Welcome once again to Jef Overthinks Disney Films WAY Too Much Theatre
The Kid With One F was sick this weekend, which means I spent a lot of time sitting on the couch with her watching streaming video in order to keep her resting and healing. In the course of that I watched Wreck-It Ralph five times in 48 hours. It's one of my favorite animated films, so it was no hassle, but after sitting through so many viewings I realized the whole thing is an analogy for the broken version of capitalism in America.
Let's look at Ralph. Ralph is a full-time worker. He has a job that he goes to every day, just like everyone else in the arcade. Yet, even though what he does is essential, and he performs his duty flawlessly, he is continuously punished by other citizens of Niceland.
I'm not talking about being thrown off the building once Felix fixes his rampage. That's just part of his job and he doesn't seem to regard it as any worse than any other aspect. What really gets Ralph down is his lack of regard or reward for being a primary part of the enterprise.
It's the exact same thing you see here in America regarding any minimum wage pr slightly above job. It's not just that we pay a fry cook badly, we constantly remind them that what they are doing is not worthy employment. If you work at McDonald's you're garbage... if you work IN McDonald's, I mean. Anyone involved in not actually being in the restaurant is considered successful even though they are producing the exact same hamburger that the fry cook actually, you know, cooks.
The Nicelanders need Ralph to exist. That's made abundantly clear, but by assigning him the bad guy class they justify excluding him and allowing him to live in sub-standard conditions because he deserves it. And even though all he needs is a ridiculously small amount of regard, decency, and reward compared to the rest of the Nicelanders, they don't consider it worth their time even when it almost brings their entire world crashing down. They literally run away rather than see Ralph as a worthy person.
By contrast, look at Felix and the Nicelanders. All of them are upper middle class professional people living in a luxury apartment that displaced Ralph's home in the first place. Felix himself is the acme of WASPy inherited privilege. For one thing, even his hammer, the source of his power, comes from his daddy. The theme song at the end states so, and that's why he's Fix-It Felix JR.
Felix, by the way, means "luck".
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It's not that Felix is secretly the bad guy because he's had it better than Ralph. He works just as hard as Ralph does, but thanks to circumstance he's become complacent and deaf to any hint of trouble below him. It never even occurs to him the Ralph is getting the short end of the stick. They're all just part of the game, right?
When Calhoun rejects Felix's initial advances it's literally the first time in his entire life he hasn't gotten his way and it devastates him. He even shouts at Ralph (in that Sarah Palin faux cursing way that seems to always accompany the classist statements of the overlords) that Ralph could never understand being unloved and treated like a criminal. That's the level of disconnect that he has, despite working next to the same guy for three decades.
Who is Ralph's ally? A disabled girl left uncared for by the arcade system. No thought is given to her situation by the citizens of Sugar Rush. What's the key to her initial attempt to climb the ladder to recognition? It's a coin. Money. She has to surreptitiously come by money through happenstance in order to buy her way into even trying to better herself. All the other racers have no problem, because they all already have coins.
Again, it's not that the other racers are bad people or that they don't work hard at their craft. It's just that their ruler has literally erased their ability to even remember that they should treat her as an equal or a source of potential. They rigged the game against her in order to increase the odds of winning for the entrenched power system.
In the end, Ralph and Vallelope institute sweeping, progressive changes to their games. She rejects nobility to remain a citizen, calling herself president instead of princess and planning to build a representative democracy.
Meanwhile Ralph institutes a social safety net for displaced game characters that isn't a charity, but gainful employment. He then uses Felix and the Nicelanders to help build this by using a microscopically small amount of their wealth and ability to find enterprise and housing for the poor.
The result? A booming economy full of people who can have pride in themselves once the one percent woke up and realized that treating the lower classes like people is actually the smart thing to do. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I think if America acted more like the ending of Wreck-It Ralph we'd all be a lot happier.
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