Friday, July 26, 2013

Don't Wreck-It - Let God Fix-It!

Disney's 2012 animated film, Wreck-It Ralph, tells the story of a video game bad guy who regrets the fact that everyone hates him for being a bad guy, and he wishes he could somehow become good enough to earn the respect of the other characters in his game. In order to do this, he decides to leave his own game to win a medal in another game, but in so doing, he causes havoc across multiple games. Along the way, he meets, Vanellope, a "glitch" in a racing game who is bullied by the other characters in her game and is just as desperate as Ralph to change her situation, but the two seem to bungle everything they do.

On the surface, it seems like the message is that you should be happy with who you are. After all, near the beginning, Ralph joins a villain support group, where the motto is:

"I'm bad and that's good.
I will never be good, and that's not bad.
There's no one I'd rather be than me."

But if you dig a little deeper, the movie has a lot more to say than just, "be content with the way things are." It has a lot to say about the way we treat each other, about dealing with our own flaws, and even about moving on toward perfection...

WARNING: This post contains major spoilers!

In the beginning, both Ralph and Vanellope are unhappy with their lives, largely because they are treated as "unacceptable" by other characters in their games. When the characters of the Fix-It Felix video game (Ralph's game) hold a party to celebrate the game's 30th anniversary, everyone is invited except Ralph. Feeling lonely, he reaches out, but finds that no one at the party even wants him there. While Ralph would insist that being a bad guy is just "what I do, not who I am," no one seems able to separate the person from the job long enough to give him the benefit of a doubt. Ralph is programmed to be a bad guy, so he has no choice about whether he's a villain or not when the game is turned on, but he feels left out and hurt because no one can see the "real person" underneath.

Vanellope is similarly ostracized by characters in her game, Sugar Rush. Because she is seen as a glitch in the system and is different from everyone else, no one wants her there. Everyone especially wants to keep her from competing in the game's races. At first, the reason given is that her "freakish" appearance and the fact that she sometimes flickers may cause game players to think there's something wrong with the game. Later we learn that this is just a cover-up story. The real reason other characters (especially the "King") don't want her to race is because if she crosses the finish line, the game's code will be reset, and the King (who doesn't really belong there) will lose his control of the game.

Because of the accusations and insults of other characters, Ralph and Vanellope have come to view themselves negatively - as if it was their own fault the way they were made - and they have become desperate to try anything they think will change the way they and others perceive them.

I wonder if Disney crafted this story specifically with the gay rights movement in mind. Notice how the messages of the movie seem to coincide with the popular messages in so much other media these days - that being different is just part of how you were born and is beyond your control, that those who oppose or restrict you do so either because they can't get past a stereotype or because they are afraid of losing their control over society. Similar metaphors could be easily drawn, though, for children who are born with physical or mental disabilities, for those who fight against racist attitudes, or for anyone who just feels different/outcast for any reason.

Vanellope and Ralph understand the sting of rejection.
I won't enter the debate here about whether sexual orientation is a genetic predisposition or a choice, but I want to make a strong point that too often people who are different - whether because of their sexuality or because of disabilities or other factors - are stereotyped, outcast and bullied for their differences, and it's not right. The love of Jesus compels us as Christians to reach out to the outsiders. How often was Jesus criticized for associating himself with the "sinners" in his society? How often did he touch those who were considered "unclean" and speak healing into their lives? Jesus calls us constantly to love one another!

Even when somebody's difference from you is because of sin - regardless of what that sin is - that still doesn't give you the right to treat them as anything less than someone Jesus loves. God created all of us, and God loves all of us, and God sent his Son to die for all of us! Wreck-It Ralph does a good job of pointing out how badly we sometimes treat our fellow man, and it reminds us of how important it is that we love everyone, just as Christ loves us (1 John 4:7-11, 19-21).

If you feel like Ralph or Vanellope a little, this movie also has something to say about the struggle to improve your situation. Both of our heroes fight to earn the respect of other characters in their games, and at first, their efforts seem counter-productive. Ralph's eagerness ends up unleashing a virus into other games, and Vanellope's intent to enter the race leads her game members to hunt and attack her. You might think things would've been better off if they had just stuck with the status quo, but if they had done that, nothing would have ever changed for the better.

If you've been rejected because of something that's beyond your control, that doesn't mean there's nothing you can do to earn people's respect, but it may indeed be an uphill battle. Some people may never be won over, and many may continue to attack you for a long time, but you can be victorious in the long run by making something of your life and proving people wrong. The Bible is filled with examples of people who overcame great odds with God's help to earn the respect of many and accomplish mighty things despite their flaws.

The life of the apostle Paul particularly emphasizes that this is true, whether you're talking about physical limitations (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) or matters of sin (1 Timothy 1:12-17). Just because you don't fit in, that doesn't mean that God didn't create you or that he doesn't love you. Just because you've done wrong in the past, doesn't mean you have to do wrong forever. Even if you've done something terrible, that doesn't mean God's grace isn't still there or that God can't change your heart and use you in a new way.

At the same time, just because you pray and accept Christ as your Savior, that doesn't mean you automatically become sinless. Yes, your sins are wiped away in the eyes of God, but in a very real sense, you're still human, and human beings in this world are flawed. Even someone who's been a Christian most of his life occasionally messes up! But we ought to strive for perfection. We ought to do our best, as Ralph and Vanellope did, to become a better version of ourselves.
"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
- Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)
Princess Vanellope becomes
who she was intended to be
Along the way, Ralph learns to control his anger and to show more compassion, and Vanellope learns to control her "glitching", but they're still essentially the same people they were in the beginning. In other words, there are some things that are beyond our ability to change - like our skin color - but with God's help, we are responsible to change any negative things that are within our control.

A scene near the end with Vanellope makes one last great point. After she finishes the race, she is transformed into a beautiful princess and everything in her world is changed back to the way it was intended to be before someone had messed it up. This is a great analogy for us as Christians, because we should remember that we were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), but sin is like a virus that destroyed our perfect world (Genesis 3:1-19). Our goal, however, is to leave behind the mess that sin has caused in our lives and press on to finish the race by keeping faith in Jesus and allowing him to change us from the inside out (2 Timothy 4:7-8). And in the end, we have the promise that we will be transformed to be like Christ - restored to the image of God we were created to be!
"Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure."
- 1 John 3:2-3
After Vanellope is transformed, she's still the same person underneath - she has the same personality and quirks - but she decides to forgive those who hurt her in the past, and the things that made her different are now shown to be good rather than evil. Again this illustrates an important truth. When you turn your life over to Christ, that doesn't mean you stop being who you are or you stop having fun. It's not the end of your life so much as the beginning of life as it should be!

God, through the Holy Spirit, has a way of minimizing and transforming the things that are negative in us and maximizing the things that are good. With his help, we can leave behind pain and become closer today to the image of perfection that will be completed when Christ returns. And each day, as we continue to submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we have the ability to inch closer and closer to that perfection.

The analogies may not be entirely perfect, but Wreck-It Ralph has a lot to say about the importance of loving and respecting one another (regardless of our differences), about accepting the things we can't change and struggling to improve the things we can, and about the ultimate goal of perfection toward which we should strive. Submit to the Lord daily, and let your life be transformed into the perfect thing it was intended to be!

Recommended Reading:
For more about how God can minimize the negative and maximize the positive in your life, I highly recommend two books by Tim LaHaye: "Transformed Temperaments" and "Spirit-Controlled Temperament".

No comments :

Post a Comment

Please comment on this post. Do you agree with me? Do you disagree? Is there something I left out or should have covered? Was something confusing? I want to know what you think!