Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Emily Cheng

Committee Member

Alexios Lykidis

Committee Member

Jeffrey Gonzalez


Although largely ignored by ecocritics, Gore Verbinski’s Rango is undeniably a valuable film in the debates about climate change. It follows the story of a chameleon who accidentally falls out of his owner’s car and travels to Dirt, a town populated by anthropomorphized animals in the Mojave Desert suffering from a drought caused by neoliberal water privatization. Through various filmmaking techniques, such as the use of mise-en-scene, character design, and narrative style, Verbinski exposes the detrimental impacts the artificial water shortage and various other capitalist endeavors have caused to the desert environment. In doing so, I argue that he not only exposes the inherently contradictory interplay between progress, profits, and the destruction of the ecological world, but also encourages viewers to critique the goal of individual profit embedded in the ideologies of neoliberal capitalism. After noting the role of capitalism and consumerism on the landscape, both of the film and in general, I will then consider how these systems have shaped our understanding of and relationship to the natural world. The overriding desire for individual wealth has produced a conception of the natural, nonhuman world defined by mastery and commodification. Verbinski’s film, however, works to subvert these attitudes by acknowledging the interdependence between humans and nonhumans and begins to argue for a more sustainable future.

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