Good Guys And Bad Guys

There is so much that I want to explore in the movie “Wreck-It Ralph”, but I will spare you of much of it.   But there is one thought in particular that I want to bring attention to, before the thought escapes me – as so often my best thoughts do if I don’t jot them down immediately.

There is a quote I’ve been hearing recently, the source of which you can easily google, that is being used more frequently these days among advocate types.  It is rich with meaning and may cause many to stop and consider it’s implications.

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

For the Christian who believes that seeking justice for the world is part of their calling, the word “liberation” could easily be substituted with “salvation”.

In our constant quest to understand the world in which we live, we humans like to labeling things, it helps us to develop identity and definitions. Of course labels can be full of pitfalls if we are not careful in how and why they are placed, and if we decide to use labels for anything more than identifying things and people. But, if people are prone to anything, they are prone to making mistakes such as using labels in pursuit of salvation. Our pursuit of liberation, of salvation, is always a difficult one.

In the movie, “Wreck-It Ralph”, Ralph is a character in a video game. But Ralph is discontent with his role in this game because he is considered the “bad guy”. All of the other characters in the video game have gone so far as to take that label of “bad guy” and have deemed Ralph as “bad”. Because of this, Ralph is completely ostracized from the society of characters in the game, even when the arcade is closed and the video game is no longer in play mode. (In the movie, once the game arcade closes for the night, all the video characters socialize with each other, both within their own game, and with characters in other games. Once the arcade reopens in the morning, all the video game characters go back to fulfilling their roles within their respective games. The video game characters have a social life outside of their games.)

In one of the opening scenes of the movie, all the characters within the video game, that Ralph is a part of, throw a party to celebrate the 30th year anniversary of the game. The problem is, they don’t invite Ralph to this party, despite the fact that Ralph has a major role in the game. When Ralph goes to confront the other video game characters about his exclusion from the party, tempers flare, Ralph is told plainly how the other characters think about him, he is told in essence that because he is the “bad guy” and therefore is “bad” that he is not worthy of being a part of the video game community.

Through the course of the dialog that follows, Ralph is led to believe that if he could somehow win a hero’s medal, that he would be allowed into the cliquish society of the other characters within his game. Since the design of the game that Ralph resides in does not allow for Ralph to win such a medal, Ralph decides to leave his game and hop through other video games in the arcade in pursuit of the medal.

And these leads to an unexpected consequence.

With Ralph gone from the video game, the game cannot function as designed. So, when the arcade opens and someone drops a quarter into game, so to start playing it, the game appears to be broken, and for all intended purposes, it is. The owner of the arcade refunds the player’s quarter and slaps an “Out of Order” sign on the game console. When the characters of the game see this, they are sorely afraid. They know that if their game does not function properly, the owner will unplug the game, meaning the end (death) for all of them. The game’s characters all know that if Ralph doesn’t return to fulfill his role in the game, that they are all doomed. The movie continues with one of the game’s characters going on a search for Ralph in an attempt to bring him back.

Do you see, now, how the above quote aptly applies to this part of the movie? All the characters in the video game believed themselves to be the “good guys”, they considered themselves to be superior to Ralph, and that they didn’t need him, and thus didn’t want him, within their community.

So often in real life people will find themselves feeling superior to others, and though they may extend a hand to the less fortunate, they do so condescendingly. They may do things “for” others, but they do not wish to do things “with” them. They believe themselves to be liberated, and they may magnanimously attempt to bring salvation to others who they deem to be lowly. I see this play out all the time between homed and homeless people. The homed people want more than anything to keep the homeless at a distance. And, if any kind of connection is to be made between the two groups, the homed will give to the homeless, but the homed will refuse to receive anything from the homeless. In doing this, they deny the homeless any chance at real community, at real liberation, real salvation.

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

By the end of the movie the other characters of the video game are very glad that Ralph has returned, and although Ralph still plays the role of “bad guy” they have a real appreciation for him, realizing that Ralph wasn’t really so bad, and that their survival, their livelihood, their liberation, was bound up with Ralph’s.

Know that when we marginalize people, for whatever reason, we are also marginalizing ourselves. And if we limit one person’s liberty, we limit everyone’s.

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About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless
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