Wreck It Ralph: Championing Western Ideology through Anti-Western Speciesism.

Wreck It Ralph: Championing Western Ideology through Anti-Western Speciesism.

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Walt Disney World visitors in the United States often come away from one its most famous ride attractions singing the jingle chorus, “It’s a small world after all… (repeat)”, as an anthem of world harmony. This inquiry examines a recent animation feature in critical analysis of western ideological political persuasion against the trepidation of anti-western terrorism threats, as depicted through speciesism, by modern era Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Walt Disney Animation Studio’s Wreck it Ralph (2012) directed by Rich Moore provides a visual thrill ride through multiple game worlds of a video arcade. Its surface text features the sugary frosting of a “quest for self-awareness and personal fulfillment”[1] narrative covering a broader theme that western society stands interconnected within a social hierarchy under a constant threat. The western ideology presented reflects as both a post-capitalist and pro-democracy model which creates an idyllic solution to anti-western political regimes and extreme fundamentalist ideology through speciesism mass extinction. In post-human cinema terms, individuals who comprise such societies are rendered as less than human and mere pests to the grand design of a democratic capitalist system. This solution divides of the human race into “us and them” and fosters fear of the other on a subliminal level of intertextuality which may adversely affect both young and old audience members.  A critical analysis of propaganda history of Disney animation, animation plasmaticity and speciesism in Japanese manga will be used to support the argument of a super-modern schism between western and anti-western ideologies in Wreck It Ralph.  As the 800 pound gorilla of global animation media entertainment the Walt Disney Animation Studios must possess some awareness and responsibility for socio-political underpinnings of such harmful entertainment on an impressionable world audience. If Walt Disney Animation Studios intention is to produce such sugar coated confections for global audience consumption then equally the disquisition of this film scholar, as Thomas Lamarre alludes, “is then to scrape away the candy coating and to expose the truth.”[2]

Wreck It Ralph consists of five distinct worlds as follows, an external game arcade, “Fix It Felix” game, “Heroes Duty” game, “Sugar Rush” game and an internal game central. The title namesake Ralph (John C. Reilly) grows tired of his defined role as a “Bad Guy” in the “Fix It Felix” game world and seeks peer acceptance through the goal of obtaining a golden heroes medal. He electronically transports to a New York Central Station based game central through which he enters a military game world, “Heroes Duty” where the main objective is to kill “Cybugs” and win the medal. This breech of game worlds unleashes an egg laden cybug into a candy land based race car game “Sugar Rush” where it burrows beneath the surface to nest. The action results in a swarm attack causing mass disruption within “Sugar Rush” and potential demise of the entire arcade universe.

Western ideology of democratic systems in peaceful coexistence is reflected by an interconnection of the arcade game worlds which supports general meaningful individual participation by self-determination within respective game cultures. Oppositional, a singular insect speciesism of cybugs is assigned to anti-western totalitarian state governments and extreme fundamentalists imposing religious societal truth doctrine. In anti-western society the denouement of individual purpose is replaced by indistinguishable personism through an alignment to a centrality of power in the form of dictatorship or extremist religious oppression. This exemplar of mass personism reveals itself within Wreck It Ralph as an invasive species that escapes from the war zone of “Heroes Duty” and infiltrates the “Sugar Rush” game. Following infestation of the new game world the swarm emerges and obtains metamorphosis through the ravenous consumption of everything within its path until it is wholly eradicated.

The historicity of Walt Disney animations war time propaganda is well documented, as 1940’s cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck advocated both patriotism and anti-fascism. These traditional forms of propaganda have since been considered ineffectual as a result of fragmentation in global media.[3] Disney’s former mode of propaganda operated through specifically illustrating enemy leaders or nation states such as Adolph Hitler or Japan during World War II. In the modern era, the enemies of western democratic states hide behind national posturing and rhetoric or shift between underdeveloped countries as rogue terrorist organizations.  Parallel to the emergence of this new faceless enemy is the rise of a saturated mass media which reaches within once impenetrable anti-western nation states and erodes blind obedience through sparking internal identification and self-awareness.

Gerard C. Raiti, in his 2007 essay, argues that “If Disney were to make propaganda now, it would need to satisfy national needs, thereby abandoning the current needs of the individual. Hence there were no mainstream animated American propaganda after September 11 and the War in Iraq.”[4] I would concur that in the aftermath of the attack on the world trade center Walt Disney Animation Studios aimed at the needs of individuals through emphasis on family and community in feature films such as, Lilo & Stich (2002) and Brother Bear (2003). While Raiti suggests that propaganda has disappeared from Disney animation I would argue that it now presents in a super-modernist globalized form. Within Wreck It Ralph is a dark new teleology which expands on the former exposition as “Propaganda’s mainstream definition is one of audience manipulation towards an ideology.”[5] It is through the assignment of anti-western mass speciesism, as related to Japanese manga, that Walt Disney Animation Studios evolves past grievances attributed to the use of propaganda as “Propaganda uses stereotypes of the ‘home’ or the ‘other’ in ways which inadequately represent differences. Irrespective of degrees of nationalism and the rise of individualism within a global identity, a post-Second World War awareness exists that labels propaganda as malevolent.”[6]

The early Disney propagandist films were produced and governmentally sponsored partially as a result of financial distress brought through over expenditures on production of Fantasia (1940). To sustain profitability for the company Disney employed an assembly line approach to his animation studio. This new Fordism method resulted in “creating a dialectical tension that informs the early history of animation, a dialectic that centers on the energy of the onscreen characters.”[7]  Disney used this energy to great effect in the animated shorts that preceded feature films. Old propaganda methods aimed at influencing a national mass market audience have evolved on a global scale in a western ideological battle for the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of potential consumer markets as driven by capital transnational media conglomerates.

Anti-western speciesism in Wreck it Ralph is grounded in the theory of plasmaticity in animation.  The fluidity of the line in animated subjects moves beyond stretch and squash plasticity and into the realm of “primordial forms and life force.”[8] Within the space between graphic novel frames or 24 frames per second of celluloid animation, “The animal or animaloid characters summon and channel a technical force. As a consequence, a technical force is now experienced as an animal force, as vitality, as life itself.”[9] In Wreck it Ralph, as a high definition digital animation, this life force is compressed into 60 frames per second thereby exponentially increasing its teleological plasmaticity and raising its materiality to a level of excess as demarked in super-modernity. Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein’s critical early inquiry of the Disney animation subject found “The plasmaticity of animation conjures forth the experience of a primordial life-force, which encourages animation to put a folkloric, mythic, animistic, and pantheistic spin on evolutionary scenarios.”[10] Like the cybug burrowed beneath the surface of “Sugar Rush” this primordial force of speciesism will breed a destructive and false evolutionary coding within the subliminal minds of the audience.

While Disney was hard at work perfecting the mechanics of animation the Japanese illustration master Osama Tezuka was developing animated creatures which operated outside meta-narrative form through manga. The introduction of dancing dog soldiers, caged tigers, playful pigs and amassed bird forms in which “the transformation of racial others into cute nonhumans” resulted in “a sort of ideological operation or abstract at work, a decoding and recoding of international relations into species relations.” [11] Tezuka’s work also presented an exaggerated morphing of cuteness in humanoid and animal characters. Wreck it Ralph relies on this neotany in main character Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) through accentuated baby features of ”a relatively large head, predominance of the brain capsule, large and low lying eyes, bulging cheek region, short thick extremities, a springy elastic consistency, and clumsy movements”[12] This reverse evolution in the animated character “entails a surplus or excess that crosses species.”[13] The manga based plasmaticity of neotany in game characters within Wreck it Ralph includes advanced properties of social Darwinism and racial stratification which are unleashed as a dominant force by exclusion of the individual and species relation coding of the cybug swarm in a “bio-political construct.”[14]

These evolutionary scenarios are twofold, first concerning social Darwinism in multi-cultural game worlds and secondly as post-humanism in anti-western speciesism. Firstly, the public sphere of game central space is akin to western society’s cultural diversity found in educational and social institutions. This evokes a harmonious democratic universe in which multi-cultural game characters interact by communicating in various languages following which they return to their kindred home games social strata. The evolutionary development of the arcade in Wreck It Ralph also creates a social hierarchy in which the game worlds are rendered obsolete as they become outdated or out of order. Within game central the characters of one such technologically obsolete arcade game “Q-Bert” are depicted as homeless members of the game world society. The life force of these game characters is paired with the emotional fear of death, as an announcement in game central warns, and if characters die outside their game they do not regenerate.

This supports a survival of the fittest concept in social Darwinism as the newest, fastest and highest graphics capable game worlds will replace older, slower and lower bit rate games. Indeed, “Fix It Felix” faces the doom of an out of order designation when it is discovered that Ralph is no longer part of their game. Other social concerns such as whiteness of the four main humanoid characters in comparison to ethnographic depictions of other game characters or fascist referent to the mind control elicited in “Sugar Rush” by King Candy also plague the surface text.

However, it is the assignment of a singular speciesism of anti-western ideology and its mass eradication that should elicit primary concern. Transference of the faceless enemy into the form of an insect, feared for its biting and stinging by children the world over, moves the animated subject into a post human realm. Symbolic of anti-western doctrine is a giant light beacon which when emitted inextricably draws the cybug swarm in the manner of moths drawn to flame. This irrepressible attraction parallels both dictatorship mass personism and allegorically the mass pilgrimage to the centralized Kaaba in Mecca.

The cybug is demarcated as an evil incarnate which must be destroyed in a referent symbol to the faceless enemy which racial war has historically perpetuated. A major perceptual flaw in speciesism is its lack of recognition for individuals that may be victims of the vacuum of political oppression or attempting to survive and who peacefully practice their faith under the harshness of an extremist religious regime. The intrinsic western ideological belief of individual sovereignty is subverted by speciesism assignment in the stereotype threat of overbroad social identity. Disney’s political correctness in non-assignment of cultural or racial denigrating cartoon renditions no longer applies nor alleviates todays super-modernized decoding and recoding of speciesism and its mass extinction. If the premise that all human beings are created equal holds true then the social or ethnic cleansing, as observed  in Wreck It Ralph through speciesism, “may be viewed as reductive, exclusionary and harmful to those whose stories are erased.”[15]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

 

Bukatman, Scott. Poetics of Slumberland. Berkely and Los Angeles: The California

Press. 2012. Print.

Lamarre, Thomas. “Speciesism, Part III: Neoteny and the Politics of Life.”

Mechademia, vol. 6, {2011}: 110-136. Accessed Mar. 21, 2013.

Lochhead, Judith. Postmodern Music/Postmodern Thought. New York; London:

Routledge, 2002. Print.

Riati, Gerard. “The Disappearance of Disney Animated Propaganda: A Globalization

Perspective” Animation, vol 2, {2007} 153. Accessed Apr. 12, 2013.

 

 

 


[1] Gerard C. Raiti, The Disappearance of Disney Animated

Propaganda: A Globalization Perspective. 165.

[2] Thomas Lamarre. Speciesism, Part III: Neoteny and the Politics of Life.  112.

[3] Raiti, 160.

[4] Raiti, 166.

[5] Riata, 166.

[6] Riata, 166.

[7] Scott Bukatman, Poetics of Slumberland. 108.

[8] Lamarre, 117.

[9] Lamarre, 114.

[10] Lamarre, 130.

[11] Lamarre, 117.

[12] Lamarre, 125.

[13] Lamarre, 126.

[14] Lamarre, 133.

[15] Judith Lochead, Postmodern Music/Postmodern Thought. 6.

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