille, his face regains its color, he sees the future and the past all at once and smiles. He comes alive.
He remembers why he loves food in the first place — food makes us remember. It’s a feeling of home, of friends and family, of love — everything Ego lost by becoming a critic.
He’s been jaded by the food scene and has forgotten the magic that pervades a city like Paris; he’s lost touch with his inner kid.
But food, Ego realizes, the best food, doesn’t have to be served in a five-star dining room by the best chef in France. It can be served by a rat at a corner bistro, where people gather to lull away the day, drink wine, eat good food, and cherish being alive.
It’s a gift to be alive
That’s what I love about Paris.
Without a doubt, the movie paints a pretty picture of the quintessential Paris — casual bistros, the glistening Eiffel Tower viewed from a quaint apartment, cute French cars, the Seine, wine, all that jazz.
In Paris and what should be anywhere, no time is wasted at a park reading a good book or at a simple restaurant drinking a beer with a friend.
Ego learns to embrace the spirit of Paris — what we all struggle with yet is right there in front of us no matter where we are, who we are, or what we’re doing: there is nothing we have to be, to arrive at, to accomplish to be happy.
Happiness may come from many things, but the happiness that comes from “making it” seldom seems to last (or so I’ve seen).
It’s the simple aspects of life which we so often take for granted that mean the most.
To me, it’s writing a story like this which lifts my spirits and allows me to reconnect with my inner kid. To a cook, it’s being in the heat of the kitchen which makes their heart glow, not always the raving review.
Of course we live for our accomplishments — many of us enjoy the grind because it’s exciting, we’re progressing, and we think that achieving our goals will bring us fulfillment.
But this is why I love Ratatouille: it reminds us that once in a while, it’s important to forget about the rat race (pun intended), to drop the goals and pressure we put on ourselves, and just enjoy life.
Anton Ego remembers that it’s a gift just to be alive, and that is a message worth remembering.