Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

‘To Truly Address Ralph’s Complaints Would Require a Total Overhaul of the Social Order; Or, a Revolution, a Re-Programming of the Ideological Code That Generates Their Reality’

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In Wreck-It Ralph as in Toy Story, during the night when the arcade is closed, the arcade game characters are conscious, living beings who are aware of their position in the world as game characters. They are able to leave their games and visit others by traveling through the machines’ electrical cords which are connected through a power strip.

But despite this knowledge of the real world, the staged antipathy between Wreck-It Ralph and the Nicelanders continues even once the lights in the arcade have been turned off. In a nice example of Žižek’s theory that ideology continues to function even when you don’t believe it, the Nicelanders adore Felix as a hero and despise Ralph even though they see through the game’s “official ideology”. They know it is only a game, and although this is never really stated, logically we have to conclude that the Nicelanders know that Ralph is not really a bad guy.

They treat him as if he was a villain not because they believe he is, but because they suppose an Other who really believes. Or as Michel De Certeau puts it in his essay What We Do When We Believe, “it is a belief in the belief of the Other, or in what one makes believe that he believes”, a version of the Lacanian subject supposed to believe. For the Nicelanders, this Other is clearly the children who come into the arcade every day with their quarters. “Children are in a way the basis for the belief of adults,” says De Certeau. The innocence of this Big Other is assumed, and it must be maintained if the system is to function.

Žižekian reading of Wreck-It Ralph? You had me at hello. As a bonus, you’re treated to what we might as well call Dean’s Cudgel:

Finally, the way the characters invoke the phrase “going Turbo” as an ever-present, threatening possibility reminds me of Jodi Dean’s thesis that while the left seems resigned to defeat and the impossibility of really changing things, the right betrays their belief in the necessity and imminent possibility of radical change in their frantic paranoia that everyone and everything is communist:

In the US, we are reminded daily that radical change is possible, and we are incited to fear it. The threat, or specter, is communism, right-wing radio and blogs scream, and if we don’t do something, we will be under the communist yoke. The right, even the center, regularly invokes the possibility of radical change and it names that change communism. Why does it name the change communism? Because extreme inequality is visible and undeniable.

The right believes in communism as the solution to capitalism because of how frequently they invoke it to silence even talk of reform. In the same way, the characters in Wreck-It Ralph invoke the specter of going Turbo in response to the antagonisms and contradictions in their universe of which they are well aware.

Via @zunguzungu.

Written by gerrycanavan

November 25, 2012 at 5:45 pm

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  1. […] Gerry Canavan, a Zizekian reading of Wreck-It […]

  2. […] Gerry Canavan, a Zizekian reading of Wreck-It […]


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