Interesting Thoughts About A Kids Movie


MV5BNzMxNTExOTkyMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzEyNDc0OA@@._V1_SX214_[1] This weekend for movie night, we watched Wreck-It Ralph. the kids and I had seen the movie several times, but this was the first time my wife had seen it. The kids and I really liked the movie. My wife said it wasn’t bad, but that it didn’t seem to be about anything.

That got me thinking, what was it really about? Was there really a message and what could that be? Now understand that we had this conversation late at night, and that we were already in bed when I started thinking about this. I say this because I am going to propose something that I don’t think was intentional, but it would be pretty interesting if that is what they meant.

Warning Spoilers Ahead

The story of Wreck-It Ralph is the story of “A video game villain who wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.” (Note that is right from IMDB.) he wreaks havoc in the arcade around him. There is a historical precedence within this world for not doing exactly what he is trying to do, and represented by the question, “Your not going Turbo are you?”

I think the story was intended to convey the message, happiness is about what you make of what you have, and not what you don’t have. However, what also comes across sounds more like, “You will stay in your place and be happy about it. Because if you don’t you will ruin it for all of us.” Turbo is set up as the example and (here are the spoilers that I was talking about) and in the end, it is him who is causing the unhappiness and problems in yet another world.

Turbo is portrayed as the bad guy here, but he had been the hero of his own game. When he was replaced, and wanted to better himself (not be replaced) he screwed it up for another game world as well.

So yes, he made a mistake. His mistake, in the most basic sense, was trying to better himself. It was seen as dangerous. It was seen as harmful. And so rules were made and a taboo was created that had neighbor spying on neighbor so that no one would ever try something like that again. And so when he tried to do it again, the only way that he could make it work was to silence everyone around him. He had to make sure that no one knew who he was.

Yes, he did go too far. Because the society around him said that if he tried to better himself, to remain relevant that he would destroy everything. The character had to go so far just to “stay in the game,” that he became obsessed with his own delusion, that he was willing to sacrifice others to “stay in the game.”

Ralph’s purpose is much the same, he wants a better station in life, and yet he is treated with the same contempt and mistrust as Turbo. Even in the end, he tells the support group, I am back where I started, but that is ok, because that is where I belong.

So what is the message here? “This is your place, you stay in it and don’t try to better yourself or you will ruin it for everyone.”

Let’s take this one step further. If that is the message that the entertainment industry is sending out, what is that saying about our society? Is it telling us that we should stay where we are, that our stations in life is all there is? That if you are poor, you should just stay poor and just be happy with it? That if you try to change your station in life, that you will wreck the status-quo? Isn’t that exactly the opposite of what the American dream says? That anyone from any background can rise up to become anything they want to be. That we are no longer held in place by class and social systems?

Look at the two main characters. They are both portrayed as poor, but not just poor but homeless poor.

“I live in a dump,” -Ralph.
“Like a little bag lady,” -Penelope.

Furthermore Penelope is portrayed as not only being poor but someone with a disability.

“She is a glitch.”
“It is the Glitch.”

The message from the leadership, and the fear of everyone else is that, this person should not be allowed in normal society because she will ruin it for everyone else. She will “Wreck-It.” It is not until she is shown to have power over them that they even “allow” her to be part of regular society. Let me say that again. Only when she gains enough power that they can no longer protest, she even has the power of life and death over them, that she is allowed to be part of, “the game.”

I want to make it clear. I really don’t think this is the message that the writers intended. I suspect, like I said before, that their message was much more about being happy with what you have and not being unhappy because you don’t have what others have. Which is really a pretty good message. I really hope that is the case. But that message is still there, and it kind of makes you wonder what other kids movies have these unintended, or maybe intended messages. And better yet, if they are intended who is it that is saying them?

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7 thoughts on “Interesting Thoughts About A Kids Movie

  1. I disagree, and since this is the Internet, we must therefore battle. 🙂

    Just kidding. So, I have a few problems with your portrayals here. 1) Turbo didn’t try to grow out of “his place”. If you notice, he maintains his exact same look, even when taking over other games. He didn’t go 3D, didn’t improve his gameplay. He didn’t grow, didn’t advance. He just got in the way of other games, in a desperate attempt to stay on the top, he tried to destroy others. That’s not healthy, at the very least. If you are being made obsolete by others, you innovate. You don’t destroy others just to maintain your position.

    2) As far as living in a dump goes, I think one of the central messages is that a person isn’t defined by their station. Ralph is a great character, even if he isn’t the hero. Once he realizes that, it doesn’t matter where he lives. He’s found out that there are people who love him, and armed with that knowledge, it doesn’t matter where he lives or what he wears. He learns that his self worth is defined by those he loves, not by his station.

    3) Actually, it was the fear that she could destroy their society that made people shun her. If I told you that a kid could play “thermonuclear war” and that the results would be actual thermonuclear war, would you consider it an infringement of that child’s rights to say that he couldn’t play? The way the other kids treat her is emblematic of the way kids treat the “odd man out”. It doesn’t matter whether it’s due to a disability, skin color, gender, or anything else. Kids are cruel to outsiders. It’s immature, and those kids pay for their immaturity in the end. I certainly don’t think the writers were trying to suggest that kids should be like the immature losers.

    Anyway, that’s how I saw it. YMMV 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment and,
      The battle is on 😉 *wink* *wink*

      Turbo didn’t change the first time, that is true. In my suggested interpretation He was the “rich” trying to stay rich. When he moved to the Sugar Rush he did change, he was still a racer, but he did change his appearance and made himself king. (Again it is an interpretation that I don’t know if it is right or not.)

      Yes, it could be said that Ralph was unhappy because he was “keeping up with the Jones.” But he was told, this is your station in life. You can be a good guy, but you still have to be the bad guy.

      To me it is more like. You can be happy with who you are, but your station in life, is your station in life and don’t try to change that.

      Again it was just something I was thinking about. I am not saying you are wrong, and I am not saying that I am right, just saying in general.

      1. “When he moved to the Sugar Rush he did change,” This is true, but he changed by ripping out parts of the game, and leaving the protagonist as crippled as possible. So, it’s still tearing others down to raise yourself.

        As far as Ralph goes, I think Zangif said it best with “just because you are Bad Guy, does not mean you are bad guy.” The whole theme is right there. The title doesn’t make the man.

        And Penelope offers him a way out. She tells him he can stay in her kingdom if he wishes. Ralph CHOOSES to go back, because he realizes that he is not his job. And from the way the other people treat him, I think his station in life dramatically improved.

      2. Turbo – right. The only way he can stay reliant within the rules of the society is to hurt others. Not healthy, not good, just trying to stay on top no matter the cost.

        Ralph – His station or his situation? He still lives in a dump. A dump he has improved yes, but a dump. And he is not welcomed by the others until he has shown that he has power (he could leave and ruin it for them) that they seem to like him. His station does not define who he is but it is HIS station. Yes, he did a heroic thing. Yes, “Just because you are the bad guy does not mean you have to be a bad guy” applies but he is still in the same spot he was where he started. He is just ok with it now.

        Don’t get me wrong Brand, I like your interpretation much better. I hope that, it was really the intent. I am just saying that there is another possibility. And I am likely wrong (because this is the internet and all that.) But also because it was marketed the way you suggest.

  2. Christiana Ellis

    A very interesting discussion. Like many nuanced themes, I think the story rides the edge between two possible messages.

    Message 1: Don’t try to improve yourself – know your place.(This element you discuss above).
    Message 2: Don’t look for validation from external things.You are responsible for your own happiness.

    Ralph’s problem ultimately, is not that he’s a good guy versus a bag guy, it’s that he’s jealous. Rather than defining his own terms for success, he just sees what Felix gets and assumes: “If I had a medal, I’d be happy too, like he is.” What he ultimately discovers is how to be the best Ralph he can be, instead of defining success by what others are doing.

    1. First, I am going squee. Christiana Ellis read and commented on my blog. Some how I feel like I have made it. Thank you.

      I agree, he is jealous. That causes at least one of the problems here.

  3. elliscm

    A very interesting discussion. Like many nuanced themes, I think the story rides the edge between two possible messages.

    Message 1: Don’t try to improve yourself – know your place.(This element you discuss above).
    Message 2: Don’t look for validation from external things.You are responsible for your own happiness.

    Ralph’s problem ultimately, is not that he’s a good guy versus a bag guy, it’s that he’s jealous. Rather than defining his own terms for success, he just sees what Felix gets and assumes: “If I had a medal, I’d be happy too, like he is.” What he ultimately discovers is how to be the best Ralph he can be, instead of defining success by what others are doing.

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