Friday, July 5, 2019

Writing Lessons from Movies: Ralph Breaks the Internet

Since I’ve loved Wreck-It Ralph so much I’ve really wanted to see the sequel, but I didn’t manage to see it in theaters so I was happy to see it on Netflix. Though I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first film, it had some really sweet and original writing that was very refreshing for a kid’s film.

Ralph Breaks the Internet takes place six years after the previous film and Ralph and Vanellope have been best friends and spending their days together. Though this has been Ralph’s ideal life, Vanellope dreams of something more than the confines of her video game. In an accident, Sugar Rush is damaged Ralph and Vanellope have to search the internet to find a new part to fix her game but during their journeys, Vanellope finds another calling that puts a strain on their friendship.

Warning: Minor spoilers in point two and three. Big spoilers in point four.

1.) Physical Manifestation of Digital Things - One of the most fun aspects of the Wreck-It Ralph world is seeing digital things become physical and personified such as an extension cord surge protector is like a train station and the surge protector being like a security guard. This gets magnified even more when Ralph and Vanellope access the internet which is manifested as a big city and different major websites being buildings. The things I got the biggest kick out of were the Algorithm, The Pop Ups, and the Pop Up Blocker.

How this can be applied to writing: Storyworlds like Wreck-It Ralph and TRON explore the digital world and what it would be like to physically live in. Then Inside Out explores the world of emotions and memories. Have you thought of taking something like the internet or emotions?

2.) Naivete as a Plot Device - The main obstacle in the movie occurs because Ralph and Vanellope don't know any better. The reason why they rack up the price of the steering wheel to a whopping 27 grand is that they don't know how eBay works. You can't be mad at them. They're video game characters who would have no access to that information, but because of that mistake, they created an obstacle for themselves they spend most of the film to overcome.

How this can be applied to writing: There are many reasons why characters can be naive and you can't fault them for that. Whether they're video game characters or just a medieval peasant raised with no education. They're not stupid. They just don't know and don't have access to the information to educate themselves. Naivete can be a danger in a world outside their own and they can make a lot of conflict-rich problems because of it.

3.) Unexpected Character Reactions - One of my favorite scenes of the movie that showed so much character growth for Ralph since the last film was when he stumbles upon his video comments and witnesses a lot of nasty remarks from internet trolls who call him ugly, stupid, fat, outdated, etc. Instead of being devastated by these comments and lashing out or getting depressed, Ralph remembers that Vanellope has the only opinion that matters to him and as long as she cares about him it doesn't matter what others think.

How this can be applied to writing: It's common for characters to react in a negative way, but when a character shows maturity and grace in a tough situation it's really refreshing and (almost sadly) surprising. I wholeheartedly expected Ralph to be crushed by those comments but I almost teared up when they ended up not bothering him. Having your characters do this can show growth beyond previous stumbling points.

4.) A Unique Plot About Best Friends - Despite the Disney princesses and the viruses this movie is about best friends. Ralph is afraid to let Vanellope go because she's the best and only true friend he's ever had and Vanellope has a dream that will take her away from him. Ralph likes things the way they are, but Vanellope wants to explore outside of her game. Shank has some great quotes about that:

There's no law saying best friends have to have the same dreams.

All friendships change but the good ones get stronger because of it.

How this can be applied to writing: I feel like it's common to tell stories about friendships beginning and friendships ending, but not friendships enduring through big changes in life. This resonated with me personally as it was really hard to maintain a friendship when I had to move away from home, but my friend and I have lived with this change and become stronger. Another unique plot I've seen in the negative fashion was in Blue Exorcist. It's common for bullies to have their lackeys, but what would happen if the lackey got tired of the bully's behavior? That's what happens in this anime. What aspects of friendship can you explore?

Conclusion - It's refreshing to have a story centering on friendship instead of romance. Platonic relationships are just as important as romantic ones.

Have you seen Ralph Breaks the Internet? Have you noticed these writing aspects? What movies have you noticed have good writing? Let's geek out together!

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