Wreck-It Ralph and Social Commentary

For me, Wreck-It Ralph was a nostalgic trip through my early adulthood.  I had a lot of fun finding as many references to old video games and early 90s culture as I could (the Sonic PSA was my favorite). 

The writers did a fine enough job making the story an entertaining experience for children, but I suggest that this movie is best-enjoyed by folks in my demographic (25-35 year-old gamers).

The narrative itself was interesting and very well-told.  The unique characters were likable and memorable, heart-strings were tugged (especially the Disney short “Paperman” at the beginning), and the surprise at the end was both completely unexpected and totally logical in retrospect. 

(Warning: Major Spoilers begin here.)

However, there was one unexplainable line of dialogue delivered near the closing of the movie that did a lot of wreck (lol) what was otherwise a solid, enjoyable experience.

After the big bad(s) have been dealt with, it’s revealed that Vanellope is actually the princess of the game world of Sugar Rush.  After some applause and profuse apologies, the Little Girl comments that she doesn’t want to be princess, and instead wants the game to adopt a Constitutional Democracy “because President sounds better.”

Everyone cheers, music is happy, and cue excessive cringing on my part.

First, why democracy? Where did the idea of majority governance even come from in this universe? This universe is supposed to be gaming and nostalgic references: who thought it would be neat to sneak in political theory?

Second, why would Vanellope even see value in such an ideology? Earlier in the movie, Vanellope was pushed aside as her car was destroyed by the other racers.  She spends the majority of the movie ostracized by every being in the gaming world she inhabits.  Was this not an example of majoritarianism?

I’m pretty sure giving this world a ballot box before the events of the movie wouldn’t have made Sugar Rush a better place, neither would the ballot box have made the society more tolerant of Vanellope’s existence.  Leave it to a computer-generated silly girl voiced by real-life silly girl Sarah Silverman to argue that tolerance is best achieved through democracy.  Hope and change.

It wasn’t some democratic care bear stare that fixed it (lol), it was the main cast’s actions that fundamentally changed things for the better. 

In fact, the democratic care bear stare doesn’t maintain anything that was created by a minority of superior men…  Which is to say, any stable society.

Finally, what was the point of declaring democracy? It had already been revealed that the “minds” of the characters in Sugar Rush are hard-wired to a specific program.  The characters of the game were programmed to follow the edicts of the leader, which becomes Vanellope at the end.  Declaring herself President did nothing to diminish the fact these characters will treat her exactly like a supreme leader. 

Spoken words do not change programming code; similarly, titles and legalese do nothing to fundamentally transform how power operates in reality.  You wanna know why I find the notion of “Constitutional” restrictions ridiculous?

What was otherwise a solid offering by Disney was instead tarnished by a single slip of political commentary.  It is worth noting that the closing dialogue of the film makes no mention of Vanellope’s (out of nowhere) democratic ideals, and tries to remind the audience that the story is really about finding something more emotionally, spiritually sustaining in an existence where you are limited. 

In short, Wreck-It Ralph was a nostalgic experience with a beautiful message, save for the part where filthy democracy reared it’s childish, glitchy head.


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